Kipke Focuses on Achievement Gaps, Multicultural Education

Dr. Michele D. Kipke
Courtesy photo

Stepping into her third term serving South Pasadena Unified School District, School Board Member Dr. Michele D. Kipke is looking forward to eliminating achievement gaps, working toward students reaching their full potential socially, emotionally, and intellectually, and also expanding upon multicultural instruction.

“We’ve made huge progress over the years but there is still more work to be done,” Kipke shared with The Review.

As an incumbent running for one of three open seats, Kipke received the third-highest number of votes with 5,343 votes in the November 2018 election, unseating fellow incumbent Julie Giulioni. The highest vote tally went to newcomer Zahir Robb with 5,814 votes, followed by newcomer Dr. Ruby Kalra with 5,754 votes, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office. The terms are for four years.

With her 10 years of service on the School Board, Kipke is proud of the success of the schools and students in numerous areas, from expanding course offerings and creating new dual language programs in Spanish and Mandarin to recruiting new talent in schools and the district office.

“I want to see us continue our work to achieve two goals articulated in our mission statement: to offer challenging, rigorous and relevant curriculum that prepares students for college and the world of work in the 21st century, and to expand world language and cultural experiences,” said Kipke.

Reflecting on her third election, Kipke said it was “completely different” from prior ones, remarking that the national political landscape strongly affected the local election.
“It honestly felt like the national midterm election inhaled 98 percent of the local oxygen,” said Kalra. “While campaigning, it was not uncommon for conversations to quickly turn to concerns about national politics, Congressional seats up for grabs, or the Supreme Court confirmation hearings.”

Kipke also viewed high-voter turnout as a major difference in the election, noting that usually approximately 25 percent of South Pasadena registered voters get out to the polls.
“This year we saw 81 percent, which is nothing short of amazing, and this high voter turnout also changed the dynamic of the election,” said Kipke.

During the campaign, Kipke said she walked every day for three months across the city in order to hear from as many residents as possible, taking in interests and concerns of families, teachers and community leaders. She was thrilled when election day arrived and overjoyed with the hard work that paid off, yet was also mindful of fellow incumbent Giulioni’s loss.

“I was, and remain, terribly sad that Julie Giulioni was not re-elected,” explained Kipke. “I have worked with her on the board for five years and hands down, she is the best board member this district has ever seen. Her election loss certainly tempered my excitement. But, I look forward to welcoming two new members of the board and partnering with them to create an effective new team.”     

Kipke, who has served on the School Board for 10 years, moved to South Pasadena over 15 years ago and soon after began to volunteer for the city’s schools. She has served on the South Pasadena Educational Foundation Board as the Vice President of Strategic Planning and an appointment to the city’s Youth Commission. She has two daughters, Lily, who graduated from South Pasadena High School and will be attending the University of San Francisco this year, and Kai, who promoted last year from Marengo Elementary to South Pasadena Middle School.

Born and raised in La Canada-Flintridge, Kipke attended the University of Southern California.  She holds a BA from New York University and a Ph.D. from Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology.

Alongside her work with SPUSD, Kipke is a nationally recognized researcher and policy expert on children and families, serving as a professor of pediatrics and preventative medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. She also serves as Vice Chair of Research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She remains actively engaged in research and is the principal investigator in many studies including care for autism, drug abuse prevention and HIV/AIDS.

“I love South Pasadena and I love our schools, and it has truly been an honor to serve our families and students,” said Kipke.