Kipke Takes Third Term as President of School Board

Michele Kipke (left) was voted school-board president, while Ruby Kalra took the role of board clerk during the board meeting at the district office on Tuesday. Photo by Skye Hannah

The South Pasadena school board unanimously supported Board Clerk Michele Kipke stepping into the role of president at the board’s meeting Tuesday.

Board Member Ruby Kalra was also unanimously supported in taking the role of board clerk. Both roles were voted on without additional discussion and are set to be served through 2020.

A longtime resident of South Pasadena, Kipke takes over from Suzie Abajian, who served as president the past year. It will be Kipke’s third term as president of the board, having served from 2010-2011 and 2014-2015.

She has served on the school board since 2008 and was the district liaison to the City of South Pasadena’s Youth Commission in 2006.

A mother of two, she is a professor of pediatrics and preventative medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine and vice chair of research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Kipke commended the board for being a “terrific team” and said she looked to extend the strong cohesion of working together.

“I hope to be able to continue to keep the team moving forward and focused on what’s most important, which is what’s in the best interest of our students,” Kipke told the Review.

Kipke said several topics will be a focus for the board in the upcoming year, including the future use of the district property; construction currently under way at several school sites; new construction at the elementary schools to start in the fall as portables are eliminated; and looking to expand dual immersion into the middle school.

“We’ve got a lot on our plate for this coming year, and that’s assuming there are no little surprises that are thrown our way,” said Kipke. “I’m looking forward to continuing to maintain a strong team and, again, always staying focused on what’s in the best interest of our students and our families.”

Traditionally, the outgoing president presents gifts to other members, and this year Abajian presented the board with individual copies of the book “Tongue-Tied: The Lives of Multilingual Children in Public Education.” It’s an anthology of poems, short stories and writings edited by Otto Santa Ana that offers insights into the lives of linguistic minority students and their experiences in school.

Abajian said she assigned students the book while serving as professor of education at Occidental College, and that it “gives us a window into the lives of immigrant children, multilingual children and their families, their experiences in public education. Myself being an immigrant and also multilingual person, I relate to a lot of the writing in this book.”

“I picked this because I’m a big proponent of culturally responsive pedagogy and I feel that when our students see themselves reflected in the curriculum that they’re more engaged and they find their voice,” Abajian told the board. “So this is my gift to you and I hope you enjoy reading it.”

The superintendent as secretary to the board and board liaisons were also unanimously set through the annual process of reorganization.

Superintendent Geoff Yantz will continue as secretary to the board. Board liaisons include the City of South Pasadena (Abajian and Kipke), the City Youth Commission (Abajian), the Council PTA (Board Member Jon Primuth), Council PTA Special Needs Committee (Kalra), Five Star Education Coalition (Kalra and Kipke), Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization (Kipke), Los Angeles County School Trustees Association (Abajian) and the South Pasadena Education Foundation (Board Member Zahir Robb).