Top Vote-Getter, Zahir Robb, Looks to Close Achievement Gap, Engage Community

Zahir Robb

It’s been a nice “whirlwind” for longtime South Pasadena resident Zahir Robb since being elected in November to the South Pasadena Unified School District School Board, an opportunity he’s looking forward to jumping into with both feet.

In an interview with The Review, Robb said he views his essential role as being a sounding board and an ear for the district while working hand-in-hand with the superintendent and board.

“I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity and hope to really provide a new perspective to the school board, but one that’s truly steeped in the community of South Pasadena,” said Robb. 

Robb recently joined the SPUSD School Board at the California School Board Association conference held in San Francisco Nov. 29-Dec. 1.

“I really spent quality time with the team and got to know everyone a bit more,” said Robb.

Robb serves as the director of admissions, a leadership team member and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) coordinator for New Roads K-12 private school in Santa Monica, according to his campaign website. Prior to his work at New Roads, he served as a classroom teacher, college counselor and principal/head of school in public school and independent educational spaces. A majority of his work experience encompasses students K-12 with some additional experience with Pre-K and community college students.

In his role as a school board member, Robb plans to employ research and data strategies to help make strong investments for student success and to close the achievement gap within the district. He also plans to help unite parents, teachers, administrators and civic leaders to ensure voices are equally heard and understood. In addition, he is focused on completing a review of budget priorities to target opportunities and efficiencies to fully fund schools within a challenging financial environment.

“As a school board member, I hope to work with the broader community of parents, neighbors and school district personnel to support our schools and move us all forward,” said Robb on his website. “We have great schools in South Pasadena, but we should never rest until we are doing our best – and that’s what I will do, for the sake of my kids, your kids and everyone who calls South Pasadena home.”

Robb was born and raised in South Pasadena and attended Monterey Hills, SPMS and SPHS. His mother Lisa Shah retired as a SPUSD teacher. His wife, Noel Garcia, also a teacher, attended Marengo before they first met at the Middle School.

The couple attended university in San Diego and San Francisco before marrying and starting a family. With a love for South Pasadena, they moved back as they wanted to raise their family here. Their youngest daughter Lelia attends Calvary Preschool, son Elijah attends second grade at Marengo and their oldest daughter India is in sixth grade at the middle school. 

With a family saturated in educational pursuits, Robb said he’s excited to take on the school board position with their full support behind him.

“I think it’s been nice because the family as a whole respects education, understands education and knows there’s many different levels to making a school function,” said Robb.

Within the community of South Pasadena, Robb serves as vice-chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, acts as a Neighborhood Watch Block Captain and volunteers as an AYSO division coach and referee. He is also an active member of Dads Uniting Dads in Education and Service (D.U.D.E.S.), a YMCA basketball coach and a group leader with the YMCA’s Adventure Guides/Trailblazers program.

He first started working with youth as a student at SPHS, helping with the Childcare ROP program, coaching youth basketball and serving as a camp counselor. In college, he worked as an after-school educator and then went on to earn a teaching credential, administrative credential and master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Later he was selected as a Summer Fellow in Independent School Leadership at Vanderbilt University and completed coursework in College Counseling at Teachers College Columbia University. He has also worked as a classroom teacher, college counselor and school administrator, with experience with students from K-12.

With his background in education, Robb is keenly aware of the unique nature of school board service and the need to be a conduit for the community.

“Now having the opportunity to serve, I think it’ll be a great way to see yet another perspective on schools and education and the system as a whole,” said Robb. “For me, that’s what I love.”