With a vast background in education, Dr. Suzie Abajian becomes the newest president of the South Pasadena Unified School District.
Abajian was selected by her fellow board members Tuesday night to serve a one-year term as president, replacing Jon Primuth.
Michele Kipke was named the newest board clerk.
In 1999, Abajian launched her career in education as a mathematics teacher at South Pasadena High School.
Following her stint in teaching, Abajian received her Ph.D. in Education from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.
Over the past 15 years she has served as a field supervisor for the Teacher Education Program at UCLA, an educational researcher at UCLA, were a mathematics professor at Loyola Marymount University and an Education professor at Occidental College and currently is a district administrator for the Orange County Department of Education.
Active in the South Pasadena community, Abajian, a longtime resident, has volunteered on executive boards of local non-profits, including Vecinos de South Pasadena and Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Action (WISPPA).
In addition, earlier this year the Occidental College graduate, who holds two degrees in mathematics, was named Congressional Woman of the Year for the City of South Pasadena by Congresswoman Judy Chu.
Departing members of the board received gifts and flowers from those saying goodbye during the reorganization of the meeting. Coming off the board are Julie Giulioni, who finished third and was narrowly beaten by the top two vote-getters – Zahir Robb and Dr. Ruby Kalra – in the November 6 election, and Elisabeth Eilers, who decided not to seek re-election.
Robb and Kalra join Jon Primuth, Dr. Michele Kipke and Abajian on the board going forward.
Eilers, who served 13 years on the board, and Giulioni, a board member for five years, also have a long history of making contributions to the district and community. “Their time on the board was extraordinary,” said South Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Geoff Yantz. “They were exemplary stewards of the school district and took their responsibilities seriously. They prepared themselves for all issues. They were reflective, bridge builders, strongly connected to the community and in the end, always made decisions that were in the best interest of the kids.”
Yantz said their service on the board was the most a superintendent could ever ask for because they always put students first. “They held the office with great pride and respect and subsequently they gave us a great deal of inspiration along the way,” he explained. “And they will continue to give us inspiration.”
As part of the reorganization, Robb and Kalra were sworn in as the district’s newest board members. “They’re following in the footsteps of two fantastic individuals in Elisabeth Eilers and Julie Giulioni and we’re all confident they’re going to fill those shoes with pride and respect for the office,” said Yantz. “They’re both very caring individuals who will become part of a very strong governance team.”
During the meeting, Primuth was honored by his colleagues for serving as president over the past year. “As anticipated, he served the position very well,” praised the superintendent. “He accomplished our objectives for the year in supporting to the strategic plan. He ran very effective board meetings and is a strong advocate for children. Jon attends a lot of community events and is a wonderful asset for the school district.”