Ruby Kalra M.D. | School Board Candidate

Voting will take place November 6, 2018

PHOTO: Michael Newman | SouthPasadenan.com

Name: Ruby Kalra, M.D.

Age: 55

Address: Milan Avenue, 16 years

Occupation:
Physician (Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologist)

Work History, At Least 15 Years Back:

Pediatrician / Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologist, Kaiser Permanente (2013–current)

Pediatrician, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Altamed General Pediatric Service Clinic (2013–2015)

Pediatrician / Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologist, Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Hospital Long Beach (2008–2012)

Attending Physician, Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Life Clinic (2002–2003)

Attending Physician, Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (1998–2000)

Education:
B.S., University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, 1984
M.D., University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford (1988)
Pediatric Internship, LA – USC Medical Center, 1988-89
Pediatric Residency, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, 1989-1991
Fellowship in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, University of California, San Francisco,
1991-94

Family Status:
Married 22 years, 3 children

Have you ever been arrested or charged with a crime?

No.

Have you ever been a plaintiff or defendant in a civil action, bankruptcy or
foreclosure? If so, please explain:

No.

Are you a member of any civic groups? If so, please name them:

SPHS PTSA
SPHS Booster Club

Please explain what you do for a living and how that work may benefit you as an
elected official?                                                                                                         

I’m a pediatric hematologist-oncologist, which means that I’m a medical doctor who
takes care of children with cancer and blood diseases. Care of my young patients
includes not only treating physical ailments, but also assessing my patients’
psychosocial, emotional, and academic needs and working with a team of medical
professionals to support the children and their families.

Listening, sharing information and problem solving are skills I use every day in my
profession, and if elected, I believe that my experience as a pediatrician combined with
15 years of volunteer service to South Pasadena schools would contribute to my being
an effective and collaborative school board member.

Why are you running for office?                                                                                   

I’m running for office because I believe that children are our most precious resource.
Every child matters and deserves to have a team of caring and committed adults who
are focused on helping them to succeed.

For the past 15 years, I have been a devoted and effective advocate for South
Pasadena students and their families at all levels from K-12. My three children have all
attended South Pasadena schools starting in kindergarten, with my two oldest having
graduated from SPHS in 2016 and 2018 and my youngest a freshman at SPHS.
Serving on the SPUSD school board would be a natural next step for me, and it would
would allow me to use my talents and experience to make a difference for our children
and our community.

What are the three biggest issues facing the South Pasadena Unified School
District Board? What is your vision or plan to deal with the challenges you just named?                                                                                                                     

The biggest issues facing the district – state funding of public schools and the district’s
pension obligations – are largely out of the board’s control. If elected, my focus would
therefore be on things we can control locally: (1) communication and community
engagement, (2) student wellness and safety and (3) wise spending of school funds
received from all sources.

Communication and Community Engagement:

With nearly 4,800 students in our district, our district’s success depends on clear and
timely communication between schools, teachers, students, parents, administrators
and the community at large. This is a constant challenge, and as long as my children
have been attending South Pasadena schools, there has been a recurring theme of
communication breakdowns that ultimately turn into crises. Decisions are sometimes
made without input from those who will be affected; policies are implemented without
notice and explanation; and information is communicated to parents but is later
corrected or retracted, leading to confusion. I think the schools and the district can
communicate more effectively.

In all of my volunteer leadership roles in our schools, I have been a strong advocate for clear and open communication. If elected, I will work with the board to find better ways to solicit as much input as possible from affected parties before decisions are made, and to communicate and explain the reasons behind decisions. I will also look for ways to improve communication to students and families in multiple languages (Mandarin, Korean, Spanish). I believe that improved communication will lead to increased student, parent and community engagement.

I was happy to see our district move forward this year with hiring more counselors and
for implementing a suicide prevention plan. With its parent education nights, the PTA
has been a valuable resource for student wellness as well. If elected, I will continue to
advocate for more support for our students and for increased availability of mental
health resources and information for our students and families.

Student wellness and safety are top priorities for me. Our high school’s most recent California Healthy Kids Survey showed that 37% of our 11th graders surveyed experienced chronic sadness and 23% had considered suicide. In addition, half of all lifetime mental health illnesses are evident by the age of 14 years. Our schools must do more to address the psychosocial needs of our students and to foster resilience. I was happy to see our district move forward this year with hiring more counselors and for implementing a suicide prevention plan. With its parent education nights, the PTA has been a valuable resource for student wellness as well. If elected, I will continue to advocate for more support for our students, and for increased availability of mental health resources and information for our students and families.

Hand in hand with student wellness is school safety. Every parent has concerns about
school safety. There have been a number of safety drills on our campuses, but there is
more work to be done. I will work with the board to ensure that our schools’ emergency
procedures are up to date and that parents are fully informed about them. We have
been caught off guard before (the 2011 wind storm) and parents need a better
understanding of how they will be reunited with their children after an emergency,
among other safety issues.

Wise Spending of School Funds:

Although the district relies primarily on state funding, our community has provided local
funds which stay local and are administered locally. Both Measure S and Measure SP
have citizens’ oversight committees to ensure the funds are spent as intended.
Measure S supports personnel and vital programs, and Measure SP supports facility
maintenance and construction, including the new STEM building at SPHS. Money
raised by SPEF, Boosters, and PTA also provide essential support for our students in a
variety of ways.

The board must be faithful stewards of all of our state and local funds. For example, I
will work with the board and district administrators to ensure that projects funded by
Measure SP are completed in a timely manner to avoid rising construction costs. The
board will also need to address the future of the the district offices on Mission St. and
involve the community and the city in any plans for this property. In the past, there was
a proposal which drew criticism for its lack of community input. Moving forward, we
need to be sure we have the input of our students and their families as well as the
community and the city.

How would you assess the performance of the School Board? What is the Board
getting right, what is it getting wrong?                                                                 

I’ve seen our District go through a lot of ups and downs since my oldest son started
kindergarten at Marengo Elementary in 2003, and I believe that we are currently in a period of stability in which the district is making significant progress in a number of areas, from curriculum to student supportive services to facility improvements to a balanced budget. The school Board has made key hiring decisions at the District level, including our
superintendent, Dr. Yantz, which have proven beneficial for the district in carrying out its
strategic plan. The board has also successfully rolled out the Common Core math and English curriculum, and based on recent CAASPP scores for math and English, our students
continue to remain in the top tier of California students. The board has shown a
commitment to professional development and technology upgrades, which contributed
to a successful transition to the new curriculum. Nevertheless, the achievement gap
persists. There is always room for improvement, and I believe that we can do more to support our students and to improve communication. Certain frustrations persist in our SPUSD community about a lack of consistent communication regarding homework, class
scheduling, and other school policies. Addressing these and other issues requires
community input and teamwork by all five members of the school board. I believe that
my thoughtful, inclusive leadership style and my track record of collaborative problem
solving will serve our students well if I’m elected to serve on the school board.

The repealing of the utility user tax or UUT is on the November ballot, and, if
passed, would require significant cuts to the services provided to South
Pasadena residents. What is your stance on this repeal effort and why?             

My husband and I attended the recent ice cream social event hosted by the South
Pasadena Public Services Committee 2018; we endorse the committee and have
contributed to help support its efforts to fight the repeal of the UUT. If the tax is
repealed, our city stands to lose about $3.5 million, or 12 percent of the city’s budget.
This would lead to the loss of funding for valuable resources, including our local police
and fire departments, library, parks, senior center, street repairs, school crossing
guards and the school resource officer. The tax proceeds are used 100 percent locally and
benefit all citizens of South Pasadena. We will be voting No on Measure N in the
November election to maintain valuable city services.

Beyond tackling the challenges you mentioned, what is your vision or plan to
help get the SPUSD Board where it needs to be?                                                      

I have a proven track record in South Pasadena schools as a collaborative team player
who can work effectively with students, parents, teachers and administrators to help our
district deliver a high-quality public education. What I will bring to the table is 15 years
of hands-on, volunteer experience in our schools at all levels from K-12. Highlights
include serving as president of SPMS PTA, as president of the South Pasadena Council
PTA and as president SPEF, with the latter two impacting all 5 campuses. I’ve also
served on school site councils, raised funds, campaigned for Measure S and SP and
served on district committees. As a school board member, I will draw on my experience
and passion for public education and I will continue to be there for our schools and our
children.

According to the South Pasadena Unified School District: In June of 2009 voters
within the South Pasadena Unified School District boundary approved Measure S.
Measure S authorized the district to levy a special parcel tax upon parcels within
district boundaries for four years beginning with 2009-10. In February 2018, South Pasadena voters approved a seven-year extension through the 2024-25 year. The purpose of the parcel tax is to augment the less-than sufficient funds provided by the state and protect the quality of education in South Pasadena.  What is your take on how the Measure S funds are being implemented and managed by the SPUSD Board?                                                                             

I volunteered on all three Measure S Campaigns (2009, 2013 and 2018) and I currently
serve on the Measure S Citizens’ Oversight Committee. Measure S funds are essential
for manageable class sizes, art and music programs in the elementary schools and
middle school, counselors, elementary and middle school librarians and computer
aides.

These funds remain local and cannot be used for administrator salaries.
There has been strong community support for Measure S: A two-thirds majority is
required to pass a parcel tax and the most recent renewal was approved by almost
80 percent. I am truly proud of our community’s commitment to South Pasadena students and schools. As a member of the Measure S Citizens’ Oversight Committee, I’ve worked
with 8 other committee members from the SPUSD community to ensure that Measure S
funds are being used for their intended purposes.

The Board of Education recently approved a $49 million budget, which includes
new additional revenues from the state, but much of that that new money is being consumed by retirement pension programs benefiting full and part-time
educators in the district.  What are your priorities for spending in the Board budget, what Board expenses could be reduced?                                                                                                     

My priorities for district spending are the hiring, retention and support of excellent
teachers and district employees, a robust curriculum including visual and performing
arts and a variety of extracurricular activities, including athletics. School budgets are
heavily weighted with personnel costs (83 percent in SPUSD) as teachers, support staff and
administrators are indispensable to the delivery of a high-quality public education. The
district’s pension obligations are state-mandated and not unique to our district. The
district’s spending must be prudent and sustainable, and adequate reserves must be
maintained for the next economic downturn Today’s board should ensure that it is not
making commitments that future boards will struggle to fulfill.

The Board of Education has recently taken on a lot of criticism for passing a
mandatory hall policy imposed on high school freshman and sophomores. What
is your opinion about the policy? What is your opinion about how the Board handled the decision and implemented it?  What, if anything, would you change? 

I attended the recent school board meeting when the impact of this policy was brought
to the school board by concerned parents, teachers and students. The speakers were
eloquent and delivered powerful commentary about how this policy affected them. I
think this is a good example of why I believe that communication is essential and can be
improved. The decision was made without prior input and adequate explanation,
leading to a crisis. The board was able to alleviate the negative impact for most
students this school year by expanding the study hall exemptions, but further work is
needed for a long-term resolution.

How much money have you raised in your campaign? Please include today’s
date.                                                                                                                             

I am not actively seeking contributions for my campaign at this time, and I have not
raised any money as of today’s date, August 29, 2018.

What do you want us to know about your opponent(s)?                                           

We are fortunate to have so many people willing to serve our schools and I wish my
opponents well.

Why should voters vote for you?                                                                                 

My only motivation in running for school board is to positively impact the lives of
students and their families, and to ensure that we are raising well adjusted, intelligent,
inquisitive and socially responsible, successful young adults. I bring a proven track
record of service in our schools in a variety of volunteer leadership roles over the past
15 years, and as a pediatrician, I am child-centered and approach problems
methodically and logically. As a parent with children who have attended South
Pasadena schools from K-12, I am acutely aware of the needs of our students. I
encourage voters to visit my website, ruby4schoolboard.com, to learn more about me
and my campaign.

Is there anything else you would like to add, or that you would like the public to
know about your vision and candidacy?                                                                     

I’m running because I care about children. I want to continue to advocate for South
Pasadena students, and if elected, I believe I will have a positive impact on the lives of
our children. I truly believe that the best way to serve young people is to educate them
well, and to instill in them a lifelong love of learning. I believe that with the depth and
breadth of my commitment to South Pasadena schools, and my experience as a
pediatrician, I am ready and well-prepared for the challenge of serving on the school
board.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my vision with the South Pasadenan and its
readers.

 

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