Robin S. Rowe, Beverly Hills Democratic Club Interview

Robin S. Rowe - Century City MallRowe answers questions regarding the Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education election in November 2020

BEVERLY HILLS, CA (robinsrowe.com) 2020/8/22 – From the West Hollywood-Beverly Hills Democratic Club… Congratulations on your candidacy for the Board of Education.

Thank you! I am excited by the opportunity to be of service to our community. COVID-19 has placed unprecedented demands on managing our Public Schools. I am an ideal candidate because of my experience as a teacher of computer science and my experience defining innovation strategy at AT&T, GoPro, Lenovo and other multi-billion dollar companies.

How much do you plan to spend on your campaign, and how much has been raised to date?

Zero.

George Washington and the Founding Fathers didn’t ask for donations. I don’t either. I don’t accept donations, period. Not from real estate developers. Not from city contractors. Not from construction companies. Not even from the Party. Not from anyone.

The reason election campaigns spend so much money these days is candidates outdo each other promising rich donors favors later. The candidate who raises the most money often wins, but owes so many favors to donors that he is only in office to serve them.

When I’m elected, it won’t be because I promised the most to rich donors. And, I’m not going to buy the election. I made a campaign promise to spend less than $2,000 in my campaign. It’s grass roots. We the People.

How long have you lived in the Beverly Hills Unified School District?

I’ve lived nearby the Beverly Vista Middle School in Beverly Hills since 2006. Moved to Los Angeles to work on feature films at DreamWorks Animation SKG. Animation and visual effects software I produced is used in many major pictures and by many studios… Iron Man, Spider-Man, the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films.

In what party are you currently registered to vote?

Everyone, regardless of their Party affiliation, should support the Democratic Party’s education plank. It states, “Every child, no matter who they are, how much their families earn, or where they live, should have access to a high-quality education, from preschool through high school and beyond.”

Per Article II of the California Constitution, the BHUSD election is nonpartisan. That means a political party may not nominate a candidate for nonpartisan office, and the candidate’s party preference is not included on the ballot. The intent of this law is to make voters choose local candidates based on merit, not Party. In the spirit of the Constitution, I won’t state my personal Party choice.

Why are you running for office at this time?

Consider who we have in office now. Does the incumbent embrace the democratic ideal of high-quality education for all? He’s said he has no problem with declining enrollments, that it means more attention for the students who are left. It’s also less work for teachers to have fewer students, perhaps why overworked teachers and BHEA endorsed him. But, what about Beverly Hills parents? How do they feel about our declining schools?

Parents are choosing expensive private schools because they judge our public schools inadequate. That’s a travesty. Beverly Hills should have the best public schools in the world. We’re paying for it with our taxes. We have the richest funded public schools. It’s not lack of money. It’s a lack of vision and lack of execution.

We can have the best public schools in the world, if we make that our goal and work together.

What specific elements of your background and experience are most important to this office? *

I’ve served as an invited guest speaker at schools in Los Angeles South Central and in Beverly Hills. As an experienced research scientist and technology enterprise manager, I speak to children to encourage them to consider a career in science or business.

When visiting classrooms, I see first-hand our children’s learning experience. What they are being taught is preparing students for a factory job as a manager or assembly line worker at General Motors in 1950. Not only missing current science, but on the topic of finance, completely blank.

When I ask a class of 8th graders what is Capital, what a Venture Capitalist does, not one student knows the answer. Is this a Capitalist country? How do we expect children to aim for our country’s big opportunities when our schools don’t teach that?

Do the parents of children growing up in Beverly Hills want their child to have a future that is well paid? According the Bureau of Labor, most future well paid jobs will be in just two fields: computer science and healthcare. I know both. I’ve taught computer science at two universities. At the University of Washington and the Naval Postgraduate School. I led the team that won the Novartis Biome Prize for healthcare AI innovation in 2019.

In just a few words, what are the most important challenges that the Beverly Hills Unified School District will face during your term of office?

Measure BH allocated $385 million to improve Beverly Hills education. The School Board is being sued for diverting $16 million earmarked for construction into failed efforts to advance their own political agenda. Putting a stop to the bleeding, the waste of taxpayer money, is our first step in making Beverly Hills Public Schools  great again.

The disruption of COVID-19 has made everyone aware of the inadequate planning and outdated thinking in our school system. The United States has experienced a pandemic every 100 years since the country was founded. With strenuous effort by scientists and doctors, Our Country stopped an Ebola epidemic only a few years ago. Politicians with an ignorance of history may say they are surprised when history repeats itself, but educators?

What are your most important plans and ideas for responding to those challenges during this term?

Reverse the decline of our Public Schools. Educators have known for years that we need to better embrace distance learning and find ways to improve that technology. It took a pandemic to make it urgent.

We must do what we should have done before, anticipate how a pandemic will play out. Adapt education in response to AI and automation technology eliminating the entry-level jobs that education has traditionally prepared students to embark to start their careers.

What are one or two things you believe the Beverly Hills Unified School District has done particularly well, and which need to be preserved?

Beverly Hills has outstanding teachers and students. Let’s have more.

What are one or two things you believe BHUSD has not done as well, and which need to be improved?

The petty politics. Bullying teachers to make them work in toxic spaces. The waste. Spending school funds on pet projects unrelated to education.

Have you endorsed any other candidates for the BHUSD Board of Education in the 2020 election?

To prevent conflicts of interest, I don’t seek or give endorsements.

Have you attended meetings of the BHUSD Board of Education, either in person when that was a thing, or electronically?

I’ve been a member of the City of Beverly Hills Technology Committee since 2016. Regularly attended meetings at City Hall pre-COVID and led a Zoom meeting with the group since COVID. I’m familiar with BHUSD issues from the City’s perspective.

I’ve watched recent BHUSD Zoom meetings. Painful viewing. Teachers begging not to be forced to risk their their lives by being pushed into dangerous Beverly Hills school buildings with broken ventilation systems. Complaints that the ventilation systems have been broken for 20 years. A classroom with no windows and no working ventilation. Horrible.

The endorsement committee may meet with candidates for the Board of Education via Zoom. Endorsements are determined by a general meeting of club members.

To prevent conflicts of interest, I don’t accept donations and don’t seek endorsements.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us regarding your candidacy and campaign?

In the run up to the March election, I attended a City Council debate held at the Beverly Hills High School. I had read in the news about a lawsuit against BHUSD, accusations that the Board misdirected $16 million and tried to conceal it.

I asked a school board member I met that night, what’s happening with the lawsuit? The response was a flat denial. Said there is no lawsuit. Whether that was a lie or ignorance I can’t say.

I voted for Measure BH, which gave Beverly Hills schools an extra $385 million to improve education. In addition to their annual $70 million annual budget. That they may have misspent $16 million and then tried to conceal it made me see red. Motivated me to run for school board.

There’s no money left for teachers when the taxpayers are getting ripped off.

City politics has become a racket where politicians accept campaign “donations” from rich investors in return for favors later. Incumbents raise crazy amounts of money to run for an office that doesn’t pay much but controls hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money. Accepting massive donations only makes sense if it’s actually bribes. After their guy is elected, the investors line up for construction contracts and other patronage.

I am the candidate for the people of Beverly Hills. I don’t owe anyone favors for donations or endorsements. By making our Public Schools great again, together we will make our Beverly Hills Public Schools the Best Schools in the World.

I’m Robin S. Rowe. I’m running for Beverly Hills School Board in the November election. My website is robinsrowe.com.