Robin S. Rowe, The Beverly Patch Interview

Beverly Patch interviews BHUSD candidate Robin S. Rowe

BEVERLY HILLS, CA (robinsrowe.com) 2020/09/11 – Let’s go into detail about your background and why you’re running.

Before we get started, I have to compliment you on your recent article about Beverly Hills being the source of big money in the presidential campaign, that the President’s biggest donor lives in Beverly Hills. Your article really jumped out at me. Thank you for writing that. That a Beverly Hills billionaire, the biggest real estate developer of gated living and luxury gentrification in Los Angeles, is the President’s big backer makes sense. They have much in common.

I don’t take donations, not one cent. I don’t want to be in a position that I owe my loyalty to rich donors, not the People. With so many wealthy political donors in Beverly Hills, it is easy for candidates to fall into a money trap. During the run-up to the March 2020 election, a prominent Beverly Hills real estate developer was arrested by the FBI for paying $1 million in bribes to a county planning commissioner. For those who would take his money, he had been a local political campaign contributor.

During a City Council March election debate, the Incumbents denied knowing their big money donors. It sounds unbelievable that $200,000 in political contributions from strangers appeared out of thin air, but maybe so. A smart grifter strategy to avoid getting caught is to back the incumbent who won’t ask any questions, who will play dumb or maybe is dumb.

So, I take no donations. I seek no endorsements either. The smartest person I know at City Hall warned me about endorsements. She said, if you take their endorsement, you are also endorsing them.

Given the decline of our schools over the last ten years under our incumbent Beverly Hills School Board, what sort of candidate accepts the endorsement of the outgoing School Board President, or from those who endorse the Incumbent candidate, or the endorsements of those City Council members who deny knowing their financial backers?

To turn our schools around, don’t vote for the candidates who accepted those damning endorsements. Let’s elect leaders we can trust to run our schools. It’s my mission to end the failed academic policies and budget mismanagement that have plagued our School Board the last ten years.

Maybe I should let you get started with the interview. What’s your first question?

Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?

Just me. I was a navy research scientist. I’ve been on the City of Beverly Hills Technology Committee since 2016. Our mayor at the time suggested I join.

In March I ran for Beverly Hills City Council at the urging of a couple City Council members. Didn’t win, but did well for a first-time candidate. A former mayor urged me to run for BHUSD in November, to try to fix the mess there, so I’ve taken the call again.

What’s your education?

As a professor, I’ve taught computer science at the Naval Postgraduate School and the University of Washington. Being a teacher taught me much more than I ever learned as a student. I think experience teaching is more important.

My education platform includes students learning through Pairing, a process that has our best students guide the students who need the most help academically. Pull our struggling students up and give our advanced students the deeper insights that come from teaching.

What’s your occupation and for how many years?

I’ve been lucky to get to serve in many roles. It’s a long career. Are you sure you want to hear all this?

At age 16, I founded my first enterprise, a sports car restoration company. While in college I produced a dance documentary, which led to me becoming an NBC technical director of broadcast news, doing production of live nightly television newscasts. Next, as dance cinematographer at Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival, I worked with the world’s top dance companies.

I had worked weekends as a television master control engineer for a cable station. I made a switch from television production to engineering. As a broadcast engineer at NBC-TV, I built their flagship robotic studios in Chicago.

Next, I became a computer technology consultant. Developed financial accounting software for Fortune 500s like Exxon and donor management software for major non-profits, such as the Girl Scouts and the YWCA.

I began teaching C++ software programming as a corporate trainer. One of my students told the University of Washington he liked my class. UW called to ask me to teach C++ there, which I did for a year. Next, I taught C++ at the Naval Postgraduate School. I became a navy research scientist there, working on VR war gaming and flight simulation.

SAIC is a multi-billion dollar high tech company. I’d worked  with them on the NBC-TV station build-out. SAIC called to offer me a position as a program manager, to make me a DARPA principal investigator for digital video and speech recognition. I founded the AI research lab at SAIC and rose to chief technologist. Promoted to enterprise manager, I had P&L responsibility over the research lab and commercial and defense technology divisions.

My parents were journalists. I’ve been a writer all my life. I’ve written for Popular Photography, Popular Science and many other magazines. Columnist Linux Journal. Film critic British Weekly newspaper. Several years as managing editor of the news daily Hollywood Today.

While interviewing the CTO of DreamWorks Animation for a magazine article, we got to talking and he offered me a position in animation supercomputing R&D. I moved to Los Angeles. After DWA, I’ve continued to work in animation and visual effects. Software architect to superhero films such as Spider-Man and Mutant Ninja Turtles, for AAA games, and a hit Mattel Barbie cartoon series.

I founded a startup with a friend from E! Network. We distributed cartoons on mobile phones on all U.S. telco carriers and some in Europe. At a different mobile startup, I built our game server and AI game-playing bots for casino poker, bingo and lotto.

I did a stint at a Hollywood talent agency as biz dev director and manager of the voice-over department. I produced a live stage comedy show that ran for a year, that the Los Angeles Times critic hailed as a best bet. I produced a live talk show series sponsored by Universal. From production I went back into technology.

As a transportation software architect, I developed safety-critical real-time embedded Linux software that controls U.S. traffic lights. Systems analyst AT&T DirecTV Genie satellite set-top box. GoPro IoT and AI software architect. Product technology strategist at Lenovo for ThinkReality AR glasses that released November 2019.

In 2019 I won the Novartis Biome innovation prize for AI computer vision analysis of disease.

What’s the single most pressing issue facing the Beverly Hills Unified School District?

I hadn’t been aware how bad the mismanagement was at BHUSD until I ran for City Council in March. Like many citizens, I was only vaguely aware of the problems.

Because our education tax money has been mismanaged for a decade, our schools are crumbling, teachers don’t make a living wage, and academically our schools don’t rank in the top 50 even among local schools. A disaster. Referendum Measure E and Measure BH raised over half a billion dollars. We need people with the skills to manage big budgets.

I’ll bring competence to overseeing the BHUSD budget. I’ve held Profit & Loss management responsibility at a multi-billion dollar company. As a subcommittee chairman at The CFO Alliance, I led a team that defined best financial practices for CFOs across America. I’ve built Fortune 500 financial systems. In a financial audit of a metropolitan hospital, I uncovered $1 million in missing funds.

What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

I have the record of success in finance, education and innovation.

The Incumbent says to re-elect him, that he has 10 years of experience. Unfortunately, it’s 10 years of bad experience. His prior experience as an elementary school teacher did not not prepare him for a role overseeing a multi-million dollar budget. Our schools have been in continuous decline the 10 years he’s been in office. He says his experience is the reason to re-elect him, seems unaware of his own performance.

The other candidates are an attorney, a psychologist, a real estate construction manager, an insurance salesman and a college student. Is that relevant experience in finance or education? Is this who we should trust with hundreds of millions of our tax dollars and our children’s education?

As a challenger, in what ways do you think the current officeholder has failed the community?

Our schools have been continuously in decline the ten years the Incumbent has been in office. During our recent debate, the Incumbent said it’s been one crisis after another, that it is not his fault. He has said that declining enrollment is good, that with fewer students it makes the job easier. It takes a special kind of thinking to imagine that three-quarters of Beverly Hills students being in private schools, avoiding our public schools because they are inadequate, is some sort of accomplishment.

We have one of the richest school districts in the country, so why do we seem always out of money? Our School Board is being sued for diverting $16 million in education funds into political projects and lobbying unrelated to education.

What other issues define your campaign platform?

Some important issues facing BHUSD are COVID mitigation, IEP abuse, budget mismanagement, abandoned oil well abatement. What’s exciting though is Future School, my plan to make Beverly Hills the most advanced school system in the world. To make Beverly Hills schools great again.

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

I have extensive experience in high finance and in advancing education. As a professor, taught computer science at two universities. As a strategist and manager, I’ve produced innovation at many Fortune 500 companies. At Lenovo, AT&T, GoPro, DreamWorks Animation and NBC-TV.

Enterprise manager with P&L responsibility at a multi-billion dollar defense company. As a subcommittee chairman at The CFO Alliance, a national association of Chief Financial Officers, helped define high finance accounting best practices for the country.

Why should voters trust you?

How about Integrity?

I’m the candidate who doesn’t accept donations. Not one cent. I can faithfully represent the interests of Beverly Hills parents and students because I am not beholden to rich donors, to people who may not even live here.

There’s a lot of campaign money available from special interests, and it’s not good that politicians take it. Money from lobbyists for private schools, who want public schools to fail. Money from construction contractors and real estate developers, who want to do business with BHUSD, to get our tax dollars.

I don’t seek endorsements, either. They expect favors, too.

If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?

I measure success with numbers, as increased enrollment, higher academic ranking and a living wage for our teachers. To reverse the decline our schools have suffered under the Incumbent, who had another 700 students leave in the last three years.

What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the handling of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?

Let’s dedicate spending our education funds as intended, on education. Something our incumbent school board has not done. Work toward increasing enrollment, raising our academic ranking, student well-being and paying our teachers a living wage.

What’s the best advice ever shared with you?

From my mother, nothing succeeds like success.

What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?

When our mayor suggested I volunteer to join the Beverly Hills Technology Committee in 2016, there was no plan to go into politics. Four years later, when two former mayors said I should run in the March election for City Council, I answered the call. In March, when a different former mayor said I should run in the November election for BHUSD, I answered the call again.

What people like about me is I’m not a born politician, that I just want to get stuff done. I hope to win, despite experts saying I can’t without accepting dark money. We can make history in Beverly Hills by electing the most capable manager, one who is independent of unseen power brokers.

Thank you for the interview. I hope it’ll give you a good forum to express your platform and views.

A forum to express my views? Will anyone care? Everyone is going to sound about the same answering the same basic questions as though it’s a job interview.

Your article on the President’s Beverly Hills billionaire backer. If he would give you an interview, would you ask him hard-hitting questions about giving so much money to a political candidate? Or, would you send him a generic quiz to ask him about his family and education? Would you offer him a “good forum to express his platform and views”?

It’s not easy to solve chronic problems in our city when the people don’t even know about them. Beverly Hills newspapers have not been enough of a watchdog, haven’t kept us informed what’s not right at BHUSD or in our City Council. Journalists need to ask better questions.

Take the opportunity to empower readers. Ask the School Board candidates the type of hard-hitting questions we would ask if this was a national election, as though we took our local election seriously. Because we all should. What we do in Beverly Hills reaches all the way to Washington. Positive changes we make here can inspire our whole country.

That’s empowering.

Interesting points. I’m supposed to remain as politically neutral as possible, so I can’t really comment too much.

Ok. Thank you for the interview!

Robin S. Rowe is a candidate in the November 2020 BHUSD election. Please vote.