Bobbie Singh-Allen was sworn in as the Elk Grove Unified School District's newest board member Aug. 16. She was appointed by the board to fill the Area 4 trustee seat vacated by Pollyanna Cooper-LeVangie.
Singh-Allen said she believes she is the only Sacramento-area school board member of South Asian Indian descent. She attended Turlock High School and California State University, Sacramento, graduating with a bachelor's degree in government. She also earned a law degree from Lincoln Law School in 2002.
Singh-Allen is the chief operating officer for the California Lodging Industry Association. The new trustee said she is an active community volunteer, and her children attend Elliott Ranch Elementary and Elizabeth Pinkerton Middle School.
Why did you apply for the school board?
I've always been supportive of Elk Grove Unified School District. It offers an excellent public education. I decided to stay in Elk Grove because of the school district. My parents and brother live in Elk Grove as well. We have deep roots here. My father had been pushing me to run for public office. I'm passionate about it. It spoke to my heart.
You are the only board member of Indian descent. Do you see yourself as a role model?
The district is 24 to 25 percent Asian. Being South Asian, I hope to inspire others. I emigrated from the Punjab region of India in 1976 at age 4. The shooting of the two Sikh men in Elk Grove shows there is a lack of awareness of all cultures. I'm here to represent all children. You want kids to see they aren't limited by race.
What is the biggest challenge for Elk Grove Unified?
The school board is set to adopt a resolution in support of the two tax initiatives being proposed. The government needs to put public education first and foremost.
Some of the projects I want to make sure are continued despite budget cuts include diversity education and anti-bullying projects.
What skill set do you bring to the school board?
I bring diversity to the board. I also have 15 years of experience with the legislative process and in public relations. I have a good understanding of how government works. As a new school board member, my gift of communication will be the gift of listening. I don't bring an agenda.
How do you think you will work with the rest of the board?
The history of the board is that they work in unison. They work together for the best interest of the kids. I've already had some one-on-one meetings with some members of the school board.
Elk Grove Unified offers its board members health benefits (as well as stipends and life insurance). Do you think that's appropriate?
That was the least of my considerations when deciding to apply. I think it's absolutely appropriate. The board is giving so much of its time. We are expected to go to 64 schools and visit kids. I imagine I will put in 20 hours a week, even more at the end of the school year when I'm attending graduations.
School boards are often the target of angry parents and staff frustrated by layoffs and other budget cuts. How will you deal with that?
This will be one of the toughest things I've taken on, but I have very thick skin. Every point of view has some validity.