HomeCommunity NewsCurriculum a Top Concern of School Board Hopeful Summers

Curriculum a Top Concern of School Board Hopeful Summers

Doreen Summers

Doreen Summers, a longtime advocate for public education, has entered the race for the San Marino Unified School District Board of Education, which will have two positions open in the Nov. 3 election.
Summers grew up attending public schools and received a B.A. in political science from Rutgers University, a state institution in New Jersey.
“I fiercely believe in public education and over the years have done my part to advocate on behalf of students when I see the need,” said Summers. Her advocacy began when her children were in 2nd grade on the East Coast, where she successfully petitioned the local school board for smaller class sizes. She also was a co-founder of Verona Cares, a volunteer parent organization that helped parents navigate curriculum changes and high-stakes testing affecting their children.
“At the time there was a lot of intimidation on behalf of the administration and the state to push an agenda,” Summers said. “We helped parents understand the law and their rights, and then created a process so that parents could advocate on their student’s behalf.”
Almost five years ago, Summers and her family moved to California. Her twins, a daughter and a son, attended Carver Elementary and Huntington Middle schools and are currently freshmen at San Marino High School. Summers and her husband, Doug, who owns a local painting contracting company, picked San Marino because of the highly rated schools.
“Schools were the deciding factor,” she said. “When we moved here, we were so impressed by the parent involvement and the amount of money that was being raised for the schools. The activities run by the PTA may as well be professionally run, they are so impressive.”
Summers has become concerned about the district’s heavy reliance on standardized test scores as the foundation for its reputation as a top-rated district. She would like to see the focus on developing well-versed students who are equipped with 21st century skills that make them competitive for higher education and beyond.
“If we launch the programs that our parent community has been asking for over the course of the last few years, we may be able to stop parents from pulling their students out of the district,” Summers said. “Perhaps we could even draw some of the families back. I’ve personally talked with parents who state they would do so.”
Summers would like to see a more cohesive vision guide the district’s decisions.
“We hired a talented superintendent in Dr. [Jeff] Wilson,” she said. “Instead of encouraging him to prioritize curriculum and the other matters causing students to leave the district for private and charter schools, he was directed to push a large facilities bond. The board and district need to do a better job of listening to their customers, the families enrolled in SMUSD.”
With regard to capital improvements, Summers supports board member Corey Barberie’s vision of having “a well-defined master plan before asking the community for millions of dollars.”
“We can’t just ask the community for such money without a plan. It’s irresponsible,” Summers said.
Summers familiarized herself with the district through board meetings and online parent groups, and by volunteering at school events.
“First, we should be focusing our attention on offering a robust curriculum and our students’ well-being,” she said. “Once we get this in check, everything else will follow.” Summers thinks block scheduling would immediately help ease stress on students and teachers and create a viable opening to allow for dual enrollment and career technical education pathways.
“College-level courses are being offered in high schools throughout the country,” Summers said. “We could be offering courses for SMHS students at no cost to the students or the district. This is the vision I have for our school district.”
As an administrative supervisor for one of the largest law firms in the world, Summers said her background in administration, policy and compliance “brings a skill set which will serve the board well.”
In her role, Summers said, she makes decisions involving everything from human resources to emergency preparedness. She is currently developing a plan to reintroduce employees to the firm’s offices in accordance with public health directives. Summers said one of her strengths is bringing people with different interests to common ground.
“I listen to all points of view, even when I don’t agree,” she said. “I must be agile in my approach and thoughtful in my decisions in order to accomplish our collective goals. Not only do I enjoy this, I do it well.”
Summers said she believes a renewed partnership between parents, students, teachers and the SMUSD administration would help ease fears and dispel misinformation.
“Filming SMUSD school board meetings shouldn’t have been considered controversial, because it gives the impression there is something to hide,” Summers said. “We should improve communication and transparency particularly surrounding school policy and procedure, such as eliminating barriers to students taking advanced and AP courses.”
Summers decided to join Julie Chan Lin and run for the board. Chan Lin, who also wants to empower students and teachers, shares a vision for SMUSD that aligns with Summers’.
“Education has evolved rapidly,” Summers said. “It’s crucial that our district and students catch up. Julie and I are confident that our combined effort is an opportunity to tip the scales away from the status quo, over to innovation and positive change.”


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