Q&A with Joan Summers, candidate for Paso Robles School Board
Questions and answers with Joan Summers
Editor’s note: The Paso Robles Daily News invited all candidates running for the board of trustees of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District to participate in a Q&A to help inform local voters. We will be running them this week as we receive them.
Why are you running for trustee?
The board will be faced with difficult decisions as the school district experiences loss of State and Federal revenue resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, declining enrollment, increased operating costs and employee pension expenses, higher special education costs, and the increase in the minimum wage. Those elected to the position will determine the closure of an elementary campus, and the future of elementary athletics, VAPA, CTE, dual immersion and counseling programs. Students’ learning loss needs to be addressed through assessments and supports put in place. I am running for the position of trustee to work collaboratively with the board and the superintendent, ask the tough questions, remain fiscally prudent and make the decisions in these unprecedented times to ensure all students achieve college or career readiness.
What is the school district currently doing well, and what would you like to see improve?
The board and the superintendent have worked together to increase the reserve. The district is moving forward to returning staff and students to in-person learning on our campuses. Employees are being flexible in their job duties and working tirelessly to support students’ needs. Improvements in technology infrastructure and devices are ongoing. I would recommend additional professional development for teachers, staff, students, and parents on technology and the tools necessary to support distance learning. I would like to build a stronger relationship between the community and the district.
What is your position on re-opening classrooms and protecting students from COVID-19?
I feel students and staff need to return to in-school learning as soon as possible, meeting health and safety requirements. Preliminary data estimates students could lose 1-3 months of academic progress during distance learning. Students are lacking social interaction with their peers, teachers and support staff which will have an impact on their social/emotional needs. The district’s Reopening Schools Guide posted on the website addresses minimizing the risk of transmission. For parents who are not comfortable with in-school instruction, options to continue Distance Learning or Homeschool will be available.
How can the school district better serve students and meet its budget responsibilities?
All board decisions need to be focused on what is the benefit to the children. COVID-19 impacts, Learning loss, social/emotional needs, declining enrollment, possible school closure, or the sale of excess property, and financial stability are pressing problems for the district. The board needs to be adamant there is no deficit spending and continue to work towards increasing the reserve. TRANS (Tax Revenue Anticipation Notes) and other means of financing for borrowing to address cash flow problems are in place to prepare for state deferrals – delayed payments of money to the schools. If State and Federal funding decreases, as anticipated, mindful reductions in programs and staff will be inevitable.
About Joan Summers
Joan Summers and her husband, Charlie have lived in Paso Robles for almost 40 years. She retired as a middle school secretary after working 26 years in the Paso Robles School District. She has three daughters, Paso Robles High School graduates, whose needs spanned special education, general education, advanced academics, sports and visual and performing arts. One of her grandsons is a fourth-generation Paso Roblan who is a dual-Immersion graduate.
She is an Advisory Board member on the Kayla Peach Memorial Foundation, which provides educational programs and raises awareness in the community of the epidemic of addiction and substance abuse. She also serves on the City/Schools/Cuesta Committee, the City of Paso Robles Youth Foundation, is a Bearcat Booster, a St. Rose parishioner, and a donor to the Paso Robles Aquatic Complex.