Pinellas school board candidate: I'll bring a parent's perspective
Jessica Summers is open about it: She says she doesn’t know the “ins and outs” of how the Pinellas school district works. But as the parent of two kids in Pinellas schools, she says she knows what does and doesn’t make sense for parents and students.
“I’m coming from a parent’s standpoint,” Summers told The Gradebook in an interview. “I may not look at (issues) as, is this what’s best for business? I look at it as, is the best for the child? It seems to me that’s the most important thing.”
Summers, 28, is a physical therapy assistant in Largo and has been active in local PTAs. She and her husband have two children in Pinellas County schools – an 8-year-old in the gifted program at Ridgecrest Elementary and a 5-year-old at Fuguitt Elementary. She’s running for the at large, District 2 seat being vacated by Nina Hayden.
Summers said the ongoing flap over arterial bus routes is a case where the district fell short from a parent’s perspective. “It seems like they put the this-is-the-most-cost effective (over) this-is-the-safest-one-for-the-child,” she said. “I’m not saying they’re trying to put our kids in danger. It just seems like they didn’t think it through.”
Summers said one of her top issues is finding ways to keep good teachers from leaving the district. She said they need to be better rewarded for their hard work and need to be given more leeway to establish “control in their classrooms.”
She said she also favors performance pay.
“In my profession, if you’re a good therapist, you get raises. If you’re not, you may not get the same raise as everybody else. But they’ll talk to you and figure out ways you can do better,” she said. “You have good teachers who say, ‘Why I should try (when) they’re going to make the same as me?’ "
Summers said the FCAT “drives me insane.” She doesn’t like the state’s school recognition money program. She said the state’s reliance on standardized testing is leaving both low-performing and high-performing kids in the district behind. “A lot of that is coming from the state, and there may not be a whole lot you can do to change it,” she said. “But we should try.”