School Board Candidate Thinks Long Term

Steven Sommers
Steven Sommers

Seeking to help usher San Marino Unified School District into “a new era,” educator and philanthropist Steven Sommers aims to join the district’s Board of Education by way of November’s election.
Sommers, a vice president and senior philanthropic specialist for Wells Fargo’s Private Bank, said a variety of issues motivated him to join the pool of candidates, including enhancing school safety, continuing educational excellence, improving financial sustainability and repairing what he views as the eroded trust between the district and its stakeholders. He and his wife have three — soon, four — children at Carver Elementary School.
“I think we need new leadership for a new era in public education,” he said. “I think we need to look to the future and I think I’m one of the individuals who is prepared to address the immediate issues and the issues that are going to arise in the next decade.”
Having grown up in Iowa and South Dakota, Sommers, whose mother was a teacher, earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He said he taught in Iowa briefly before relocating to the Pasadena-San Marino area in 1989, teaching music and English for more than 10 years in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District. While there, he earned a master of divinity degree and a doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.
Sommers continues to be an educator, having served as an adjunct philosophy professor at Azusa
Pacific University since 2001.
“Being an educator gives me a perspective from the classroom, and that’s important,” he said. “I’ve had students. I’ve been responsible for their education. It uniquely
positions me to meet the needs of our school district.”
Sommers said he believes the newly elected board will have a special opportunity to select a new superintendent and hopes to bring that perspective to the table.
“I think we need to choose someone who’s going to foster a renewed sense of decorum in our community, of responsibility and of transparency with the parents of our community,” he said. “We have a duty to hire somebody who is a leader. We need someone who’s competent, who has a sense of humility, who is transparent and open to the needs and desires of the community and is going to be communicative with them.”
Citing upcoming negotiations with the teachers’ union, the district facilities master plan and a separate election to renew a parcel tax for the school system, Sommers said he believes the board needs leaders to rebuild bridges with the community and stakeholders.
“We need to make sure our house is in order,” he said. “In my estimation, we need positive regard for one another. We need to believe that others really want the best for our schools and our children. When that is in place and we can respect one another, then we can move forward.”
Getting these pieces in place, Sommers said, will foster an environment in which everyone is accountable to each other when it comes to the success of the
district, as opposed to a top-down hierarchy.
“Develop the right culture,” he said. “You develop a culture like that, and you’re going to start
getting the right policies and the right outcomes.”

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