Student Spotlight: Liana Summey

Liana Summey is a Special Assistant to the Assistant Superintendent of 16 High Schools in Newark, NJ and an Ed.D candidate in Educational Leadership at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education. Summey is entering into her second year of work as a central office administrator for the Newark Board of Education. “In my role, I support the principals and leadership teams of the high schools in Newark with instructional leadership and strategic planning.” As a Montclair State University alumna, Summey has a Bachelor’s degree in English and Anthropology, with a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. She has amassed a total of ten years in education, with her first six years as an English teacher, then later leading alternative and innovative programs at East Side High School in Newark as the Program Director. As Program Director, her work included leading a Big Picture Learning Academy and a program for at-promise youth.


“Big Picture Learning is an international network of innovative schools who started in Rhode Island in the 1990s with the mission of reimagining education by personalizing learning for students. It starts with every student’s individual passions, with the teaching model revolving around advisory that every student is a part of with their teacher, or advisor, for their entire four years of high school,” Summey said. In the program, every student is given internship opportunities and engages in interdisciplinary project-based learning. Summey’s responsibilities included working with these students to plan their post-secondary schooling and graduate students who’ve completed their coursework. Offering support for their long-term success, this program has allowed her to develop lifelong relationships with her students and their families.

“For me, it became more than just teaching the standard, but teaching human beings and preparing young people for the next chapter in their life, which motivated me to move into leadership – to scale the work of equitable education to as many youths as possible.” Sumney and her team developed programs to increase student engagement and decrease dropout rates. By way of internships and early college/dual enrollment programs at Rutgers University – Newark and Essex College, their team aided students with post-secondary opportunities. 

Summey’s work aligns with the GSE’s mission to promote diversity, equity, and social justice by ensuring access to equal opportunities for all students, especially for students of color.

“The GSE nominated me to become a UCEA Jackson Scholar which I was accepted in and excited to be a part of it, while also getting the opportunity to get additional support from for my research.” Beginning in 2003 out of the University Council of Educational Administration (UCEA), The Jackson Scholar Network was established in honor of Dr. Barbara Loomis Jackson, a groundbreaking researcher, and practitioner in the field of educational administration. “The Jackson Scholars Network is a two-year program created for doctoral students of color, providing them with research mentors, conferences, and professional development, and preparing them to complete their doctoral work and to become professors of educational leadership. Like the GSE, this networking opportunity demonstrates its commitment to diversity, equity, and social justice.” 

For Summey, education has always been a part of her life and her passion. It’s her mission to have a positive impact on the structure of teaching and learning for students. “There are several different things that inspire me to work, as a person of color my mother was also an educator in Newark who was an English teacher. I always appreciated the value of education and as I grew up around public service, I would recognize a lot of the inequities and felt compelled to find ways to change them.” Summey is grateful for her three years of leadership and is appreciative of the mentorship she’s received. “Having someone with different perspectives who can give guidance on what I’m doing each day and what different life experiences may be and how to approach different challenges or problems is beneficial for me.”

“My vision in the next 5-10 years is to complete my dissertation research which focuses on race and the instructional leadership of culturally responsive leaders in urban public schools so that I can hone in on strategies that will be useful for practitioners.” After developing her research, Summey intends to use her research to develop toolkits and professional development that school and district leaders can utilize. A structure that promotes cultural responsiveness in K-12 education and enhances equity for students of color.