"Why do you want to be a member of the District 97 School Board?"
It's a question I've been asked many times since announcing my candidacy. My answer is multi-faceted?#34;but it begins with my unwavering belief that a high-quality education for all our children is a crucial part of life in our community.
As a Doctor of Pharmacy, I have devoted my career to education. I've developed curriculum, supervised students on clinical rotations, and addressed achievement gap issues at the professional level. For the past seven years, I have been with the Department of Veteran's Affairs, working with national committees to manage the pharmacy benefit for four million veterans.
As a 13-year Oak Park resident, and parent of three children (a fourth grader at Lincoln Elementary, a sixth grader at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, and a freshman at OPRF), I have been actively involved in the Oak Park community and school system for more than a decade.
I am a Lincoln PT0 member, Brooks' sixth-grade PTO co-vice president, and participant in Brooks' Critical Issues School Improvement process (a problem-solving method the School Leadership Team initiated in response to a report highlighting concerns about instructional delivery, discipline, communications and leadership). My hands-on experiences have reinforced my commitment to improving the educational experience for all Oak Park schoolchildren.
While we are fortunate to have excellent resources, we can't afford to be satisfied with the status quo if we want to provide a challenging experience for all students?#34;the accelerated, the academically challenged, and the special services students alike. It is imperative they learn to their maximum potential in order to achieve all they are capable of in elementary school, middle school, high school and beyond.
Of course, the board must work to achieve this most important goal in a financially sound manner that will keep the district on the path of financial foresight and sound budgeting.
These things can be accomplished through a three-pronged process that's as easy as ABC: Accountability, Balance and Commitment. If elected, I will spend the next four years using that process to: Promote achievement by increasing the use of differentiation district-wide, thus providing a curriculum that challenges and engages all children; Develop programs to prepare students for the academic transitions to the middle and high school levels; Identify and research methods to address factors that contribute to the achievement gap in our schools; Recognize and define performance measures for use district-wide to effectively assess programs, initiatives and staff; Ensure that the board implements an open door policy to respond to parents' questions and concerns; Balance sound financial planning, budget management and priority setting while keeping the community informed of the District's financial status.
Lofty goals? Certainly. But just as certainly achievable!
As I've learned from my experience with the Critical Issues process, constructive change is possible. The proof lies in the progress we've seen at Brooks as a result of an ongoing, open dialogue between parents, teachers and administrators?#34;progress that includes:
The hiring of a differentiated instruction teacher to provide flexible learning opportunities for middle school children at all academic levels.
A review of available resources and mentors for teachers to encourage retention of skilled staff.
Creation of a resource handbook for students and their families to enhance the current handbook.
An update to the writing curriculum. This increases the amount of writing instruction to adequately prepare students for the writing and literacy demands at the high school level.
Addressing these key issues (which I hope to have the privilege to do over the next four years) is a vital step in making the important years our children spend in District 97's schools the best they possibly can be.
For more information about my positions, please visit www.kathytortorice.com.