Carolyn Torres On the Issues
Increase Literacy Rates
One of my strong suits as a teacher is literacy strategies. Teaching 7th grade means I have students who are excellent readers and writers, as well as students who are struggling. Reading and writing proficiency is not just based on academic skills, it is emotional. Students who struggle at the elementary level develop an emotional response to literacy that follows them throughout their life. It can become a barrier for improvement. We have many students who are learning to read at the same time they are learning English. I want to ensure that any support we provide to improve their English literacy, places values on their home language. To increase literacy rates I will continue pushing dual immersion, opportunities for teacher professional development and collaboration, services for students, and increase parent access to resources.
Ensure Local Control and Fiscal Responsibility
SAUSD has a bigger budget than the City of Santa Ana. We have over 48,000 students, 57 schools, and 4600 employees. We have a lot of needs to balance. I am committed to making sure money is being allocated in the best interest of the students, parents, teachers, and community. This includes making sure schools within our District are accountable to the District. The present school board has made strides in keeping charter schools accountable. I will continue to keep our public schools fiscally transparent and accountable to Santa Ana Unified School District.
Support Smaller Class Sizes
As a classroom teacher, I understand the impact of large class sizes. I know the difference a few less students can make in lesson planning, supplies, grading, and the stress on teachers and teaching assistants. When students feel connected to their teacher, they do better in school. However, with large class sizes, it is difficult for teachers to build an individual relationship with each student and even more difficult to find time to check in with struggling students. It is difficult for teachers to grade assignments quickly enough to give students the important feedback needed to improve.
It is difficult to have enough classroom supplies for more interactive activities that better nurture student learning. It is difficult to contact parents and schedule meetings. It is difficult, not just because of the number of students, but the mental and emotional energy required to give hundreds of students, your best self. Smaller class sizes allow teachers to plan more collaborative projects.
Smaller class sizes allow for more on-one-one attention to students’ academic, behavioral, and socio-emotional needs. Smaller class sizes allow for more time to collaborate with counselors, psychologists, administration, coaches, librarians, and parents. The school district budget is always an issue, but I am committed to prioritizing class sizes.
Advocate for Mental Health and School Safety
Safety is physical and emotional. Parents need to know that their children will be taken care of in school and that there is clear communication about their children. Students with special needs have to receive the right resources and support to feel safe. LTGBQI students need to be affirmed and supported to feel safe.
In my class, I center socio-emotional learning, personal reflection and actively work to de-stigmatize therapy. This issue is deeply personal to me, as my family struggles with anxiety, depression and drug addiction. In fact I did not grow up with parents because of these struggles. These experiences help me to empathize with students because I witnessed, first hand, what a lack of services can do to adults and children. Working in schools, I have had to report suicidal ideation and shift my teaching practices to support students having anxiety during class. Although, the district is doing a lot, we can do much more.
I am committed to developing better structures that allow teachers, administrators, parents and agencies to respond to students and communicate amongst each other.
Value Vocational Programs
I believe that all types of learning and careers have value. We need students to have options whether it be college or learning a trade. Our students should have pathways to career training that will allow them to have a well paid career in vocational fields. Skilled labor is essential to our community and students should have opportunities to learn these skills.