Carolyn Torres On the Issues
Schools are the hearts of our community. I believe that we have to use this time to reimagine what schools and learning could be once we return to in-class learning. During my time on the board, I have proven that I have the foresight and educational instincts needed to not only get us through this pandemic, but to help create a district that helps all our students become the best version of themselves. Our students deserve to return to a better school system than what was in place before the pandemic. I want to work with the school board, parents, teachers, and our community partners to create the best schools in Orange County. As a school board member I will push for SAUSD to live up to our city’s old motto: Education First!
Investing in Special Education and Student Equity
Our district has been doing a great job in complying with Special Education requirements. I want to take our special education services beyond compliance. I have heard many concerns from parents regarding their children in special education programs. I have heard equally as many concerns from teachers regarding the resources they need for their students. This is especially difficult with distance learning. I want to find creative and collaborative ways to improve our special education program so that all students graduate SAUSD with the ability to thrive.
During this time, parents are under immense stress. They are trying to balance working during a pandemic or struggling to find work, while their children are home. Some parents are able to guide their children during distance learning. Some parents are unable to due to work and other factors. I have pushed for more parent workshops so that they can get the help they need to help their children. I have advocated for parents’ voices in the district. The board meetings have been a mix of virtual and in-person since March. I have pushed for public comments to be made by calling in and through email. I have created How-To videos about accessing the meeting agendas, emailing the superintendent and board members, making public comments and more. When I see our website, forms, letters, and meeting announcements, I see them as a teacher and try to make the process as clear as possible. The first step to parent engagement is communication. I want to improve our communication with parents so that they can have more input and decision-making power within SAUSD.
Increase Literacy Rates
One of my strong suits as a teacher is developing literacy strategies. Teaching 8th 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 value 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.
Support Smaller Class Sizes
I will continue to support creating smaller class sizes when we return to school. 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.