On U-46 pick's list: language, ganas
raising the academic bar, closing the achievement gap and cultivating relationships.
More U-46 elementary students, Torres said, should be aiming not just to meet but exceed state standards.
Calling achievement at the district's middle and high schools "flat," Torres said he'd like to see more students completing Advanced Placement courses.
More teachers, Torres said, should be striving for National Board of Education certification.
He also said he hopes to instill "ganas" - a Spanish term for heart, desire and will - into the U-46 community.
Torres has spent the week talking with U-46 teachers, students and community groups.
Monday, Torres left voicemail messages for all U-46 staff members via the district's rapid response system, ConnectEd.
Attending a Positive Behavior Implementation and Support seminar Thursday at Bartlett's Villa Olivia, "teachers were so excited that I knew all the terminology."
Visiting Liberty and McKinley elementary schools and Streamwood High School, "getting in the classroom with the kids is what I love best," he said.
A Puerto Rican native, Torres said he understands first-hand the challenges facing non-native speakers. "When it's not your first language, you have to listen so intently to get the message."
Examining both the bilingual and the dual-language program will be priorities in his new role, Torres said.
Before joining Chicago Public Schools, Torres served as assistant superintendent of student support services for Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland, a district of 75,000 students.
He briefly served as the superintendent of the San Ysidro School District near San Diego. In June 2002, after just six months at the 5,700-student district, the school board fired Torres, claiming his leadership style was problematic.
All seven members of the U-46 board felt Torres was the top choice, board President Ken Kaczynski said.
"I can't shy away from the fact that there are a number of community members who would have liked to have more of a choice," he said. "... But we were so confident in this being the right person, we were willing to take this action."
Monday, the school board voted to begin writing a contract for Torres. They will vote on the contract at a board meeting in June, Kaczynski said.
Torres plans to begin his new position July 1.