10 big things from Torres' tenure
In Jose Torres' six-year tenure, he started new programs, supported minority student initiatives and helped settle a divisive lawsuit that started before he arrived in Elgin Area School District U-46. Here are 10 highlights:
1. Ten Boys Initiative: A 2008 program that called for educators to mentor underperforming elementary, middle and high school boys in groups of 10.
2. Superintendent Scholarship Program: Established in 2012 to award $1,000 scholarships to students who are first in their immediate family to attend college. Torres personally supported the program by matching donations up to a total of $10,000.
3. Office of Equity and Social Justice: A first of its kind in U-46, office set up to close or narrow the achievement gap.
4. Discrimination lawsuit: Earlier this year, U-46 settled a 9-year-old lawsuit, filed against the district by five families who claimed that school boundary changes discriminated against minorities. Though Federal Judge Robert Gettleman ruled in favor of U-46 for issues such as a 2004 student assessment plan and an English Language Learners program, he determined that the district needed to fix its gifted programs. The school board approved a $2.5 million settlement agreement in February.
5. Destination 2015: A five-year plan listing specific targets and goals for the academic success of the district's students.
6. A new grading system: U-46 implemented a new grading scale last year so that students' grades range from a possible 50 to 100 points. This new system, meant to ensure grades are equally inflated, was met with less than open arms by teachers, parents and even some board members. A common complaint was students got something for doing nothing.
7. Dual Language Program: Launched in 2012 to promote bilingualism and cultural diversity by allowing students to learn in two languages.
8. U-46 funding bill: Torres worked to secure legislation to change the amount of state funding multicounty school districts receive, an initiative that helped the district during a major financial crisis.
9. Restructuring schools: After 10 U-46 elementary schools were deemed "failing" by federal standards last year, the district is restructuring them in areas of management, financing and staffing.
10. Alignment Education Initiative: Program encouraging U-46 to collaborate with partners -- businesses, organizations, chambers of commerce and other agencies -- to solve education-related problems in surrounding communities.