Heriberto 'Herbie' Torres: 2021 candidate for Lake Park District 108 school board

  • Heriberto "Herbie" Torres

    Heriberto "Herbie" Torres

 
Updated 3/17/2021 10:41 AM

Seven candidates are running for four, 4-year terms on the Lake Park High School District 108 board. Anthony Gironda, Christoher Casaccio and Thomas Rofrano did not complete a questionnaire.

Bio

 

Village: Itasca

Age: 40

Gender: Male

Occupation: Financial Consultant/Business Owner

Employer: Self-employed

Civic involvement: LPHS Parent Advisory Group, Treasurer for the Itasca Music Boosters and Illinois Licensed Foster Parent

Q&A

Q. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?

A. This is my first time running for office and I am doing so to be a more active voice in my children's education. I currently have a sophomore attending LPHS and a 6th, 7th and 8th grader at Peacock Middle School, so I am very vested in the decisions being made at the high school. The issue that motivates me most is trauma informed teaching. Now more than ever, trauma informed training for teachers and staff is critical in the wake of a global pandemic. As a foster parent, I have firsthand experience witnessing children trying to learn while also managing the effects of trauma. How educators respond in the classroom is often key to how successful a child can be in reaching their full potential. With a background in finance I also care deeply about the fiscal responsibility of the district. District 108 has one of the largest school budgets in the surround area with millions of dollars budgeted for capital expenditures in the next four years.

Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?

A. I would give the district a B. I feel that the school board has always acted with the principle of keeping our children safe. In the beginning while the situation was rapidly changing, I believe communication could have been more clear and timely. The district eventually struck the right approach in relying on information from the county, state and CDC for guidance in formulating the response. Allowing families and faculty options and flexibility helped them to manage their own health and safety during this time. The district has continued its response by becoming one of the first in the county to vaccinate nearly all staff while hosting a vaccination clinic at the campus for the local feeder schools.

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Q. How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?

A. I believe my role would have to be a blend of all three in the sense that you would need to listen and seek out opinions and guidance from constituents and state authorities to ultimately provide the leadership for LPHS. While a decision may be unpopular that doesn't make the decision incorrect as long as all stakeholders interest and opinions have been taken into consideration. As a leader sometimes you have to balance competing priorities and make tough decisions. Student safety and education should always be priority number one.

Q. Did your district continue to adequately serve students during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to continue providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.

A. Yes, I believe the district did adequately serve students despite the disruptions and adapted wherever possible, all while keeping within the existing financial budget. The institution of remote learning, adjusted calendars to allow for sanity days, continuation of food programs, safe spaces for students with learning challenges or lack of resources at home are all great examples of continuing to serve students during extreme circumstances. The accommodations to try and continue extra curriculars, where safe, was also a priority given how important social emotional connection is for students. My daughter participates in marching band and even though camp and practices were reduced by almost 70% and all competitions were eliminated, the school was able to find a way to give the kids even a small marching season that concluded with a socially distanced Community Night Performance. This effort meant a lot to not only the students but also their families as it was (at least partially) back to normal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Q. Do you have a plan on how to safely and effectively conduct classes in the spring? What have you learned from the fall semester that you would change in the spring?

A. The approach the district has taken to solicit student and parent feedback and offer various options in response has been the right one. Some students find remote learning preferential, some need the hybrid interaction and time on campus and some need the additional daily support being offered in person. Therefore, the school needs to continue to offer students flexibility and options and continue to refine them, until the COVID-19 vaccine is available and the governmental agencies have advised it is safe to return to pre-pandemic learning. One change I would make is more mandatory one on one student time. It appears office hours often go unused and not all students are able to self-advocate for help. These meetings can also serve as well-being checks to ensure that the students are not struggling.

Q. What is your position on allowing school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.

A. My position is to allow high school sports to continue during the pandemic with the first priority being safety above all else. Safety measures should include limiting participation, the continued use of saliva screenings for each student athlete and instructor, the use of face masks and social distancing whenever possible. Then, when all student athletes are being as safe as possible, and understand the risks still attached, I agree that high school sports should be allowed as they do instill a sense of commitment, community and normalcy that is necessary for the well roundedness of our students and district.

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