Personal Reflections | Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

Personal Reflections

September 9, 2020

Dear IMSA Community,

After six years at IMSA as President, I will be retiring from full-time employment at the end of this academic year to pursue personal interests. I know that this might come as a shock as we have so many great future plans and much work ahead of us as an IMSA community and family. I want to share my thought process because IMSA has been a great opportunity for me to contribute and because I value the relationships that I have formed over the years.

Many of you know my story. I was born and raised in a very poor section of Puerto Rico, La Playita in Santurce. My parents divorced when I was only six months old. I was raised up by a single mother who was helped along the way by my grandparents and many of her siblings. By the time I reached the 6th grade, I had attended seven schools. I worked my way through my entire college years. In a very real sense, I have been in the workforce since I was 17 years old—this year marks my 43rd year working for a living.

Prior to joining IMSA, I served for over six years as the Superintendent of Elgin School District U-46, the largest district in Illinois after Chicago Public Schools (CPS) with 40,000 students in 53 schools and 5,000 employees. Before Elgin, I served as a CPS Regional Superintendent (Area Instructional Officer) overseeing 14,000 students in 25 schools on the Southside (Englewood and surrounding communities). I have served school districts in Maryland and California as the superintendent or associate/assistant superintendent level for over 20 years.

In the spring of 2018, my wife and I paid off the mortgage on our home; the American Dream, no? This financial freedom led us to ask how much longer I wanted to remain working full-time. While I love my full-time work at IMSA, I realize that I want to have more flexibility to pursue other interests and passions. I want to engage in writing and publishing. And, I plan to involve myself in humanitarian and advocacy work, such as racial justice and advocating for children detained and held in jail-like border facilities by the Department of Homeland Security. I also have to be realistic about how much time I have left in my life. Thank God, I am presently healthy. Yet, how many good years do I have left? Twenty? Thirty? While my mom will turn 82 this year, my dad passed away in 1999 when he was only 63 years old. None of us have a guarantee of long life, nor good health.

I provided advanced notice to the Board of Trustees in 2018 to allow them adequate time to organize appropriately in order to seek a new leader for IMSA. My last official day as President of IMSA will be May 31, 2021.I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be challenged and to contribute to IMSA’s history and future.

In my final year, I will focus on moving our Academy priorities forward and leaving IMSA in the best position possible for a new leader. As you know, our Academy priorities for this year are the 1) Equity and Excellence Plan: Year One of Action; and 2) Beyond Surviving. Resolved to Thrive (IMSA employees working remotely must do more than merely survive the year; we want to thrive!).

There’s lots still to do.


José M. Torres, Ph.D.