State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has appointed Oakland School Boardmember Roseann Torres as co-chair of his statewide Closing the Achievement Gap Initiative.
Torres will partner with Co-Chairs Ryan Smith and Manufou Liaiga-Anoa’i to lead work aligning with the initiative’s goals, which include addressing ways to close the achievement gap and improving educational outcomes for all California public education students.
“Roseann is a fierce advocate for students, having herself gone from high school dropout to becoming an award-winning lawyer and public servant,” said Thurmond. “She is dedicated to helping all youth, especially struggling students who need the same kind of guidance and mentorship she once needed.”
Thurmond launched his Closing the Achievement Gap Initiative with a forum in February focusing on schools throughout the state that have shown success in closing the gap for African Americans and other students of color.
He followed that up with a second forum in April to address recruitment and retention of teachers of color. Appointing Torres, Liaiga-Anoa’I, and Smith as co-chairs of the initiative was his next step in assuring that these efforts continue with the highest priority and level of expertise.
Torres was raised by a single mom with financial challenges plaguing the family. She did not escape her own share of issues in high school, dropping out after experiencing bullying in her freshman year. Her mother, a Buddhist, stepped in to insist that she attend youth activities at the church.
There, though guidance and mentorship, she was able to get back on track in high school, graduate on time, and eventually enroll in community college. She later earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from San Francisco State University, and Juris Doctor from Albany Law School.
Torres is the founding attorney and CEO of Torres Law Group. She moved to Oakland in March 2004 and opened her own firm to serve the community after seeing a huge need for bilingual attorneys.
She is also serving her second term on the Oakland Unified School District Board of Education as Trustee for District 5. She began her legal career in government in San Joaquin County, first as a Deputy County Counsel then as a Deputy District Attorney.