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From Commendable to Exemplary — the TFD 215 total picture

Local Voices

Dr. Sophia Jones-Redmond, Superintendent
Thornton Fractional High School District 215

“District 215 is committed to an overall culture of equity where the creation and implementation of policy, the allocation of resources, and access to opportunity are intentionally aligned to meet the needs of all student groups, regardless of: race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, ability, home or first language, religion, national origin, immigration status, age, or physical appearance.”

This is the District’s Equity Statement which supports our overall mission, “to provide diverse learning opportunities that inspire all students to become life-long learners who contribute to their community.” This is the daily focus in each Thornton Fractional District 215 (TFD 215) school.

TFD 215 strives to provide the highest quality education possible, with the best qualified staff possible. Are we getting there? Absolutely! Utilizing factual data, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) School Report Card designates Thornton Fractional District 215 as Commendable, and that is due in great part to the high-quality teachers and staff that stay with the district. Research tells us that students perform better with staff that they know and build relationships with; TFD 215 has a 94.4% teacher retention rate, while the state average is 87.6%. Additionally, by focusing on quality applicants, 82% of District 215 teachers have a master’s degree or higher, while the state average is 59%. Our focus always has been and always will be to hire the most highly qualified teachers to provide the best education possible to TFD 215 students. Our recruitment efforts for teachers of color are paying off with 22.4% of our teachers identifying as Black, Hispanic, Asian, or American Indian while the state average is 16.8% (based on 2022 ISBE School Report Card data).

Administration continually works to ensure our district staff are representative of our students, and that goes beyond recruitment. A solid “grow our own” foundation was laid this summer with the second annual Future Teacher Summer Academy. These students are interested in becoming teachers and throughout the school year are also serving as tutors with feeder district elementary students. The Future Teacher Clubs provide activities that will help students build their resumés, get accepted to college, and develop leadership skills. They also are given opportunities to network with professionals in the education field. In a show of support to “growing our own,” the TFD 215 Local 683 presented scholarships to three of the students. Beyond the club, two academic courses are offered during the school day for the Educator Pathway including Foundations to Teaching (dual credit — high school and college) and Educational Methodology. It is anticipated that many students through this coursework and club will return to the district as teachers.

With record numbers of teachers nationwide leaving the education profession, and enrollment in college education programs decreasing by as much as a third or higher in some states (Illinois enrollment dropped 60% between 2010-2018), Thornton Fractional District 215 has identified staffing improvements in its strategic planning development process to ensure the strides that have been made continue to improve. Our goal, our mission, is to move from Commendable to Exemplary. We have an incredible foundation of dedicated staff, board members, and community who focus daily on providing the highest quality education to all students with the highest quality staff possible. It is an ongoing data-driven process, but one TFD 215 embraces to insure an excellent education for all students.

Dr. Sophia Jones-Redmond, Superintendent
Thornton Fractional High School District 215


Local Voices is our version of “Letters to the Editor.” The opinions posted here are those of the writers, and posting them does not indicate endorsement by The Lansing Journal. We welcome input from fellow residents who have thoughtful things to say about topics that are important to our community. Send your submissions to The Lansing Journal with “Voices” in the subject line.

Local Voices
Local Voices
Local Voices is The Lansing Journal's version of “Letters to the Editor.” The opinions posted here are those of the writers, and posting them does not indicate endorsement by The Lansing Journal. We welcome input from fellow residents who have thoughtful things to say about topics that are important to our community. Submissions may be sent to [email protected] with “Voices” in the subject line.


  1. The publishing of these 3 related articles (Economic Apartheid in America, Are our white teachers doing their jobs, From Commendable to Exemplary — the TFD 215 total picture) in succession exemplifies the Lansing Journal’s commitment to journalistic equity. I personally know that Melanie and the Lansing Journal Team are committed to publishing the “whole story”. They accomplish this by accessing and publishing the perspectives of all parties involved. The only filter is the collective of journalistic values that anchor the Journal. I find this refreshing because those who are willing to participate, and comment have a voice. The larger journalistic conglomerates are tools for organizations that have agendas for everything other than serving the communities that they reach. Every person (including myself) can identify with a certain gender, nationality, ethnicity, community, social class or group. The group that I wish to highlight in this is comment is the group of Lansing Journal supporters. I am happy and proud to identify with this group. I personally know that our monthly, annual or 1 time financial contribution helps to empower the Lansing Journal to be independent of agendas and to be a consistent provider of unbiased local reporting. I intend to be equally consistent with my financial support and annually increasing that support. I consider a community paper to be essential to the ecosystem that we call community.

    • Gabriel, thank you for noticing and endorsing the “collective of journalistic values” that guides our publication decisions. And thank you for participating in so many of the conversations that happen here in our Local Voices forum. It is affirming to see so many different people express so many different opinions on such a variety of topics—and remain thoughtful and respectful throughout. I love that.

      Thank you, too, for your monthly financial support. You make an important point about how reader support allows us to be truly independent. In our five years of providing local news, there have been only one or two instances of people withdrawing their support because they didn’t like something we published. We consider it a blessing that the majority of our readers, like you, understand the value of balanced, agenda-free reporting.

      I’ll include our link here for anyone who would like to support this local newspaper:

  2. It is my opinion that diversity has nothing to do with skin color and everything to do with experience. I am glad to know that District 215 is intentional about providing diverse learning opportunities and tempers this intention by focusing on the acquisition and retention of quality educators. In one of the related articles “deprivation of employment” was mentioned. I personally have no problem with such a claim. My problem is the mis-marking of the point when it occurs. We are not deprived of employment at the time that we apply for the available position. We are deprived decades prior to applying. In most cases the deprivation is perpetual and self-inflicted. No two people are the same. Every parent with more than one child knows this to be true. 2 African American children who enter the foster care system are separated and placed into long term care with different African American families. Each child is African American, but they are extremely different. They each had different experiences that shaped their now adult lives. Take a child who lives in an under-served, predominantly black neighborhood. This child is special and does extremely well in school and gets straight A’s all the way to college. The grades produce a scholarship, and the scholarship provides access to college. The student attends college and struggles resulting in a daunting uphill climb to attain a degree. The example student enters the job market and competes with other students who have the same degree. The example student is not hired, and other black graduates are hired instead of our example student. The applicants who were awarded the position had the same degree as our example student but attended high schools that serve as feeder schools for the industry that the position is in. The applicants also participated in extracurricular activities and internships with organizations that are affiliated with the hiring organization. THERE SHOULD NEVER BE A POOR SCHOOL DISTRICT IN THE United States of America. Many of the high school textbooks that were utilized by our example student were more than 20 years old. The example student was proficient in her/his studies, but the irrelevant studies could not properly prepare the student for excelling in college or the future position that he /she would apply for. There are parents who will chart the course of their child’s education starting at pre-school. A high school guidance counselor is only as good as the school. A high school student in an under-served school system makes many choices regarding their future under the cloud of ignorance. Who will tell the child in the impoverished community that they need to study abroad for 1 of their high school semesters. Who will walk that child through the process of securing financing through sponsorship that would fund the trip. There was no individual in the child’s life to give the child an understanding of the concept of “college prep”. The reality is that in a large number of circumstances…. just being born in the wrong family or community hinders prosperity. In the 1890’s Northern American states looked very different from how they appeared in the 1930’s. Northern Blacks lived among whites without racial tension. Many black businesses served a predominantly white clientele. Many of the dentist, doctors, lawyers, jewelers and teachers were black. In the early 1900’s there was a mass migration of southern blacks to northern states. Many southern blacks (originally of African descent) come from a lineage of slaves. These slaves were born in America, into slavery. They knew nothing of their African culture. Their mannerisms and behaviors were a direct reflection of their oppressors. These mannerisms and behaviors were passed on to the next generation. The behaviors of the southern blacks were not well received by the northern blacks or northern whites. Over the course of 2 decades mixed communities became predominantly black as white northerners began to create new all white communities that were isolated from all blacks through newly created laws. This desire to keep undesirable blacks at bay gave rise to northern whites “selling their souls” and extending an invitation to white supremacists’ organizations to intervene. Thriving communities experienced a mass exodus of diversity, financial resources, and most importantly human resources. Once extracted the next course of action was a campaign of ongoing marginalization. This will ensure the perpetual destruction of the black community from within. A country “should” allocate resources equally among the states and counties. It does not matter where the post office is in the country. They all have the same resources, pay, training and vehicles. Yet we can’t accomplish this with the schools???? In the early 1700 and 1800’s whites would take school funds that came from black and white taxpayers and spend 100% of the money on all white schools. The northern whites of the early 1900’s thought it expedient to separate from all blacks. Their focus was on color…. not behavior. Sadly, today many blacks insist that whites once again focus on color and not behavior(character). This is a perpetuation of racism. The white south(oppressors) created the “southern black” that the northern blacks and northern whites despised. The current trend involves equity strategies. The equity strategies are usually misplaced. Affecting the fruit that shows up at the top of tree can not be accomplished at the top of the tree. The arborist must start his work underground at the root. Therefore, hiring a teacher because of their skin color won’t solve the problem. It exacerbates the problem. Giving the 215 students (any students) access to the best educators (regardless of color) breaks the cycle and gives the student access to prosperity and the ability to compete with strength. All parties involved are aware of this. Trajectory is always a long game. It was the participation of our example student in an under-served school system that deprived her of what the student was entitled to. The student was entitled to an opportunity to access prosperity.

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