In a gesture of honor and gratitude to the significant accomplishments achieved under the leadership of retiring Superintendent Dr. Joseph M. Porto, the Avoca Board of Education renamed the Community Room at Marie Murphy School the Joseph M. Porto Community Center. The announcement was made as part of the formal program at a recent retirement reception for Dr. Porto on Sunday, May 1. “The new plaque at the entrance of the room summarizes the sentiment of the entire Avoca school community,” stated President Jeffrey Greengoss from the Avoca Board of Education. “Dr. Porto has helped to transform Avoca into one of the most innovative and high-performing districts in the area and in the nation,” Greengoss continued. The plaque reads, “For having the vision to lead us on a journey from ‘Good to Great’ – Superintendent of Avoca – 2002-2011.”
The Community Room, as it was previously referred to, is used for a wide variety of activities, including Board of Education meetings, meetings and programs sponsored by the Avoca Parents’ and Teachers’ Council, professional development and training experiences for the Avoca faculty and even a classroom for students when learning activities need more space. Dr. Porto was deeply moved by the significance of what the space represents. “The room is in constant use by the students, teachers, parents, administration and school board. It represents the partnership among all key constituents of the school community that makes Avoca the wonderful district that it is. I am very honored that my name will be associated with this very unique partnership,” Dr. Porto reflected.
The Joseph M. Porto Community Center will remain one of the main hubs of the school and district for many years to come and is the perfect tribute to Dr. Porto’s many contributions to Avoca.
Recently, Chicago Magazine published an article about the “Best Elementary Schools in Chicago and the Suburbs.” The article included the criteria the magazine used to create its rankings and then listed the top schools in each collar county. When Avoca did not appear on the list, the District’s first reaction was that some sort of error must have occurred. Knowing that Avoca’s overall district ISAT scores for 2009 were top in the township and 4th in the state, and also knowing that Avoca ranked favorably in the township on the other criteria used in the rankings, an error on the part of the magazine was the only possible explanation. The administration contacted the editor of the magazine to express its concern and to demand that he look into the matter. After checking with his data specialist, the editor revealed that Avoca’s data was somehow “lost” during the analysis process due to a technological glitch, and Avoca’s two schools were completely left off of the rankings. The editor apologized profusely for the error and understood how this kind of mistake could lead to misconceptions among the school community about the quality of Avoca schools. The editor then readily agreed to rectify the error in the following manner:
> The magazine would rerun all the data, with Avoca included this time, and determine where Avoca’s two schools rankings should be.
> The rankings chart that is featured in the online version of the article would be revised to include the two Avoca schools.
> In the December print edition of the magazine, a correction would be printed. The correction will explain that Avoca was accidentally left off the original list and share what the schools’ rankings really were. It will also encourage readers to view the corrected online rankings chart.
When the data was rerun to include the two Avoca schools, Avoca West ranked 4th in Cook County and Marie Murphy was 7th in the county. These rankings were much more in line with other data the District has been gathering over the past several years.
It was important that Avoca followed up with the magazine to make these corrections. Not only is the District proud of its two schools, but these kinds of lists can affect people’s perceptions of school quality. Avoca has worked very diligently to make its schools beacons of excellence in the area, and it would have been very unfair to have a magazine’s error negate this effort by the Avoca school community. While this article does not reach the entire readership of Chicago Magazine, it is a start. Please feel free to spread the word to friends, neighbors and relatives in the area.