Dec 13, 2014 08:00AM
By Lindsey Cook
Lorraine Chang is all about sticking it out—whether it’s winning over skeptical constituents at their doorstep, reorganizing inefficient corporate and government bureaucracy, or even just making it through the 90th minute of a hot yoga class.
Chang currently sits as Chairperson for the Learning Community Coordinating Council’s 3rd District. Entering her third election, Chang said she’s thought about stepping aside, “But given where we are right now, there’s still so much more I want to be a part of getting done,” she says. “It means too much. I really do love what I’m doing and find it very, very rewarding.”
While sitting in a Women’s Fund of Omaha Ready to Run meeting in 2007, a Westside Community Schools board member informed the group about upcoming elections for the newly formed Learning Community. “I found myself writing the pros and cons as she was talking,” Chang said. “It was this automatic reflex of interest.”
Developed during a contentious time in Omaha’s evolving education landscape, Chang said the Learning Community was met with intense skepticism she’s still trying to quell.
“When I would walk door to door, people would say, ‘I don’t want it to be taking over my school and telling my district what to do! They’re doing a great job, what’s the Learning Community going to do that’s going to be better? You’re going to take my tax dollars!’ They had all kinds of imaginative things they came up with, so I’d say, ‘We haven’t even started! This group hasn’t even met yet, so tell me what you want it to be because the possibilities are so great and we can make this something that’s really beneficial to the district.’”
Six years later, Chang says change has been slow, but still effective. The Learning Community has developed a more definitive purpose and mission and is taking aim at closing the learning and achievement gaps across socio-economic landscapes.
“We have contracts with Lutheran Family Services to provide family support workers who are in the schools and work with principals and teachers. If there is a child identified as absent a certain amount of days or who is struggling with some other sort of issue, or academics, those are a sign that there’s something going on. And if it’s something outside the school, like a family situation, like transport, or the family’s having the kid babysit, or whatever it may be, the social worker can help identify what the issues are and get the family the help they need,” Chang adds.Chang said things are starting to click with the Learning Community. “I think we’re just beginning to realize the full potential of the Learning Community, and that’s the greatest benefit over time.”