Toronto school segregation controversy

“…a school community that was innocently minding its own business has been suddenly tossed into the pit of racial controversy with no warning and the potential for long-lasting damage, as tempers flare and things get said that are hard to take back.”

Trouble in Toronto’s “Africentric” paradise? Other reports mention a ‘heavy police presence’ at the meeting due to ‘threats’…

It will be interesting to see how this works out.   -JG. 

Africentric brawl 

Toronto Sun

Moira MacDonald: March 29th, 2011 

To borrow a culturally inappropriate term, the Toronto District School Board’s proposal to create an Africentric high school at Oakwood Collegiate has become one donnybrook of a controversy.

And to be fair, this is not one to blame on trustees — yet.

The cat got out of the bag Friday when Oakwood school council parents hit the roof after learning their school had been named as the site for the proposed school in a report going to a board committee this Wednesday.

Things hit the media fan over the weekend.

By Tuesday TDSB director Chris Spence had issued a mea culpa to the 22 trustees — many of them quite irate — stating he and his staff “have not handled this as skillfully as you have a right to expect …”

You’ve got to wonder if this is a miscalculation or a strategy at work.

Whatever, the fallout is a school community that was innocently minding its own business has been suddenly tossed into the pit of racial controversy with no warning and the potential for long-lasting damage, as tempers flare and things get said that are hard to take back.

And I write that as someone supportive of the Africentric school concept, developed to help deal with a 40% dropout rate among black students.

But this is no way to go about it.

The first Africentric Alternative School — the one at Downsview’s Sheppard Public School — was established after two years of public discussions, many of them extremely heated. Even once the board picked the location, in May 2008, there was still more than a year left to get it ready. And before the board decided on Sheppard, board staff met with the school council to talk about it, and got their endorsement following a community meeting — one month before.

The proposed high school is supposed to start next September, five months from now. Discussions have been held, but for a select group of people chosen to be part of a board steering committee.

Community meeting? Called for the night before the proposal goes to trustees.

A set of board-issued talking points calls the new proposal “hardly a rush.” That’s because trustees of the previous board (prior to last fall’s municipal elections) approved as part of the first Africentric school, a “feasibility study” into the creation of a high school, too — also in May 2008.

Trouble is, nothing was officially communicated back to trustees on that study until this past weekend — along with a recommendation to approve opening a school tout de suite and where it’s going to be.

There are no choices of schools to consider — just Oakwood, and maybe Scarborough’s Winston Churchill Collegiate if there are enough interested students wanting another program in the east end.

There will be lots of people dead against this idea regardless of how it’s rolled out. Even Ontario’s Premier — who will be embroiled in a re-election bid just as the new school is slated to open in September — has frowned on the Africentric idea. Meanwhile, it was unclear Tuesday whether the thing would make it through Wednesday’s committee meeting.

Given the controversial nature of the concept, it makes more sense that the high school portion be started just as the first class of Grade 8 students graduate from the original Africentric school — two years from now.

That gives more time to see what works and doesn’t, time to collect data that proves the case, and more time to develop a curriculum suitable for high school, which is a more complex arena.

But five months?

Do they really want this to work?

moira.macdonald@sunmedia.ca

See original here.

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