BY: KATHY MCDONALD
The time has come. Inclusion for our Black students especially our male Black students is on the forefront of many Boards across Ontario. There was a myriad of initiatives that were discussed at the 29th Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association that was held in Blue Mountain, Ontario from June 8th to 11th. School Board Trustees from across the province shared best practices, learned new and innovate strategies and receive outstanding professional development. One thing that was crystal clear during the weekend is that equity and inclusion are coming to the forefront of the majority of school boards. All marginalized kids including kids with mental health concerns, Indigenous students, Black students, LGBTQ students, students from low socio-economic families and students with special educational needs were discussed with reference to equity and inclusion. Our Black and Caribbean children were center stage in just about all large and medium Boards as well as some small Boards. I will make any skeptic a believer and also continue to ask you to hold your school boards accountable for this important work in equity and inclusion, equity and inclusion for all including Black and Caribbean students.
I would encourage all readers to visit your children’s, grandchildren’s, niece’s, nephew’s, brother’s and sister’s school board’s website and research the various initiatives that are outlined to help Black and Caribbean students succeed. I will outline the Peel District School Board’s (PDSB) Accountability Plan that was presented to the public on June 19th, 2017, at our final Board meeting for the school year. On October 27th, 2016 my third born child revived a gift even though she did not realize it. On her eighth birthday, the PDSB approved the We Rise Together Action Plan: The PDSB Action Plan to Support Black Males Students. This great milestone not only means that she will have greater odds of finding a suitable mate one day it means that there will be a significantly higher percentage of young Black students that are living up to their true potential.
The Accountability Plan outlines the different actions that will be implemented in the upcoming academic year 2017/18 as the PDSB works earnestly to follow through on the commitments outlined in the We Rise document. An advisory council will be created by September 2017 consisting of Trustees (Trustee Green and myself were elected to represent the board on this committee), staff representatives from all groups, union representatives, community groups, students, and parents. In fact, the application for community representation has already been sent out. On or around September 23rd PAACE ( Peel Association of African Canadian Educators), will host the first annual parent engagement sessions for Black Families in collaboration with the advisory council.
All PDSB staff will receive mandatory and ongoing Anti-Black Racism and Bias Awareness professional development training. However, given the fact that the PDSB has over 19,000 full time and part time staff the training will begin with trustees, senior administration, school administration, managers, supervisors, curriculum coordinators, instructional coordinators, special education resource teachers, social workers, and psychology staff. These individuals will share their newfound knowledge with the grassroots of the organization and eventually each employee of the PDSB would have been trained.
The experiences of Black Canadians will be integrated into the curriculum. Writing teams will be hired this summer to begin creating resources and lesson plans for the system. The experiences of Black Canadians will be embedded into the mandatory grade 10 history course. There will be an open course on Black History that will be introduced in the 2018/19 school year. All central curriculum coordinators will now seek to have Black history embedded into all areas of the curriculum. The resources and text used during Black History month will be created and shared within the system beginning in September 2017. The library services are developing a collection of appropriate everyday books which have Black characters and the Black experience as central themes.
The Board will also work diligently to inspire Black student engagement and leadership. The annual We Rise Together Leadership Conference for Black Male students will be held in Winter 2018. There are also plans in October 2017 to develop a symposium for all educators that are interested in developing Black mentorship programs within their school.
There are accountability measures that will be in place to track and ensure that the action plan’s impact is in fact positively impactful. A student census is being developed and should be conducted by December 2018. Race-based data will be included in the census. However, since it will take months to contextualize and interpret the rich data that will be collected the PDSB will “work with Dr. Carl James to measure Black male student achievement through ongoing, in-depth qualitative and quantitative research with students and their school.”
I hope I have highlighted the fact that change, though it may be slower than we would like, is coming. The culture is shifting and more and more all staff and administration are buying into the fact that every child when treated in an equitable, respectful and inclusive manner will achieve to his or her full potential. The PDSB will not be a friendly place to anyone that subscribes to anti-Black racism or any other forms of discrimination. We will weed them out one by one. So, journey with us at the PDSB. Walk Good. Belle Marché.