Statement from African Heritage Educators Network (AHEN)
African Heritage Educators Network (AHEN), a professional education organization that collectively represents students, educators and parents of African Heritage, would like to sincerely thank Dr. Chris Spence for his many contributions to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the wider educational community. AHEN does not condone plagiarizing, however, we acknowledge and respect Dr. Spence’s clear and unreserved apology for his actions.
During Dr. Spence’s tenure as Director of Education of the TDSB, he and his leadership team made a significant and positive impact on the education of all of the young people entrusted to the TDSB. His strong advocacy for social change reached our racialized and marginalized youth and inspired various communities to believe that there are no unsurpassable barriers.
Under Dr. Spence’s leadership:
• The TDSB developed and implemented a clear strategy to address the needs of the disadvantaged within the school system. The Opportunity Gap Action Plan was implemented as a vehicle for addressing issues of persistent academic and social difficulties faced by specific racialized groups of students within the TDSB. Dr. Spence challenged all educators to raise the bar starting with the lowest achieving group, Black boys.
• Race-based data was gathered and shared effectively to communicate demographic information related to all aspects of the TDSB organization. As a result, all educators were expected to become culturally responsive and able to deliver innovative and inclusive curriculum and make it relevant to the children of the 21st century. This data was also made accessible to community groups.
• Nutrition programs were continued and various partnerships formed to ensure that no child would have to learn on an empty stomach.
• Summer mentorship programs were instituted to provide much needed skill development and provide opportunities to enable disadvantaged students to gain employment.
• The Africentric Alternative School (Grades JK -07) has been expanded and now there is an Africentric program at the secondary level. In addition, the Boys to Men mentoring program was implemented board-wide and the Young Women on the Move was formed as a complementary program for girls and young women.
Although we have outlined some of the many professional accomplishments of Director Spence during his time as our leader, he did much for us on a personal level. Dr. Spence encouraged us to be inquisitive and to seek out answers. He met actively with diverse communities and he did so within community settings. He reached out to us and he made himself available. Dr. Spence gave us a voice.
It is our expectation that this profoundly important work will be continued and that ample and effective remedies will be applied to the identified underperforming groups within the TDSB, particularly students of African Descent.