Vindicated of accusations leveled against her, Africentric Alternative School principal Thando Hyman-Aman returned to the classroom yesterday almost a month after a leave of absence.
Hyman-Aman was away from the school since October 28 while the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) investigated a complaint made against her by a parent.
TDSB Director of Education, Dr. Chris Spence, has said the investigation concluded the allegations were unfounded.
“Ms. Hyman-Aman has been an outstanding leader and advocate for the Africentric Alternative School,” Spence said following a meeting of parents and supporters of the school last Thursday night. “She is a well-respected, highly-skilled and caring educator who is an asset to our school board. It was evident to everyone in attendance at the parent meeting … that she has been sorely missed by students, staff and parents alike.”
Hyman-Aman said she’s happy to be back on the job after enduring a trying month in which she lost her uncle, Professor Barry Chevannes, who passed away in Jamaica. She attended the funeral.
“I am aware that the community has a tremendous stake in this institution because there are many who fought for nearly 40 years for the establishment of an Africentric school,” she said. “We are charting a new course and there will be bumps along the road and differences.
“It’s, however, important that everyone involved realize how important this school is and all the stakeholders have to be committed to its success for the benefit of the students. That’s where the priority should lie.”
Hyman-Aman has been off the job for a month after a parent accused her of hitting her child, a charge which she has always denied and which the board’s investigation has now concluded was without merit. (Actually, that child, Share has learned, was in fact himself suspended for inappropriate behaviour, including swearing and hitting teachers and students.)
This incident is not the only challenge the school and Hyman-Aman have faced. Someone who identified herself as a parent and supporter of both the school and the principal, told Share that a very small group has been disrupting the smooth running of the school for over a year. Another source claimed that just eight days after the school opened this group presented the principal with a list of 21 grievances.
Hyman-Aman said the forced break provided her with the opportunity to reflect on the past year since the school was established and what has to be done for it to fulfill its mandate.
“While we need to ensure that everyone has a voice, that has to be done in a productive manner,” she said. “At the end of the day, every parent wants their child to be successful in whatever realm they choose. When you look at the history of African people, you will see we have surmounted many challenges. We want to make absolutely sure that our children are given every opportunity to take their rightful place in society. That’s what the Africentric School is all about.”
Despite the challenges, Spence noted the Africentric School has enjoyed considerable success in a remarkably short period. It was launched in September 2009 and its enrolment has grown from 85 on opening day to 161 with a lengthy waiting list. In addition, the school’s recent academic results scored higher than provincial and TDSB averages in math, writing and reading.
“Much of the credit for those successes lies with Ms. Hyman-Aman’s exemplary leadership, her outstanding staff, the students of the school and the support of parents and the community,” Spence said. “I want to be absolutely clear that the TDSB is entirely committed to the success of the school. We must all continue to work together to ensure that the school flourishes and students succeed.
“This has been a difficult situation for all involved. However, I am confident that, with support from staff and parents, the school will continue to deliver a program that reflects the philosophy and objectives of the school community, and the mission and values of the TDSB…We sincerely appreciate all of the comments of support for the school, its staff, and for Ms Hyman-Aman. Thank you also for sharing your concerns directly with us … We heard you very clearly. Your feedback will guide us in establishing the next steps as we work with the school and with you to ensure that the Africentric Alternative School continues to be a success.”
By Ron Fanfair