By RON FANFAIR
Thando Hyman-Aman’s appointment as the first Africentric Alternative School principal was celebrated at a community event last Friday night at the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) centre.
Long-time family friends and activists exuded confidence that the former African Canadian Heritage Association youth tutor will provide decisive leadership, significant strategic direction and a clear vision for the new school that opens on September 8.
“I know that you are going to make sure that the teachers who work for you do work and I know that your focus is going to be on the excellence of the students,” said former school principal and Ontario politician, Zanana Akande. “I know that you have the determination to get from the board the things that you need in order to do the job that I know you are going to do. “I will be there to help you every step of the way.”
Hyman-Aman was raised by a family that has been politically engaged in the community for nearly four decades. As a very young girl, she attended political rallies and displayed her creative talents as a singer, rapper and writer.
Her proud parents O’Brien and Numvoyo Hyman attended the celebration.
“This is an opportunity where we can say that we have nurtured someone to start to take some leadership in the education of our young people,” said York University professor, Dr. Carl James.
“My position has been that we need opportunities and we need to tell the Toronto District School Board that there are different ways that they might educate our young people. I think the Africentric School provides such an opportunity and I was quite pleased and moved when Thando was chosen.”
JCA president Audrey Campbell pledged her organization’s support, adding “this village stands strongly behind you.”
“We are here to support you and we are here to make sure that the new school is a success because we are losing too many of our children that are dropping out of school,” she said. “We recognize that the system has been failing us and it’s important that we take control.”
Brookview Middle School teacher, Ras Ishaka, reminded Hyman-Aman that she has a challenging and daunting task ahead in her new role.
“There have been educators who have tried to do their best, especially for the young Black males in our society,” said the York University graduate and Jane-Finch resident since 1976. “It takes an individual who is willing to bypass the compromise of politics to stand up to the board and point out that you have a unique situation and that you demand unique actions to make it better for Black youths.”
The Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) organized the community celebration.
“It was important that we do this because Thando grew up in this organization like most of her family members,” said BADC’s executive director, Dudley Laws. “We are proud to see her growth as a person and educator and very thrilled that she’s the first principal of the new school. That’s historic and it needed to be celebrated.”
A graduate of Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute where she started the school’s first African Students’ Club, Hyman-Aman has worked with the TDSB for the past 15 years.
After graduating from York University and Teachers College in 1995, she taught at Brookhaven Public School where she also served as the literary convener, worked as an equity instructional leader with the TDSB and was a York University Faculty of Education course director and vice-principal at Chalkfarm Public School before being appointed principal of General Brock Public School in Scarborough last year.
A total of 85 students have enrolled in the Africentric School which will initially accommodate students from junior kindergarten to Grade Five.
Hyman-Aman expects that number to rise in the next month as she works with parents to address transportation concerns. The TDSB does not provide transportation for students attending its alternative schools.
“We are looking at perhaps doing private busing,” said Hyman-Aman. “Once the concerned parents know what their options are, we expect that more kids will come to the school.”
In addition to the principal, the other staff members are Heather Mark who will teach kindergarten; Nadia Hohn, Grade One; Marina Hodge, Grades Two and Three; Agatha Paul, Grades Four and Five; Veronica Sullivan, library resources and Leah Newbold, French and physical education.
The school will host an open house on September 3 prior to the start of the new school term five days later.