By RON FANFAIR
The Alliance of Educators for Black Students (AEBS) has to be prepared to take risks if it wants to be relevant and to be recognized as a leader.
That was the message that international educator Dr. Avis Glaze brought to the association, comprising York Region District School Board teachers, administrators, parents and supporters, at its 2010-11 school year launch last week in Richmond Hill.
“As a group, I challenge you to identify barriers to success and achievement and point them out,” Glaze, a former director of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, told the group. “As director, that’s what I wanted to know.
“But I am also aware that many of you will be afraid of doing that. In doing this kind of equity work, however, you don’t do it alone. You do it as a group. When I was young, I would take on superintendents if I had to because I wasn’t afraid of being fired. I always made sure I had many jobs I could go to. I am not saying that you should risk your livelihood. What I am saying is you have to stick your heads out, but you do that as a group. It’s not by sticking your head in the sand and pretending that everything is OK.”
A former York Region District School Board associate director of education, Glaze said she was delighted with the mix of educators that attended the event at Richmond Green Secondary School.
The theme was “Mobilizing Educational Partners to Support Student Engagement.”
“Many years ago when we focused on areas like equity, there were many people who were afraid and they didn’t want to be involved,” she said. “They wanted to know if it would affect their careers if they were part of a group like this one. So I am really pleased to see that you can all come together, teachers from all backgrounds, to support the education of African-Canadian students.
“We have always had teachers who are not from the African-Canadian community who have supported the cause. It’s important for you to understand that any group can be isolated as one needing assistance at any point in time. It’s to no avail for people to say but, what about all the others. In the 1970s, we strongly supported women. Now many of us are concerned about the boys and the men. So the important thing is that at any point in our history, we can identify groups of students and address the equity issues.”
Glaze addressed concerns and questions raised by parents and educators, including data disaggregation to measure school quality.
She made it clear she’s a strong advocate of collecting data once it’s used for the right reasons.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to take, especially when you have Black children who are suffering and we feel sorry for them because they are at the bottom,” she said. “But when you have the data, no one can say you need not act on those things. You must not only collect the data, but you must have a plan as to what you are going to do to address what you have found out. That’s important.
“We have no shortage of data. Let’s not use it as a strategy to prolong getting something done before more kids drop out of school and leave without diplomas.”
Glaze was a member of the Royal Commission on Learning panel that in 1995 unveiled a new vision for education in the province.