Just as expected, the young students at the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) Africentric Alternative School are thriving. In fact they are performing at levels higher than the provincial average at the elementary school which first opened in 2009.
However, the school, for which many fought an uphill battle against the mainstream just to be established, is now facing another challenge. This time from within.
A complaint against school principal Thando Hyman-Aman has been laid which, until completely investigated, leaves her outside of the school as a matter of procedure. Hyman-Aman, whose appointment as principal had been widely approved and celebrated, is on home assignment and has been for the past three weeks. The TDSB confirms that fact but will not say why specifically.
From reports that have been coming to Share it seems there has been strain over differences between some parents and the school administration. We understand that a small group is pushing for more Africentric content in the curriculum. They have requested African drumming to begin the school day, for example. Such dynamics are not uncommon in the alternative school atmosphere where parents are heavily invested emotionally.
But at a 40 per cent drop out rate among Black students, the stakes are too high at this particular alternative school for us to become a house divided.
If the infighting that is rumoured to be at the centre of this upheaval is not quickly resolved it is not inconceivable that this community will lose what it has fought so hard for in the interest of our children.
Maybe a history lesson would be instructive: It was infighting between a faction of the parent council and teachers that lead to the decision by TDSB trustees to shut down Cherrywood Alternative School in 1994 after 12 years. So those who would jeopardize the promise of a better academic future for at-risk Black children for the sake of their particular, individual concerns should take a good hard look at what the unintended consequences of their current actions could be. There are already too many people both inside and beyond this community who do not want this school to exist.
In 2008, TDSB trustees voted in favour of the Africentric School by a slim margin of 11 to 9. And with a new board following recent municipal elections, we cannot be certain even that support remains.
We know that the school has to some extent been a victim of its own success with more students registered that initially anticipated. The enrolment is now at 160 students, which has challenged the school’s budget. TDSB Education Director Chris Spence has already made a commitment to address this issue. Also, after only a year in operation the teaching staff is still working to establish best practices within its curriculum.
The many who have fought to see this school realized – and that includes Share – are not going to stand on the sidelines and let this school be taken away because of internal strife and power struggles. For, whatever is happening among the adults is not helping and not healthy for the life of the school, for the children who are currently there, and for those who we expect will benefit in years to come.
So for starters we call on the TDSB to complete the formalities of its investigation into any complaints against the principal. Hyman-Aman’s absence from her post should not have been left dragging on for weeks.
Moreover, we respectfully suggest that any parent who is dissatisfied with the school curriculum consider finding another school for their child. The school is already oversubscribed and there are many parents who want their children enrolled there.
Any person involved with the school who is putting their own ego ahead of the present education and future success of the children who need the foundation that this school offers will have to understand that they will be in for a fight from those who struggled long and hard to make it a reality. Those involved need to take a critical look at their behaviour. In the interest of our children, adult squabbling must stop.
“I read about this unfortunate”
I read about this unfortunate incident in a mainstream paper this week. That article mentioned one particular parent whose family had a long time squabble with Thando’s family. Apparently she was instrumental in the current complaint. There is (as this article alluded to) ongoing problems between the school’s administrators and members of the community. The question I want to ask is would this parent have complained to the board if this was a white principal? In fact, how many of us actually bitch and complain (which we do a lot of) and make official complaints about European educators abusing African children?
As well, I am familiar with some of the dissention between the school and the parents/community. This crab in a barrel bull shit has to stop, but it won’t because of the fabled Willie lynch syndrome.
There is an African proverb that states, when brothers fight the enemies pick up the pieces. The school board and many in this city, a few knee-grows too, never wanted this school to succeed. This is a golden opportunity for the enemies of African people to say I told you this wasn’t going to work out. We are making it so easy for them.
“Which period in history”
Which period in history has the oppressor given the oppressed the means to remove the oppressor from power?