By RON FANFAIR
Students at the new Africentric School – set to open in September – will wear uniforms.
Toronto District School Board (TDSB) administrator, Lloyd McKell, said this is the wish of most of the parents who have already enrolled their children at the alternative institution which will be located at Sheppard Public School. A total of 68 students have been formally registered and another 12 parents have committed to enrolling their kids.
The TDSB had set a minimum target of 40 students for the school – which will initially accommodate students from junior kindergarten to Grade Five – to be up and running. That target was met last February.
“Because most of the parents have asked for uniforms, the TDSB staff will consult with every parent who has a child enrolled in the Africentric School to discuss the type of outfit they will like to see their children in,” McKell told Share after he was presented with an Award of Merit at the annual Dudley Laws Day celebration last Sunday at Northwood Community Centre.
“Once there is a consensus, we will identify an appropriate source where the uniforms could be obtained and help parents manage the process of acquiring the outfits for the children.”
McKell, the TDSB’s Student and Community Equity executive officer, was the keynote speaker at the event that also honoured educator and radio talk show host, Luther Brown, and four high school students. Brown, a TDSB principal, is on secondment to the Toronto School Administrators’ Association as vice-chair.
In his 32-year association with the TDSB, formerly the Toronto Board of Education, McKell has helped to develop strategies and programs to involve parents from diverse communities in the school system and assisted with the development of the Race Relations, the International Languages and the Black Cultural Heritage Advisory Committees which were established to advise the Board on programs and strategies to meet the needs of racial and cultural minorities.
He came to Canada in 1967 from Trinidad & Tobago to pursue post-secondary studies at the University of Toronto.
“One of the things that was apparent to me when I left school (in T&T) was that I didn’t know a single thing about my own history in the Caribbean,” McKell said in his address last Sunday. “They didn’t teach us about the history of the Caribbean or the history of Africa and, if they did, it was through the eyes of those who exerted dominance over African people.
“It was only when I came to Canada did I begin to become more aware of the gaps in my own history and I had a lot of learning to do. That’s why the Africentric School is so important. We have many children in our society who don’t have a positive sense of self and who their heroes are.
“To some degree, the schools in the Toronto area have done a fairly good job in attempting to come to grips with that to some extent. But it’s not integrated in a way that makes it an ongoing daily experience.”
McKell acknowledged that a lot of Black students are excelling in the education system. He says, however, that far too many are falling through the cracks.
“They start school at kindergarten without the advantages of a life before they entered school that gives them the nurturing, exposure, care and attention they need,” said McKell, who promised that the new school will provide a culture of caring and compassion, a focus on team work, problem solving, leadership and community responsibility, an opportunity for students to learn the values of positive behaviour, respect for each other and their elders and superior quality teaching and learning.
The Africentric School is open to all students, and parents will be responsible for transporting their children to the facility since the TDSB does not provide transportation for students attending its alternative schools.
The school’s principal will be appointed later this month.
The Dudley Laws Day celebration is held annually to mark the birthday of the community activist and executive director of the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) who turns 75 on May 7.
This year’s scholarship winners were Shanice Yarde, Shaniqua Roberts, Gordon Thane and Samantha Lewis. Lewis was not present at the event. Yarde is an honour roll student at Woodbridge College who will enter Concordia University next semester to pursue studies in psychology while Roberts, a standout student at James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic Secondary School, aspires to be a pediatrician.
Thane attended Munro College in Jamaica before coming to Canada in December 2007. The Monarch Park Collegiate student and aspiring medical doctor plans to enter the Life Sciences program at McMaster University in September.