Principal Thando Hyman-Aman is on a leave of absence with pay from the Africentric Alternative School while the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) investigates an unspecified complaint against her.
“It’s for personal reasons,” was all TDSB communications officer John Caldarone would say, declining to elaborate on the nature of the complaint. Other TDSB staff were also tight-lipped citing board policy. Retired administrator, George Brown Jr., is the interim principal.
Hyman-Aman returned from Jamaica last weekend after attending her uncle’s funeral. Anthropologist and sociologist Barry Chevannes, the brother of Hyman-Aman’s mother – Numvoyo Hyman – died earlier this month in hospital at the age of 70.
While it’s not unusual for staff members to be placed on a leave of absence, administrative leave or home assignment during an investigation, Hyman’s replacement is viewed with concern by some in the community.
Jane-Finch Concerned Citizens Organization executive director, Winston LaRose, is unhappy with Hyman-Aman’s substitute who is White.
“For me, the person taking over should be someone who is Africentric-oriented and believes in the philosophy and principles of Afrocentricity as a teaching mechanism,” said LaRose. “The perception is that a White person is being put at the top to save a difficult situation which is not the case. The appointment sends the wrong message.”
The school’s enrolment increased from 85 when it opened its doors in September 2009 to 160 at the start of the last school year almost three months ago. Initially accommodating students from junior kindergarten to Grade Five, the school added a Grade Six this year.
Coming from a family that places a high emphasis on education and community engagement, Hyman-Aman was appointed the Africentric Alternative School’s first principal in May 2009 after serving in a similar capacity at General Brock Public School in Scarborough.
She has been with the TDSB for 16 years in which time she has demonstrated outstanding commitment to educational and community leadership, student success and teaching practice, innovative and relevant curriculum development, equity and diversity.
“Thando has a long track record of commitment to the Africentric vision and a clear understanding about how the application of this vision into actual practice can meet expectations of the community for a strong, vibrant and sustaining Africentric school,” senior TDSB administrator, Lloyd McKell, said at the time of her hiring.
Though facing considerable opposition before trustees narrowly voted in its favour, the school thrived in the first year with the Grade 3 class significantly outperforming the board and the province in this year’s Educational Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) tests.
A total of 69 per cent of Africentric school students reached the Ontario Level 3 standard in reading and 81 per cent in math and writing. The scores at the board level were 60 per cent for reading, 70 per cent in writing and 71 per cent in math while the Ontario level scores were 62, 71 and 70 per cent respectively.
Alternative schools – there are more than 30 in the TDSB – have a history of tension and disagreement between teachers and parents since these schools were established as a result of parent activism. As such, some parents will always feel that they need to have a say in the operation of the schools.
By Ron Fanfair