When it comes to their three sons, school principal Karl Subban and his Montserratian-born wife, Marie, were very clear about a couple things: the boys would attend school regularly, succeed academically and participate in any sports activity they liked.
His eldest son, Pernell Karl (PK) Subban, is an intelligent outspoken young man who plays for the Montreal Canadiens in the National Hockey League (NHL) while the younger boys, Jordan and Malcolm – he ranks highest among the 2012 class of goaltenders in North America – represent the Belleville Bulls in the Ontario Hockey League.
“One of the things we did very early was to make sure that we pointed them in the right direction,” said Subban, who at age 11 came to Canada with his parents from Jamaica and settled in Sudbury before relocating to the Greater Toronto Area. “They had to go to school and do well, and there was no option when it came to that, and we encouraged them to do something they were interested in, most likely a sporting activity. We felt the younger they were introduced to an activity, the easier it would be for them to learn it and become better at it as they went along.”
The Subbans, who also have two daughters, encouraged their kids to have a dream.
“We were watching a hockey game on TV and I remember PK telling me he wanted to be like one of them,” said the family patriarch whose favourite team is the Canadiens. “We have a role as parents to help our children find their dream because kids don’t always dream on their own. Once they find their passion, it’s our job to create the environment to help them fulfil it.”
In his job as a leader with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) where Black boys are underachieving, Subban is trying to apply the same rules. He’s committed to creating and maintaining a similar setting for the kids he’s in charge of at Brookview Middle School where he has been the principal for the past six years.
Almost 60 per cent of his students are not achieving at the provincial level and a high percentage of those not making the grade are Black boys who are from single-parent homes. To increase the number, Subban developed “The Drive for 60″ program two years ago.
“We are in a state of emergency with our children, especially when it comes to the boys,” Subban said at a meeting of the African Heritage Educators’ Network (AHEN) held to address the crisis among Black males in the school system. “We need to have the mindset of hospital emergency room doctors and nurses who will do whatever it takes to save lives. We are coming to school to save lives and we have to ensure we do that.
“Why do I walk through that door every day and why do staff members and students come to school? Teachers would say they come to teach, the support staff would say they come to support the students, the guys like me would say we come to lead and the students would say they come to learn. But when you look at the results, it’s clear that we are not doing a good job because, at the end of the day, 60 per cent (of the students are) not achieving at the provincial level.
“We need to move away from our traditional roles because, with our students, it’s going to take more effort to save many of them. If you, as a teacher, are just coming to school to teach, that alone will not work because most of these kids are not ready to learn. They, however, have the ability to learn and they want to learn, but we have to create that environment and that is what “The Drive for 60″ is all about.”
Shortly after becoming director of education, Dr. Chris Spence said the educational achievement of Black boys will be the litmus test for the TDSB, adding the board will know it’s on the right path when it starts to produce great outcomes for its Black male students who lead all the negative indicators of schooling.
Black boys are most likely to be suspended, expelled or drop-outs, placed in special education programs and missing from gifted and advanced placements.
Education equity pioneer, Lloyd McKell, who attended the AHEN community meeting, said the upliftment of Black boys requires a collective approach.
“Schools can’t do it alone,” said McKell, who retired from the TDSB last year. “The parents and the community have to get involved. Because of social circumstances, many of our boys don’t have stable male figures in their lives and so it’s important for us to figure out how we can provide them with that support.
“We need male figures to guide them, not only in academics, but with the critical life choices they make.”
By RON FANFAIR