By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Senior Editor
The principal of the Africentric Alternative School is being re-assigned.
After three tumultuous years, it seems as though Thando Hyman-Aman has decided to move on.
At a meeting on Monday, called to clarify rumours that she was on her way out, I understand that she announced that it was her decision.
There are those who do not believe that, however. Some of her supporters feel she was either pushed out or worn down to the point that she has just given up. We probably will never know.
What we do know is that, from many of the reports we have heard, she did an excellent job. What we also know is that the school, under her leadership, has excelled academically, with better than average scores compared to most elementary schools across the Greater Toronto Area and, indeed, all of Ontario.
That’s not too bad a record to go out on.
But we know that she was under a lot of pressure from what we understand to be a minority of parents (presumably with the support of some Toronto District School Board officials, although we have not confirmed this) who did not like the way she ran the school.
That is not surprising. Principals have a lot of say in how their schools are managed and it should be expected that everyone would not always be in agreement.
But this always seemed to be somewhat different. It always seemed to be personal. In fact, it seemed as though, from the very beginning, there were forces lined up against her.
Or, was it the school that was under attack? We know that there were a lot of people, including many in the Black community, who didn’t want this school. Some said as much quite openly.
Its success, therefore, would have been quite a blow to them, wouldn’t it?
We also understand that there were some who felt the school wasn’t “Africentric” enough, meaning that they would have liked to see a different curriculum that focused more on African studies. Then, there were those who were instrumental in getting this school started who might have felt they should have had more control over it than they did.
The fact is that, as a TDSB school, there are constraints as to how much the established curriculum can be changed or adjusted. And, as for some having more control, that is for private schools, not schools in the public realm.
It should also be noted that there has not been a lot of support for this school at the board. Not now and not in the past. In fact, members of our community – educators primarily, but also their supporters – have been after the school board for almost 40 years to have such a school established with the hope of helping Black students who are falling behind or finding it difficult to get ahead in the general school population.
It just so happened that when the board was ready to rule in favour of such a school, the folks who were currently carrying the baton are the ones credited with it being approved. But, a long list of others – some now departed – must also be remembered for their valiant efforts in this enterprise.
It should also be remembered that this school, after all these long years of struggle, just barely made it – by two votes – when the matter came before the trustees. In fact, of the two Black trustees on the board at the time, one voted for and one against. (It should also be noted that this is not the first time the board has approved an alternative school, such as this. In fact, there are more than 30 alternative schools in the TDSB. None of them had to struggle as hard to be approved. It has left many to wonder why the TDSB had such a difficult time approving a school to help Black children.)
So, did the board really want this school to succeed? Some people believe that the success was unexpected. There are those who also believe that even some of the Black officials on the board are to blame for the challenges the school faced, including limited resources and the pressure some members of staff endured.
Then, there is the concern over who will replace Hyman-Aman. When she was suspended some time ago (yes, she really has had a difficult time at the school at the hands of some on the board), we understand that she was replaced by a White principal. That is a cautionary note, people. I am just saying.
This infighting has got to stop or we will lose this school just as we lost control of Caribana.
Having Black people head the school board or hold responsible positions does not protect us and will not protect this school. We have to be vigilant and to let them know that we are watching what they do.
Those who feel they are doing right by fighting to control the school could find themselves on the outside looking in (if there is still a school to look in on) just as the founders and former owners of Caribana now stand on the outside looking in.