By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Senior Editor
I wrote last week that the principal of the Africentric Alternative School has been ‘re-assigned’. Now I have learned that the Toronto District School Board might have already chosen her replacement.
There are still doubts about why Thando Hyman-Aman is leaving the school. One concerned caller suggested that there is no way she would have left on her own “before the graduation of her first students” next year.
I am not in the education field so I don’t know how these things work. But that makes sense, doesn’t it?
Take me, for instance. I just couldn’t see myself not being on hand every week to see Share off to the printers. And this is after 34 years and almost 2,000 press runs. Thinking about that comment, I could just imagine how she must feel.
Then there were those who felt that if she was so unhappy at the school, moving her might be the best thing for her. As some put it, “fighting for her to stay or urging the board to reconsider might not be in her best interest or what she wants”. And I can only imagine by that they mean that it would be unfair to her to want her to stay considering the pressure she was under.
So, we turn our attention now to who her replacement would be.
Most likely, the new principal would be someone Black since it would be unthinkable that the principal of an Africentric school would not be someone of African heritage. But, as I wrote last week, when Hyman-Aman was suspended last year for a month or so, the TDSB replaced her with a White male. So, with this bunch, who knows? And the fact that the director of education is a Black man and the superintendent responsible for that school is also a Black man, didn’t seem to matter then, so why should it matter now?
I have known White teachers, both male and female, who were amazing with Black students. I am sure we all have. And I have also heard of Black teachers who were horrible where Black students were concerned. In fact, one caller told me that there were some Black teachers who, if he had kids, would never let them near his children.
This is not an indictment of White teachers. But it would be unthinkable that a straight male would be named to head a school for gay students; that a man would be principal of a girls’ school; that a non-Jewish person would be placed at the head of a Jewish school. It is not that they may not be qualified, but the optics, at the very least, would be wrong.
So, we would expect the board to be very careful with whom they choose to take charge of that school. The temptation might be to find someone who can get along with the small group of people who have been referred to by some as ‘dissidents’ (or worse, by others) who have been a thorn in Hyman-Aman’s side. These people apparently did not like the way the school was being run and, from the accounts I have heard, have fought her from the very beginning. I also understand that they might have had someone else in mind for the job of principal. Also, it has been said that they didn’t think the school focused enough on African or ‘Africentric’ principles, or something like that.
Will appointing a principal who would be able to get along with (or appease) this group be in the best interest of the school? Some parents have already indicated that, depending on who the new principal is, they might remove their children from the school.
Actually, that might very well be what the TDSB wants. The board is currently struggling with having to cut millions of dollars from its budget. They are looking at cutting teachers, education assistants, cafeteria staff, and even some cafeterias themselves, caretaker and lunchroom staff and possibly closing some schools.
Since this school has done so well (under the leadership of Hyman-Aman) it would be a bit of a challenge to justify closing it, but if a principal was brought in who was not able to maintain the standards she set; if it was someone who didn’t care or wasn’t as capable and the standards fell, the board could consider itself justified in closing it sometime down the road.
I mentioned the Caribana experience last week. The only reason that we still have something that resembles the original Caribana is because of the some $400-million the festival is said to bring in to the local economy each year. Were it not for that money, it would have been killed off long ago. What, do you think the folks down at City Hall really care about Black and Caribbean people jumping up, playing mas and having a good time?
It is the money. When the councillor who is responsible for Caribana withdrew the funding for the then Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC) and set up his own committee of Black folks to run the festival, all he had in mind was the hundreds of millions of dollars the city would lose if the festival was discontinued.
Unfortunately, the Africentric Alternative School has no such bounty to offer, except that those children who are helped by it could (and would) one day be valuable contributing members of society.
That might be enough of a reason for us to fight for it, but not for members of the board, some of whom have fought against this type of school for more than 40 years.
We need to watch very carefully to see who the TDSB appoints as the new principal. That will tell us if they want this school to succeed or if they just want to kill it.