Toronto School Board wastes Opportunity on Black Focused Schools: The Time for Change is Now
by Courtney Betty, Toronto Lawyer
Throughout history there are significant moments that are remembered for which truly changing the course of history? The decision of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v Board of Education in 1954, which held that segregation in schools was unconstitutional, is one such moment. Recently the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) had the Opportunity to create another watershed moment in history. Unfortunately the Board, displayed a lack of vision, leadership and, courage at a time when our schools needed it most. This clearly was an opportunity lost as confirmed by Premier Dalton McGuinty, the Minister of education and the vast majority of Torontonians who voiced their views in the last provincial election.
The fact that the TDSB decided to adopt a knee jerk band aid solution should not come as a surprise. Over fifteen years ago the Stephen Lewis report sent a strong message to our educators that our school curriculum and teachers should reflect the multicultural diversity of our society. The City of Toronto has been recognized by the United Nations as one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Our City's motto is "diversity is our strength", where is this reflected in the decision of the TDSB?
The reality of the situation is that the TDSB has been exposed by the Falconer report as a dysfunctional organization which is out of touch with the realities of the City of Toronto. Following Falconer's damaging indictment the Board had a choice to make, bunker down and try some band aid solutions or implement strategic systematic solutions. The Boards decision reflects the view that this storm will also soon pass. At the very least the Board's decision created a diversion, removing the public focus from the Falconer report, which they had commissioned.
Without a budget, without a plan, without the support of the Premier and Minister of Education Minister and the citizens of Toronto the decision made by the TDSB is setting up our young people to fail again. Even if the school was formed, how can it possible succeed without an allocation of proper resources? Have we not learned anything from the only other race based school, the native school? According to Falconer, under funding of the Native school has created the most disadvantaged group of students in the entire system. This is the precedent which the TDSB has chosen to follow without one shred of evidence to indicate the possibility of success but a real life example of tremendous failure.
In a time of crisis the TDSB should implement proven models of success not of failure. In looking at proven models of success the TDSB only had to read the section of the Falconer Report entitled "Vision of Hope", rather than focusing on burying the report as fast as possible. Here Falconer salutes the work of Principal Karl Subban whose vision, leadership, courage and creativity, turned Brookview Middle School from a model of failure to a model of success. Principal Subban focused on teaching his students Responsibility, Integrity, Honesty and other basic values which instilled in them a sense of purpose and character. The end result is that in one year there was an 86% drop in suspensions.
More importantly he has been able to motivate the community and parents to play a role in the education of their children. Why is the school board choosing a model of failure for our young people rather than expanding on this already proven model of success?
Clearly the TDSB lost a tremendous opportunity but all is not lost. The Premier has called upon all Ontarians to play a role in helping to create learning environments in all our schools which reflect the Values of our society. If we are to help our children reach their fullest potential, and to build prosperity for all communities, we must invest in education. The province should urgently create an Education fund similar to the Youth challenge fund. This must be done in partnership with corporate Canada and communities. A tax rebate for corporations who participate must be considered as part of the solution. We must look for innovative ways to make ensure our childrens' learning opportunities are limitless. The internet can play a major role.
My vision of Toronto is a city where we build bridges to solve our challenges, and not create divisions which only lead to a breakdown of the values we all cherish. It is no longer true that it takes a village to raise a child; it now takes a global village.
About the writer:
Courtney Betty has over 20 years experience within the legal, regulatory and business environment. He began his legal career with the Department of Justice-Canada, by prosecuting Tax, Commercial and Civil cases on behalf of the Government of Canada. He successfully represented the government of Canada in over 200 cases before the federal court of appeal. The experience at the Department of Justice provided a clear understanding of the legal system in Canada.
Mr. Betty was then recruited by the Government of Jamaica to serve as Senior Legal Counsel at the Jamaica Fair Trade Commission which focused on the deregulation of telecommunications in Jamaica. He represented the Government against the Monopoly Cable and Wireless successfully resulting in the first interconnection of an alternative provider in Jamaica. This case laid the foundation for the deregulation of telecommunications in Jamaica and eventually throughout the Caribbean. LINK
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