CARLOS OSORIO/TORONTO STAR
Donna Harrow, left, and Angela Wilson say black-focused schools are available, as a right, if only the board follows its own alternative schools policy
Black Schools in Focus....
Royson James-Toronto Star Columnist:
There's a good chance that a mug shot of a young, black male will be on the pages of this newspaper this weekend – another victim of gun violence and public retribution that flows from the gang-and-drug culture. Almost immune, Torontonians spend little time connecting the dots between blood on the streets and failure at school. Until, maybe, when a stray bullet hits an innocent bystander like Jane Creba* in a public space.
*Jane Creba was a 15 year-old, on a Boxing Day shopping (a holiday after Christmas Day, Dec. 26, 2005) when she was fatally hit by a stray bullet fired during a running gunbattle between gangs of Black Youths, right on the busy downtown Toronto Streets.
Angela Wilson and Donna Harrow, both black parents have connected the dots and asked the Toronto District School Boards this summer to experiment with the black-focused schools as way of reaching at -risk students before they become thugs.
The Proposal ignited a fiery debate, that even the Premier toss his own Two Cents’ worth.
Donna Harrow, a grandma and runs a downtown community program has these to say:
The kids are killing each other. If we don’t take this as sympton of something, we are remiss as adults. It’s not going to fix itself.
Common estimate of Blacks dropping out of school at 40% and at age 16 more than half fell far behind in the Public School system that the only option is to quit.
'I can count more people who died from violent crime in Flemingdon Park than graduated from university'---MICHAEL COTEAU, school trustee.
Yet, Premier Dalton McGuinty says he's uncomfortable with an alternative school that aims to reach such kids. It upsets his sensibilities – along with those of many middle-class blacks – because it would be race-based.
The Toronto board has 33 alternative schools, created for all kinds of reasons – some pressing, like fear of physical attacks on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students; others merely philosophical, such as parents wanting a looser, less formal and structured school environment for their kids. Or one that stresses performing arts. Or year-round schools, of which there are an additional four. In all, 4,852 students attend alternative Toronto public schools.
This debate will get heat up, depending and how the pages of the dailies turn up with more mug shots of young Black Males victims of the night before and mug shots of Young Black males wanted for killings...or like Royson James wrote, when another stray bullet hit another innocent bystander in the Public Space like Jane Creba, that wakes up the consciousness of the whole city that there is a problem that’s needed some fixing, whatever it takes.... Check the pages of the Toronto Star> for more details....
"This is a program that we need. I'm in the system. I'm a teacher. This is not the ultimate solution. But we take what we can get." -Kevin Cato, teacher
"There are important things to work through – content of curriculum, discipline, approaches to learning and navigating the differences in class, race, culture and differing immigration experiences of blacks. That doesn't mean it's not worth a try. I'm curious to see where it goes." "I'm trying to figure out why the angst. This is the fourth or fifth time this has surfaced. If it's about the achievement of black students, we should be willing to try what's possible. We need a curriculum and a school program that responds to the needs and expectations of students who are black." - Carl James, professor of education and sociology, York University
"You're talking about a 40 per cent failure rate. If this were any other community, something would be done. They would get on the stick." - David Watkins, teacher
We don't want a school where the first call is a call to the police; that has to stop. People are going to be teaching the children who are academically bright, capable, disciplined. We know they can learn. I've seen them in Africa, the Caribbean, in England. I've seen black schools where children sit and listen to their teachers and it can happen here as well. There are no guns. There is no need to beat them up." - Winston LaRose, Jane-Finch Concerned Citizens
"It must be funded by the government. It must be monitored by the best minds in our community and the broader society. What do the best minds mean? People who are trained with the sincerity and the morality and the understanding and the pride in our people. Not just see them as a number who come and because they come with a hood and a baggy pants, you pass judgment. You must love to educate. And ultimately, the Safe Schools Act that brings the police in and kick them out of school – there must be a way to respond to that, so we can show the world that we are about excellence and we are about education. - Dari Meade, concerned citizen