Africentric school proposal divides Oakwood school community at meeting

A torrent of verbal chaos exploded in the first floor auditorium at Oakwood Collegiate Institute Tuesday night as students, parents and alumni clashed with disagreements on a proposal to establish an Africentric Alternative School within the high school.

Toronto District School Board members listened to comments that ranged from composed to volatile, and attempted to address the concerns and questions.

The issue of segregation brought out serious concerns from those opposing the proposal for a black-focused program at the high school.

“This school is a model school for diversity in Toronto. This would only bring our kids apart,” said David Battiston, co-chair of the Oakwood’s Parent Council. “Not everyone wants to be separate. I’m Italian and I know there’s a huge Italian population here, but we don’t want our own school. We want to blend in.”

Several parents attended to the meeting to show their support for Africentric schooling.

“I want my children to have a better understanding of their ethnic identity and history. This school can help do that,” said Anthony Simpson, a father of two young girls.

Simpson had hoped his daughters would attend the elementary Africentric Alternative School at Sheppard Public School, but the location wasn’t convenient from where they live.

“I don’t understand what they’re really against,” Simpson said. “Do they have a problem with us regaining our identity? As far as I know, every culture is fighting for their own identity.”

Many Oakwood students questioned the board as to the necessity of inserting another school rather than creating more programs within Oakwood’s general program.

“We have an achievement gap in this school district that is disturbing,” responded Jim Spyropoulos, superintendent of inclusive and alternative schools. “Forty per cent of our black students are dropping out of schools. We have to acknowledge that we’ve been doing things in a specific way for a period of time and if we keep doing the same thing we’re going to keep getting the same results.”

Spyropoulos, along with other school board members, said an Africentric Alternative School is not a way of separating students. Oakwood students would be allowed to take classes within the Africentric program and vice versa.

“This isn’t the ultimate answer for every student in this district,” Spyropoulos said. “This is a way to try to do something innovative, something new, something creative so we can try to change some of the results that haven’t changed for decades.”

The board said the decision will be put on hold.

About this article

By: Farhana Uddin
Posted: Mar 30 2011 12:21 am
Filed under: News

1 Comment on "Africentric school proposal divides Oakwood school community at meeting"

  1. What I do not understand is why the funding for this school needs to come from the public taxpayers. If black Canadians feel the need for their own education system, then let them pay for it individually.

    The black community in Toronto has created their own mess. Parents who are missing from their child’s life. Young black men who feel it a rite of passage to have multiple children with different young black women and then move on. These children are left with no father figure. The lack of values and morals in the community leads to the gangs, where black youth are desperate to find acceptance and praise. It is no wonder that these communities are now full of drugs and gangs.

    But, how is it my responsibility to pay for a separate school system, to bail out a community that has “made it’s own bed”. Other ethnic groups, coming from all over the world, some escaping violence, racial and religious persecution in their own country, somehow are able to keep their communities in order. Their children go to school, and finish school. There are family morals and ethics, although different from others, they exist and are being taught to their children.

    Maybe it is time for the “black community” to stop blaming everyone else for the situation they are in. It is time to stop playing the racism card, every time someone stands up and speaks reality about what is really happening. It is time for this community to look within itself to find a solution.

    From what I have heard on the radio and read in the news, it seems like anyone in opposition of these schools are racist. However, the ones who are proposing the idea are the ones who have brought race into it. I see and hear supporter after supporter talking about how badly the “black community” needs this. What about Toronto’s Egyptian community? Are they not African? What about the “white” South African child, with deep generational roots in Africa, are they to be included in a program like this. Would a “caucasian”, South African instructor, be permitted to teach within this program.

    Why has the black community made this all about them? It is one more example of the “woe is us” mentality that seems to pander to politicians eager for votes.

    I have no issue with Africentric schools, the same way I have no problem with Jewish Schools or Christian Schools. However, I do have a problem with paying for it out of my tax dollar.

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