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UCDSB Chair’s Comments on Current Events that Highlights Racism and Injustices
UCDSB Chair’s Comments on Current Events that Highlights Racism and Injustices
Posted on 06/05/2020
Chair John McAllister

[Delivered at the Public Session of the Upper Canada District School Board – June 3, 2020]

All of us who care about healthy communities and strong, positive, and respectful relationships are feeling compelled to find productive ways to register our concerns about racism and injustice that has erupted over this past weekend, in the United States.

It is particularly difficult during a period of intense isolation due to a public health crisis, to reach out to others in ways that provide immediate comfort.  For most of us, meeting with others and spending time together to share our emotions and deep feelings is what brings us calm and reassurance.  I am reminded as Chair of the Board, that I have the privilege of a public platform to speak to those in our school district and the larger community about how our values are also values at the core of civil society. These values - fairness, justice, respect and empathy for others- are the essential characteristics of the preferred and desired state that we choose to nurture and support. I am proud to say that these elements are also the fundamental basis of citizenship education in our local schools throughout the Upper Canada District School Board. It begins with a focus on “belonging and contributing” in our Kindergarten programs and continues well into the high school years when our students study and practice including various ways to voice their points of view within the many communities to which they belong.

I agree with the President of the Toronto Raptors Basketball club, who recently stated that “to overcome racism, we must raise our voices”.   As a teacher, a life-long educator, and as Chair of the School Board, I would want to add that we must not only raise our voices, but to take time to genuinely listen and to understand what is being said. The education system is a perfect place to share our voices and to take the necessary time to listen. We do this through an emphasis on character education (the commitment to a Character Always program in all UCDSB schools), our focus on Truth & Reconciliation as part of learning with Indigenous peoples, and through a multitude of meaningful community relationships with our schools that illuminates equity and diversity.

I encourage our schools and staff to set additional time aside for this focus over the next several weeks.  Good teaching is grounded in pedagogy that allows each of our students to practices the responsible and respectful use of voice. It also provides our students the opportunities to practice the responsible and respectful use of listening skills.  Some children benefit from more practice in these key skills, while other children are ready to support their classmates as peer mentors in this work. Whichever the case, a focus on bringing a wide array of perspectives and truths as part of classroom learning prepares our students to thoughtfully and respectfully respond to the offensive presence of racism in our world. Let’s roll up our sleeves and continue forward in this important work.

John McAllister,
UCDSB Board of Trustees.

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