Oakville parent expresses concern over lack of Black teachers at Catholic Board

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Published November 19, 2021 at 5:39 pm

The Halton Catholic District School Board passed a motion at its recent meeting requesting a Staff Report by no later than Dec. 21 after a local parent expressed concern there is an inadequate representation of the racialized community within the HCDSB teaching staff. INHALTON PHOTO

The Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) is going to look further into what an Oakville parent says is disparity in minor representation within its teaching staff.

The board passed a motion at its recent meeting requesting a Staff Report by no later than Dec. 21 after Tolani Fetepigi expressed concern that there is an inadequate representation of the racialized community with the HCDSB teaching staff.

Fetepigi, who has a daughter in Grade 9 at St. Ignatius of Loyola and a son in Grade 5 at St. Mary Catholic Elementary School, explained to the Board that there was only one black substitute teacher at both schools.

“We need Black teachers, Black guidance counsellors and Black non-teaching staff to adequately represent the student demography and the Halton community at large,” Fetepigi said. “Research has shown that children flourish when they have people in authority whom they are culturally aligned to.

“Students of colour believe teachers of the same race hold them to higher expectations and are more culturally sensitive.”

While having brown skin doesn’t make you a better teacher, Fetepigi said there’s something about living in brown skin that gives you a different perspective and makes you better equipped to handle issues such as discrimination or racism.

Which sadly, she adds, is what racialized children still have to endure.

“The presence of Black teachers and guidance counsellors can provide a safe place for Black students facing discrimination to freely express themselves knowing the person they are speaking to fully understands what they are going through,” Fetepigi  continued.

“Having someone they feel they can easily relate with positively impacts their ability to learn, develop, nurture relationships and most importantly it fosters a sense of belonging.”

Fetepigi’s asks of the board, which were included in the motion, are:

  1. Information regarding the current demography of the teaching and non-teaching staff within the HCDSB. This should be de-aggregated along gender and racial lines.
  2. A staff report that outlines the effort that the Board has put into the recruitment of minority talent in the last five years.
  3. Details of the improvements /changes/ successes that have been recorded following the efforts that might have been implemented.
  4. How is the Board showing commitment to Equity and Inclusion? I am aware that the department consist of just one member of staff which is grossly inadequate.

The HCDSB is currently going through an equity audit.

“That gap is missing and I’m hoping this delegation is bringing to the floor the existence of that gap and that council is willing and able to do something about that,” Fetepigi said.

The motion carried with only Trustees Tim O’Brien (Burlington), Peter DeRosa (Oakville) and Vincent Iantomasi (Burlington) opposing it.

Oakville Trustee Helena Karabela abstained.

Oakville Trustee Nancy Guzzo, who put forward the motion, feels Fetepigi did a fantastic job in articulating why it’s needed and the importance of it.

“I think this is a really good start for us to actually see this information and have it provided to the board and to our public, to our stakeholders, our students and our staff and our parents,” Guzzo said.

DeRosa put forward an amendment that the report also include the legality of the collection of this information (including the consent), as well as an update of the Equity Audit, and refer to any duplication of work.

“I do support, in spirit, the delegates request, but I think we have to make sure of a few things first,” DeRosa said. “I don’t know we’re going to make sure of those things during the course of this meeting.”

The amendment, though, was soundly defeated.

“I have full faith in our staff that they would be able to complete this investigation or gather this information and know what the legalities are,” said Burlington Trustee Brenda Agnew.

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