I would like to acknowledge that the Peel District School Board's HJA Brown Education Centre is located on Treaty 13A of The Mississaugas of The Credit First Nation. I am grateful to The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation as the caretakers of this land and recognize the benefits I receive from this land. I also acknowledge and give thanks to the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples who have walked before us. This land continues to be home for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples, many who are students in Peel schools.
We are all Treaty People. Treaties are promises to protect and share the land. As we all mutually benefit from this land, we must remember that we borrow this land from future generations. How can we uphold this promise to protect and share the land? I would like everyone to take a moment to think about what they can do today and moving forward.
The Peel board is committed to amplifying the voices of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students, their families and their communities. We will continue to learn the true history of this place and we will celebrate the vast contributions First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples have made and continue to make to the story of Canada.
Message to Peel District School Board staff re: Anti-Black Racism & Ministry of Education's Directives
Sept. 29, 2020
We are approaching October after a very challenging first month of the new school year. I'd like to take this opportunity to reflect on the focus of the September professional learning related to anti-Black racism. This message acknowledges the truth of where we are as a system and sets the context for our actions.
The 2020/2021 school year began with the launch of a number of critical imperatives - to tackle COVID-19 and to improve the PDSB, as mandated in The Ministry of Education's Report on the Peel District School Board. While we continue to work through the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, many would argue that our system is fighting another battle that is equally as important and in fact as detrimental to a prosperous future for ALL students. It is no secret that the Ministry of Education issued directives with the intention to directly confront systemic and pervasive anti-Black racism within key areas of the Peel District School Board including leadership, governance, systemic inequities, classroom practices and Human Resources all of which continue to be urgent issues negatively impacting Black, African and Caribbean students, staff and community.
A complete cultural shift is required to right the wrongs that have left Black, African and Caribbean students underserved and marginalized in what should be a nurturing space that embraces and fosters the best in all young people. The disproportionate outcomes in our data portray the harm that has been caused.
The start to our cultural shift began in earnest with a full day of professional learning in schools, led by Black system leaders, members of the senior staff and other staff who examined the reality of anti-Black racism and its impact on students and staff. Each of us had an opportunity to analyze how we have enacted or enabled anti-Black racism. Acknowledgment of our roles in maintaining policies and practices that disadvantaged some staff and students is an important first step in the change process. Throughout the coming days, weeks and months, you will see and participate in our ongoing commitment to dismantling anti-Black racism and other forms of oppression, specifically in the areas of:
- Pathways – Kindergarten to Grade 12
- Culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy
- Centering of student and community lived experiences and identity
Each of these represent a significant priority that requires a response grounded in principles of anti-racism and anti-oppression. It is our expectation that as an organization we focus on understanding how anti-Black racism operates through policies, practices, programs and interactions. We will however, not stop at understanding. If we know better, we must do better. This means actively identifying, interrogating and disrupting anti-Black racism in daily interactions and dismantling systemic inequities. When this is implemented effectively, we will, both at the school and system levels, begin to see the disparities and disproportionate outcomes diminish for Black, African and Caribbean students and other students who have been historically underserved. We will see Black, African and Caribbean staff acknowledged and respected.
Finally, we cannot achieve this mandate independently. We must acknowledge the advocacy of Black, African and Caribbean caregivers and allies. History shows us, that community resistance has always been an important impetus for social change and we must learn how to engage with communities. We must commit to ongoing, necessary, authentic, respectful collaboration with community members in our efforts to achieve a common goal of disrupting anti-Black racism and other systemic inequities. Together in schools and departments we must take the necessary steps and time to repair the hurt and trauma that has been caused.
Black, African, Caribbean children must feel a strong sense of belonging to achieve equitable outcomes through the fulfillment of their human rights - this is our collective work. These measures are the only way forward to rebuild a system that truly inspires, success, confidence and hope in ALL of our students - this is the longstanding mission of the PDSB. I have every confidence we can do this together. Please watch for further information about our next steps.
Interim Director of Education
Message to Peel District School Board community from Interim Director of Education Colleen Russell-Rawlins
August 7, 2020
It is a privilege to have been selected as the Interim Director of Education of the Peel District School Board at such an important time our children's education and in the school board's history.
It is my goal that by working together – in classrooms, departments, communities and in the Boardroom – we can create an education system where every person knows they matter, every experience is honoured, and your identity does not dictate your experience in school or your outcome.
I look forward to working with Bruce Rodrigues in his capacity as Supervisor for the Peel board.
Let's ensure all of our schools and classrooms are places where every student is respected, inspired and engaged in their learning and has the confidence to pursue their dreams. It is fair to say we have significant work to do, both individually and collectively, to achieve that vision.
Anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Semitism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia and all forms of discrimination and oppression need to be understood, and ultimately uprooted in our schools and communities.
The Ministry Directives
provide a starting point for the urgent and important changes that we must undertake to be more responsive and to eliminate the barriers faced by some of our students, staff and communities. I don't have all the answers, so I have sincerely appreciated hearing from many staff throughout the board and members of the community who share a similar commitment and who want to be part of improving the Peel board.
You have my commitment that I will do everything I can to ensure changes have positive, long-term impacts for all students, families and the community, particularly members of Black, African and Caribbean communities, and others who have felt excluded and have been underserved. To do this we must show joint determination to dismantle racism, and the willingness to demonstrate care, responsibility and humility.
This approach to our relationships will also help us to navigate life during the pandemic. 2020 has been a year of tremendous challenge and change for us all in different ways. As you know from the various messages you have received, Peel teams have been planning for the safest possible reopening of our schools. Staff is working closely with Peel Public Health, as well as unions and associations, to make informed, evidence-based decisions in alignment with the directions from the Ministry of Education. We will work with staff, families, students and community partners to rebuild our sense of community after an extended time apart.
As we enter this new school year, we are focusing on health and well-being, respectful relationships and our commitment to equity. There is no limit to what we can achieve collectively if we have the courage to listen, learn and act with an open mind and heart.
Interim Director of Education