Centre of Excellence plays ‘vital leadership role in creating new opportunities’ for students – Colleen Russsel-Rawlins

Colleen Russsel-Rawlins Director of Education TDSB

The Centre of Excellence for Black Student Achievement, the first of its kind in K-12 public education in Canada, was officially opened last Monday evening in the east wing of Winston Churchill Collegiate in Scarborough.

Colleen Russell-Rawlins, Director of Education, with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), who was present for the “unveiling of the new physical space,” described the Centre as “a significant milestone in the commitment to a more equitable and culturally-responsive education of Black students, communities and staff.”

She said it plays “a vital leadership role in creating new opportunities for students, offering professional learning and affinity spaces.

“It is an important vehicle for ensuring that Black students’ wellbeing, joy, brilliance and academic success are present in everything we do.”

Karen Murray, TDSB Superintendent of Equity Anti-oppression and Early Years, told the gathering, which included educators and students, that the Centre exists because of long standing community advocacy and voice. Voice asking for systemic change.

“At this Centre, this hub, Joy is our entry point and we are excited in creating a space where there can be an intentional focus on belonging – brilliance, excellence and success.

Karen Murray – System Superintendent, Equity, Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression and Early Years

“We look forward to connecting with community partners and educators to collaborate on a vast array of programming.”

At the official opening, Order of Canada recipient and creator of the LEGACY poster series, Robert Small, along with award-winning Afrofuturist muralist and cultural curator, Danilo Deluxo, showcased new artwork that will be on display at the centre.

An entertainment program included performances by Coco Collective, a multidisciplinary intergenerational group of artists specializing in African and Caribbean arts, a steelpan ensemble of players from Africentric Alternative School and Randell Adjei, Ontario’s first poet laureate.

The Centre will have about 20 staff positions, including a social worker, child and youth counsellor and five graduation coaches all focused on supports for Black students, improving students’ experiences and identifying the ways in which anti-Black racism is operating in TDSB and offering possible solutions to eradicate it.

The concept of a Centre of Excellence for Black Student Achievement was first proposed in the TDSB over two years ago by the Enhancing Equity Task Force.

The Task Force’s recommendations led to a number of action plans aimed at removing practices that stream students and decrease the educational opportunities of under-served groups of

Artist Danilo Deluxo, Research Associates –
Dr. Grace-Camille Munroe, Dr. Shawnee Hardware, Entisar Yusef and Margaret Douglin

students, especially Black students