Closure for school named for Black leader?

By Jasminee Sahoye and Gerald V. Paul

Dr. Jean Augustine
Dr. Jean Augustine

A school named after Canada’s first Black female MP, Dr. Jean Augustine, is among those listed for possible closure due to low enrolment. It’s at just 22% of capacity.

And a school named for Nelson Mandela technically meets the low enrolment requirement for closure but the principal points out that it’s a community hub that serves its area well.

In 2013, the students and their parents unanimously agreed that Augustine’s name should be attached to their academy, located in Scarborough in Ward 20.

Jean Augustine’s Girls Leadership Academy was officially launched in September 2013 with the name change from Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Girls Leadership Academy. It’s open to Grades 4-6.

It’s ranked as the number six school with the lowest capacity on the list.

The school is intended to provide a focused and innovative female centric approach to learning. Its goals are to provide an exceptional educational experience; challenge and support girls to achieve their personal best; empower girls with confidence and courage; build strength, resilience and character and become a centre for innovation and leadership in girls’ education.

Calls to the school’s Trusteee Manna Wong and an email were not answered up to press time.

Education consultant Margaret Wilson was tasked with doing the research. In her report, she criticizes the school board for failing to manage its capital assets. Instead of selling schools with low enrolment to finance repairs and renovations at others, the report says, the board continues to operate them at huge expense.

“Trustees told me that they ‘horse trade’ for votes and support each other in saving the schools in their wards,” the report says.

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela Park Middle School recently celebrated the launch of the Nelson Mandela stamp. The school meets the technical requirements of low enrolment for possible closing.

However, Principal Jason Kandankery pointed out that the school engages the community and serves as a hub. “The school is the heart of the community.” There is even a community centre being built next door.

Mayor John Tory has said he wants a say in the sale of TDSB schools considered surplus real estate.

In a letter to the TDSB, Tory lists several reasons enrolment numbers alone should not be used to decide the fate of local schools and says taxpayers must wonder why the city and the school boards don’t share resources more, including real estate. His request has met with several positive responses from trustees.