How the Durham District School Board is diversifying its team of principals and vice-principals
Equitable leadership program has grown to 55 participants
Alicia Russell is an equity facilitator with the Durham District School Board and is next in line on the vice-principal short list. Melissa Hunte is a vice-principal at Pickering High School and was recently added to the DDSB’s principal short list. Both have been involved with the school board’s Equitable Leadership Program. – Ron Pietroniro / Metroland
DURHAM — When Alicia Russell was a kid attending school in Toronto, the teachers and principals didn’t look like her.
“I didn’t connect, or see myself on the other side of the room,” says Russell, who is black.
It wasn’t until she was an adult interviewing to be a supply teacher that she sat down across from a person in a leadership position and finally saw herself reflected.
With the help of a unique Durham District School Board program, Russell wants to make sure this generation of students has a more diverse group of leaders to look up to.
“Racialized” is a word used by organizations like the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as an alternative to terms such as “racial minority” or “person of colour.”
A recent DDSB report says the Equitable Leadership Program — which started with 16 participants — has now grown to 55, and that 12 out of 100 people promoted to DDSB vice-principal or principal roles in the past two years self-identify as Indigenous or racialized.
The program is growing, as equity and diversity become a major focus for the DDSB. Recent years have seen the launch of the Compendium of Action for Black Student Success, educator groups such as the Muslim Educators Network of Durham, and an equity and diversity strategic plan.
In November 2017, the DDSB conducted a staff census for the first time, asking its 10,000 employees to answer questions about their race, religion and sexual orientation, among other topics.
The results showed DDSB staff is 89 per cent white and heterosexual and more than half are Christian — about three per cent of employees identified as black, and another three per cent as First Nations.