Racism and Schooling: Public Education Plays an Important Role

Jun. 10, 2020

The message below was sent to all CBE staff members from Chief Superintendent Christopher Usih on Wednesday, June 10.

As protests against anti-black racism gain momentum around the world and here at home, I have heard from CBE staff, students and members of the public who are calling on us to do more to address racism in our schools and workplaces.

We acknowledge that racism exists in society, and therefore in our school system. To deny this fact is to dismiss the lived experiences of students, staff and families who grapple with racism on a daily basis. As a black male and a father of two young adults, I understand firsthand the hurt caused by racism.

We know the battle for equality and social justice is often fought in public institutions. Given that public education serves the common good, we are uniquely positioned to continue to advance social change. It is not enough to acknowledge that racism exists; education leaders must disrupt practices and structures that tend to serve some students and not all. While there is a lot of good work happening across the CBE, there is always room for improvement.

This work requires each person to confront their own biases and to challenge their beliefs and assumptions. Addressing inequality is central to our work. It is about teaching and learning. It is about who has voice. It is about who gets hired and who gets promoted to positions of responsibility. It is about levelling the playing field so that each student and staff member has the opportunity to succeed.

This is not easy work but I am filled with optimism.

Since joining the CBE in late 2018, I have witnessed the dedication and commitment of our staff - at every level of the organization. This is evident when I visit schools and in my interactions with staff, students and parents. I am proud to work alongside individuals who put students first, and who continue to challenge their assumptions and beliefs. I am encouraged by the work we do each day to support learning, equity and well-being. According to Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “Education is how we will heal, teaching our children that we are all equal is how we will stop racism and bring about reconciliation.”

I encourage all of you to enter into this conversation. This global awareness is creating a real opportunity for positive change, and we must seize the moment. As we work together for the benefit of all, we will have further conversations about how we provide professional learning and supports for staff.

Thank you for contributing to positive change.

Christopher Usih
Chief Superintendent of Schools