UGDSB Board trustee election 2022 Mark Paralovos

Mismatch of message between text and Image

Short Synopsis of the issue

The Superintendent of Inclusivity and Equity put out a tweet (above) that highlights the hashtag #BlackExcellence in the imagery. The messaging between the image and the text of the tweet is in conflict. The written message includes all students, and yet the image promotes a message of “excellence” for Black students only.

The boards policies repeatedly state that ALL students are important and that ALL students should be included in communications and programs no matter their race, ethnicity, or any other immutable characteristic. Unfortunately, this Superintendent, who is supposed to be setting an example, ignores these policies and puts out communication that focuses on one race.

Fundamentally, I want this Superintendent of Inclusion to behave as if ALL students achievement matters at ALL times. In words and in imagery. All students should feel valued and important to the staff of this board, however the Superintendent of Inclusivity putting this tweet out with mixed signals clearly does not include all students in the message. His job is to be an example to other staff. That example should NOT include conflicting words and imagery such as is the case on this welcome back to school tweet.

In this article below I look at the specific policy documents, wording in the documents, guidelines and rules as set out by the UGDSB and compare them to this superintendent’s conduct. I illustrate that the UGDSB is ignoring it’s own policies to put out divisive tweets for no measurable reason.

12 hours after bringing this tweet up to the board, the Superintendent of Inclusion and Equity tweeted out a new tweet which makes sure to have a harmonised message between the written tweet and the image included. Much better, but we still need to fix the tweet that highlights a single race over all others. The UGDSB should not be engaging in such divisive messaging.

How about we celebrate every single child’s success, no matter what their skin colour? How about we teach our kids that inflammatory tweets with mixed messaging aren’t something the adults at the UGDSB are going to engage in. Superintendents are supposed to be setting the example. This superintendent failed in upholding the stated policies of the UGDSB and I hope the board is able to improve their messaging going forward.

Here is a link to the tweet

Belal is the Superintendent of inclusion and equity at the Upper Grand District school board. His job is to make sure that all students feel welcome at all the schools across the board. 

I saw this tweet and feel strongly that the imagery and the wording are in conflict.  Further, the hashtag “BlackExcellence” gave me pause. I have worked in schools and children’s mental health for 15 years and have never seen messaging so divisive in any official communication. 

Some questions came to mind when I saw this.

  1. Shouldn’t the superintendent of inclusion and equity be including all students in his messaging? Including a harmonized message between the image and text? 
  2. Shouldn’t the superintendent of inclusion be setting an example for all other board staff? 
  3. Is this communication appropriate for the UGDSB according to it’s own policies?
  4. Is there a way for me to address this with the board? 

The UGDSB's Policies Around Inclusion and Equity

The Upper Grand District School Board has policies that govern inclusion and equity. I will show you those policies and compare the tweet sent by the superintendent of inclusion to those policies. 

Here is a link to policy 504 a. This is the Equity and Inclusion policy for the UGDSB. 

Here is a link to the website that holds their policy documents.

Here is a link to the public concerns policy to address this issue with the UGDSB yourself if you’d like to.

Here is a link to the education act. 

 

Equity policy statement

Here is part of that statment. Emphasis mine:

The UGDSB values all students, employees, and families, regardless of age, ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, ability, family status, marital status, gender identity, gender expression, socio-economic status, employment, housing, sex, and sexual orientation[1], and is committed to creating and maintaining a learning and working environment where everyone can participate fully, thrive, and reach their full potential, free from trauma, bias, stereotyping, oppression and systemic racism.

 

Is the superintendent of inclusion and equity abiding by this policy statement with his tweet? I think this is a clear violation of this policy statement. Would a notebook that said #AsianExcellence or #BrownExcellence or #WhiteExcellence be ignored in the current paradigm? Why it is acceptable to have this kind of conflicting messaging while the policy states so clearly that no discrimination based on race will occur?  How can someone claim that the environment is free from trauma, bias, stereotyping, oppressional and systemic racism if they are engaging in racist messaging of excellence to only one race? It does not make sense to me. 

Let’s continue looking at the policies communicated by the UGDSB. 

504 Policy Manual

This policy document is the manual which is supposed to govern the implementation of the inclusion and equity policies. 

You can read the whole document here. 

I want to draw your attention to the definitions at the beginning of the document. Here they are:

 

This is page 3 of the document. 

Does the superintendent and the board abide by their own definition of inclusive?  It says that “Inclusive” means:

Processes, policies and services are accessible to and usable by as many people as possible regardless of race, ethnic origin, gender, age, disability etc. An inclusive environment is one that is safe, open, respectful, and equitable.  

Is a black brilliance group accessible by everyone, even non black kids? Why is it called black brilliance if it serves all children? Why is including that image in the “welcome back to school” tweet by the superintendent acceptable when inclusive specifically means, as defined by the board, “is open, safe, equitable and respectful, where everyone feels a sense of trust, belonging and involvement.”

It seems that the board’s policies don’t actually mean what they say they mean. That’s the only conclusion I can draw.

Moving on to Inclusive Education. If, as the board states in their definition “Education is based on the principles of acceptance and inclusion of all students” why is the board not responding to a tweet by their superintendent of equity and inclusion that specifically excludes most students because of their race? 

The definition the board put out goes on to say that “Students see themselves reflected in their curriculum, their physical surroundings, and the broader environment in which diversity is honoured and all individuals are respected.”

Does the hashtag #blackexcellence do that? Should the superintendent of equity respond to the fact that he is violating the board’s inclusion policies? 

.

More UGDSB Policies

I have asked the UGDSB which specific events of “Anti-black racism” have happened at the school board. I have been told that they do not have those numbers.  I have asked how many black students are attending the UGDSB. They say they do not track those numbers but are starting to do that this year.

This Anti-Racism policy makes a clear statement about how racism is “deeply rooted” in our country, society, institutions and history and a lot of work “needs to be done to address this systemic racism.”  They commit to “identify and describe racism and oppression and then work to dismantle it”. In all its forms. 

Why then does the superintendent of equity and inclusion create a tweet that has a racially charged hashtag associated with it. Would #AsianExcellence be tolerated? #BrownExcellence? #WhiteExcellence? If any of those are not okay, why is #BlackExcellence okay? The board admits it does not know how many black students it has, so why would it tweet out racially charged hashtags? Is there a point to this? As a parent who wants to know, where could I go to find out? 

The Equity Team

This is part of the documentation on the UGDSB website that talks about “Safe, Equitable and Inclusive Schools.”  The images have the link to the page they’re taken from. 

The first paragraph states We can achieve this goal through the process of addressing the roots of inequity in order to create an environment where everyone can thrive.” but the last paragraph says “We are aware that EDI work has no ending point. Instead, learning in this area is ongoing.”

If the board says in one paragraph they have achievable goals, and in the next paragraph that their goals aren’t achievable does that make sense from a policy perspective?  The government of Ontario demands data driven policies in Ontario schools. How is the data informing this policy if we do not know how many black students are in the UGDSB and do not have a number of “anti-black” racist events to measure? If the work has no end point, then what do success criteria look like and where can parents access that information?

Further, this page also says:
“This includes policy development, data and research initiatives, training programs and actions such as hiring, shifting norms, language and perspectives as well as challenging the status quo. Our goal is to create sustainable change that is ideological, interpersonal, institutional and internalized.” 

Where can parents read about the parameters around the specific goals to “shifting norms,” “language” and “perspectives.”  What are the success criteria? What are the methods specifically? Who has oversight of these methods? What work was done to ensure these changes were not doing more harm than good? I have asked for the data that is driving the push to stamp out “anti-black” racism in UGDSB, but so far the board has claimed to not have any.  Not the number of “anti-black” racist events. Not the number of black students within the board, neither board wide nor school wide. How can we have policies to address problems that have no data to back them up? What specifically was the tweet meant to accomplish within this context and where can I read about whether it accomplished it’s goal or not?  If that doesn’t exist, then I have more urgent questions.

Finally, the document states:

“Our EDI Team wants to create a space at the UGDSB where people feel confident in learning new terms, engaging in difficult conversations, and are free to question ideas, thoughts and methods concerning EDI that may currently be unfamiliar. Through our work, we hope to make EDI accessible to all employees and provide staff with the necessary tools to adapt to and navigate EDI conversations. “

They do not want to talk about EDI when the person is asking questions that highlight how flawed the program is. 

More from 504

This is the policy 504 manual. It goes through how the board is supposed to implement this policy.  The UGDSB claimed this policy is what allows them to post “disruptive” tweets, but I have not heard the rationale on that yet. 

This part of the policy states:

act and engage to change racist and oppressive practices within all areas of the board

Does this include tweets that the superintendent of inclusivity puts out? Why is the board resistant to engaging to change a racist practice? They want to look at dress code, period equity, and language but do not want to discuss with a parent the use of a #BlackExcellence hashtag? Why is that not seen as a problem? 

In 3.2 they explicitly state that leadership needs to be committed to identifying, describing and dismantling bias, oppression and racism in ALL its forms. 

Why is the superintendent and the UGDSB refusing to fix this exclusive and divisive tweet?

 

In 3.4 of the 504 manual the UGDSB states that they want to “create a culture that ensures high expectations for the achievement and well being of all students.”

How does the superintendent’s tweet and #BlackExcellence comply with this policy? Do the policies posted by the UGDSB mean anything to the UGDSB?

 

Would #AsianExcellence or #BrownExcellence be acceptable under policy 3.5? Why is #BlackExcellence an acceptable message to send when the board’s stated policy is that they will be “free from trauma, bias, stereotyping, oppression and racism?”

3.5.2 says it is the shared responsibility of all students, staff and parents/guardians and community members in creating a respectful, inclusive, positive school board culture and environment. 

How does #BlackExcellence fit in with this policy statement? It clearly holds a single race above all others, encouraging Black Excellence but saying nothing about the rest of the kids at UGDSB. Why is this acceptable?

They claim that it is their responsibility to recognize and identify oppressive and racist behaviors and practices. When I reached out to the board to point out the conflict in their messaging they thanked me for my opinion but made no move to fix the error. 

When you talk about accountability most of the time what comes up is people being responsible. 3.7 talks about accountability and says all senior staff have a responsibility to:

“implement accountability measures for ensuring that both anti-racism and anti-oppression training and application into practice exists within all levels of the board”

But this doesn’t say that they are accountable to the principles of inclusion, or of equitable education. It says they are accountable to anti-oppression and anti-racism. 

What does anti-racism mean? This is the definition from page 1 of the 504 policy manual:

ANTI-RACISM (APPROACH)
Anti-racism is a process, a systematic method of analysis, and a proactive course of action rooted in the recognition of the existence of racism, including
systemic racism. Anti-racism actively seeks to identify, remove, prevent, and mitigate racially inequitable outcomes and power imbalances between groups and change the structures that sustain inequities

How can parents hold the board accountable for tweets that violate their stated goals of inclusivity for all children no matter their race, creed etc. when the policy document doesn’t hold them accountable to parents, it holds them accountable to the principles of anti-racism? Which is more focused on “changing structures that sustain inequities” and “disrupting perceived power imbalances” than it is concerned with upholding equal treatment for all, no matter what skin colour you have.   

The Education Act

It’s not just the board’s policies that are being violated here.  Let’s look at the Education Act

The Education act states in Section 169.1 (a.1):
Board responsibility for student achievement and effective stewardship of resources

169.1 (1) Every board shall,

(a)  promote student achievement and well-being;

(a.1)  promote a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting of all pupils, including pupils of any race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability;

(a.2)  promote the prevention of bullying;

(b)  ensure effective stewardship of the board’s resources;

(c)  deliver effective and appropriate education programs to its pupils;

(d)  develop and maintain policies and organizational structures that,

(i)  promote the goals referred to in clauses (a) to (c), and

(ii)  encourage pupils to pursue their educational goals;

(e)  monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of policies developed by the board under clause (d) in achieving the board’s goals and the efficiency of the implementation of those policies;

(f)  develop a multi-year plan aimed at achieving the goals referred to in clauses (a) to (c);

(g)  annually review the plan referred to in clause (f) with the board’s director of education or the supervisory officer acting as the board’s director of education; and

(h)  monitor and evaluate the performance of the board’s director of education, or the supervisory officer acting as the board’s director of education, in meeting,

(i)  his or her duties under this Act or any policy, guideline or regulation made under this Act, including duties under the plan referred to in clause (f), and

(ii)  any other duties assigned by the board.  2009, c. 25, s. 15; 2012, c. 5, s. 3 (1).

Looking at section 1.a we can see that the Education Act references  “inclusive and accepting of all pupils including pupils of any race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship…”

The superintendent’s tweet did not include all students as per the board’s own definition. Further, would it be bullying if a student put out a tweet with language that said one thing, and imagery that clearly said another. What standard would the student be held to? What if the student had #AsianExcellence?#BrownExcellence? #WhiteExcellence? 

How about we celebrate every single child’s success, no matter what their skin colour? How about we teach our kids that inflammatory tweets with mixed messaging aren’t something the adults at the UGDSB are going to engage in. Superintendents are supposed to be setting the example.  This superintendent failed in upholding the stated policies of the UGDSB and I hope the board is able to improve their messaging going forward. 

The day after my conversation with the first superintendent after invoking the community concerns policy  the Superintendent of Inclusion tweeted this. I think the imagery matches much better to the language. 

11 Responses

  1. This ain’t it, buddy. You’re the kind to go around saying “All lives matter! Focusing on Black lives is racist!”, aren’t you?

    Enjoy losing, you PPC dropout.

    1. Thanks Alison. You seem nice. Did you read the article or are you just here helping my website by commenting on it?

      Cheers!

      1. She’s not trying to be nice. Don’t be patronizing.

        She has clearly read your very repetitive essay rebuttal to a specific tweet, and it boils down to you saying “All lives matter”. Certain people throughout history have been pushed down over and over and over again because of visual differences. This hashtag is making a very small attempt at lifting certain people out of the hole that has been made throughout history.

        So yes, all lives matter, but some people (through no fault of their own) need to be raised up more to end up at the same level.

        I will be voting and I will not be voting for you. Please do some self-reflection on why *you* are trying to pit people against each other while claiming that this tweet is divisive.

        1. You clearly didn’t read the article either.
          Pretending that “all lives matter” is somehow a bad place to start the conversation is a bad straw man argument. You’re trying to claim that I’m racist, while I’m pointing out the board’s violation of their own policies.

          You go off on a hashtag while ignoring the actual problem. Racism is never acceptable. We should have people willing to stand up for all people, not just some people based on their skin colour, like you’re advocating.

          1. I didn’t claim you were racist. I said you were saying “All lives matter” which is, in it’s essence, true but it ignores the problem that everyone comes from a different starting place. I’m am absolutely not stating that we shouldn’t have people willing to stand up for people of all skin colours. You’re trying to win your argument by putting words in my mouth.

            White people in North America start from a place of privilege. We do not need extra help to be raised up to a level playing field. People with other skin colours have a lot less privilege, so can use some help with levelling the playing field.

            Going back to the hashtag, which you literally wrote an essay about, (talk about going off on a hashtag) saying “#blackexcellence” is absolutely not promoting “a message of “excellence” for Black students only.” as you stated in the first paragraph of your essay. It is promoting “a message of excellence for black students”. Notice the lack of the word “only”?

            Using the hashtag blackexcellence is only doing one thing: lifting people up who have started out with less privilege. Being a person who started out with a lot more privilege, then coming out against lifting other people up, shows that you either don’t believe you have privilege, or that you don’t want people who look different to be lifted up.

            I am not stating that you are racist. I am merely pointing out that you seem to be feeling put down because someone else is being lifted up.

          2. It’s a straw man attack. You don’t address the board policies which clearly lay out race will not a factor for students. The education act also says that.

            You’re creating a new argument and then using that to attack me. It’s disingenuous and a logical fallacy.

            Look at the article. Read that. Then try and focus on responding to that.

            Otherwise you’re wasting your time by helping my website. Cheers.

  2. I’m looking at the bigger picture, not constructing a straw-man. You’ve narrowed your focus to say that the hashtag –> found on a notebook –> in a photo –> in a tweet that welcomes all students, is disrespecting students that aren’t black. That is blatantly false. Lifting people up who have been historically pushed down doesn’t push other people down. That’s what I’m trying to get across.

    The policy does not clearly lay out that race will not be a factor. It says it values all students regardless of race, etc. It also says it is “committed to creating an environment free from systemic racism.” You cannot address systemic racism by ignoring race.

    Also, I am not attacking you. Please stop saying that. I’m trying to show you some context of why I think the essay/article/policy breakdown you wrote is a lot more divisive than the tweet.

    PS. Telling me I’m wasting my time by helping your website makes it look like you either don’t believe in what you wrote, or are somehow threatened by what I’m saying.

    1. The policies of the board state clearly that they will create an inclusive environment where race will not be a factor. The superintendent of inclusion tweeted out an image that highlights one race over all others and encourages excellence for that single race and no others. How is he addressing racism by being overtly racist to everyone who is not black? How does that comply with their written policies? How could you possibly know? You haven’t bothered to give this even 5 seconds worth of thought. Racism is never okay, stop advocating for it. You sound foolish.

      I appreciate all the comments on the website. It helps google understand what the site is about and that people are engaged with what’s written. I believe fully in offering a full and robust education to kids in Ontario. Free from exposure to racist school boards who ignore concerns.

      Thanks for all the help.

      1. Where are the success criteria for the use of that language in the tweet? the methods? the approved language? How can they put out racially charged tweets with no oversight and no success metrics? No way to gauge if it’s impactful or “working.” They are not “lifting people up” they are doing their best to demoralize based on race. They don’t know how many black students are in the board. They don’t know how many “anti-black” racist incidents exist. How can you solve a problem that has no data? You can’t. It doesn’t exist.

        You’re advocating for people to feel badly for no reason at all. No identified problem. No clear goal. No success metrics.

        It’s complete nonsense, which you’d understand if you read the piece.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *