The place: Theatre, York Woods Library, 1785 Finch Avenue West
The purpose: Even before our September 2008 Forum, we knew that education issues were a significant concern within our community. Having George Martell come and present at the forum eventually led to our participation in a subsequent forum focussed on education issues. JFOTM members meet with representatives of Education Action: Toronto, CUPE, SEIU, and other organizations to work upon what turned into the launch of a new organization, Education Action: York West.
Antoni Shelton was one of the driving forces behind the formation of Education Action: York West. He is the Executive Assistant to the President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Ontario Division). He worked for United Way of Greater Toronto, and was Executive Director of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations for 8 years. Antoni spent much of his early years in the Jane-Finch area, attending Brookview Middle School back when it was Jane Junior High, and then Westview SS.
After the three panelists spoke, an open discussion was facilitated by Jane-Finch On The Move (JFOTM) members. The audience expressed their ideas, frustrations and passion for action and change in our education system. General themes included school closures and the overcrowding of other schools; parent engagement and ensuring we don’t blame parents, rather work with them and recognize the real-life situations of parenting in our community; systemic and structural barriers and discrimination in and external to the education system; the racialization of poverty; cuts to funding and the affect on school environments and supports; the need for increased dialogue between teachers, parents and the community; schools as community hubs; etc. The discussion was dynamic and influenced JFOTM’s emphases for our next Forum – to engage residents and work together to develop action plans.
George Martell has his biography posted elsewhere on this site, and to that we can add that he has been working with Toronto’s Somali community on educational issues and co-chairs Education Action: Toronto.
James Ryan brought a large number of credentials to this discussion, including First Vice President of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, a Co-Chair of the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice, and a Vice President of the Ontario Federation of Labour. He has been a teacher since 1990, including stints at St. Frances DeSales and St.. Jane Francis. .Mr. Ryan was invited to this forum because he spent most of his childhood in the Jane-Finch area.