Students need expanded pathways to success
June 4, 2017
Excellence in schools isn’t possible if those who are failing are immigrants, children living in poverty and underperforming boys, says internationally renowned education leader Dr. Avis Glaze.
“The two things that have the greatest impact on improving educational outcomes are a focus on instructional effectiveness and leadership development,” she pointed out in her acceptance speech after being inducted last week into The Learning Partnership’s Champions of Public Education Hall of Fame. “The research is clear.”
A former York Region District School Board (YRDSB) associate director of education and superintendent and director of education with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, Glaze was the province’s first chief student achievement officer and chief executive of the literacy and numeracy secretariat where she played a key role in improving student achievement in the province’s schools prior to becoming Ontario’s Education Commissioner and senior adviser to the Minister of Education.
In 2010, the New Zealand government appointed her to an independent technical advisory panel to support the implementation of national standards in reading, writing and math.
Glaze, who also served five years up until 1991 as the York Region Catholic District School Board assistant superintendent and superintendent of education, said a good education means educating hearts and minds, building character and helping students to become engaged, globally competent citizens and solution finders.
“We want them to be individuals who can take courageous and ethical stances,” said the president of Edu-quest International Inc. which is a consulting firm that offers a wide range of educational services globally. “Our prodigiously talented students, ‘generation next’ as they are described, must have expanded career pathways. Many of them must become entrepreneurs and individuals who are able to turn ideas into actions.”
She said fostering the entrepreneurial mindset in schools requires creativity, curiosity, imagination, initiative, intelligent risk-taking, collaboration, self-confidence and opportunity recognition.
“It also requires the values, skills and desire to solve the complex problems facing humanity,” Glaze added.
As a young girl growing up in Jamaica, Glaze said pursued teaching because she felt she could make a significant difference to children and their life chances.
“I felt that through education, we instill an insatiable appetite for learning and a strong achievement motivation,” she said. “I knew that education ignites curiosity and promotes, among other things, a high regard for values such as justice, equity and human rights. Most importantly, it contributes to character development”
Though residing in Delta, British Columbia with her husband since 2011, Glaze said she has been closely monitoring YRDSB which has been rocked by allegations of systemic racism and other problems.
Following a scathing report by the province’s education ministry appointed reviewers that criticized the director’s conduct, YRDSB trustees called for the resignation of director of education J. Philip Parappally. He was only three years into an unprecedented 10-year contract with clauses that allowed the board to dismiss him with cause without notice or pay.
York Region parents demanded his resignation following a number of human rights complaints regarding racist incidents in schools and questionable spending.
Trustee Nancy Elgin was also forced to step down after being accused of using a racial slur against a Black parent.
“I went through a period of being very concerned about what was happening and thinking about the impact everything might be having on the good staff and students,” Glaze, a University of the West Indies graduate, said. “I think there is nowhere to go but up. People, however, have to be prepared to look closely at the issues that caused the problems and listen and hear what parents are saying about the things that are having an impact on their children.
“A lot of listening and empathy are needed and then some action on how they are going to make right all those perceived wrongs. We have to deal with feelings and people’s real experiences and include them in the plan of action for the future because they are not going to go away. The schools are for parents and staff. They aren’t there to support our needs. That is why we are hired and why we have education systems. We are in the service business. Until we get that in our minds, we will not have excellent schools.”
Glaze’s biography, ‘Avis Glaze: The Children Cannot Wait’, was recently released.
“I didn’t want it to be about me,” she said. “I wanted it to portray actions taken that can benefit others. It talks about my early upbringing, my influences and the critical experiences I have had in my life. It also provides an insight into a number of key initiatives that I look back on with pride.”
She is working on a second book, ‘Reaching the Heart of Leadership: Lessons Learned, Insights Gained & Actions Taken’, that will be released in July.
“We have always focussed on academics and that is still important,” she said. “But we must make sure that we are leading as well and reaching the heart. Leaders today must be empathetic, they must be caring, they must respect the community, they must be collaborative, they must build coalitions and they must listen and translate all those visions into what the schools look like. They must also take into consideration issues of poverty, alienation and marginalization. I believe that administrators who are worth their weight in gold are those who are advocating for the poor, the marginalised and the disadvantaged. When I chose principals, I looked for those that are sensitive to community.”
Founded in 1993, The Learning Partnership is dedicated to advancing the public education system in Canada.