Advertisement

Black representation in schools is 'beneficial to everyone,' York board superintendent says

Siobhan Wright was originally a student in the York Catholic District School Board. Today, she's the school board's superintendent and she champions Black representation in the education system. (Patrick Swadden/CBC - image credit)
Siobhan Wright was originally a student in the York Catholic District School Board. Today, she's the school board's superintendent and she champions Black representation in the education system. (Patrick Swadden/CBC - image credit)

Siobhan Wright spent years working her way up through York Region's Catholic school board system.

Starting as a student herself, then filling in as a teacher, vice-principal, and principal, she eventually earned her current position: superintendent of the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB).

But Wright told CBC Toronto it hasn't always been easy.

"As a student going through the system, there wasn't very many opportunities where I saw people who look like me," she said.

"There wasn't representation in curriculum and materials that were being used."

That's something Wright said she's working really hard to change. Part of that work is to interact with students as often as possible, something she always makes time for, despite the demands of her position.

WATCH | Superintendent wants students to see Black women 'can rise to a position of leadership':

Wright is also involved with Our Voice, an annual student conference that focuses on Black leadership and organizes programs that give Black students and educators a voice in the school board.

She was also recently named the recipient of the Award for Excellence in Leadership from the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers' Association. According to a YCDSB blog post, the accolade recognizes her "outstanding contributions to equity in the education system."

"Having the opportunity to show students, Black students, any students, that a Black female can rise to a position of leadership, I think it's just beneficial to everyone," Wright said.

In addition to everything else she does, she also mentors others who work in education, including Tracy Stuart, who now fills Wright's previous role as the principal at St. Brendan's Catholic Elementary School in Stouffville, Ont.

"Siobhan was the one who actually inspired me to take on this role," Stuart said.

"It's through those moments, those personal moments, in which she was able to encourage me, as well as guide me, help me along to where I am today."

Patrick Swadden/CBC
Patrick Swadden/CBC

It's critical to recognize the importance of Black leaders like Wright who inspire others, she added.

"It is through her example, it is through who she is, not only on the outside but on the inside, of which we can carry on and strive and show what Black excellence looks like," Stuart said.

Wright herself said she still wants to see much more representation within the education system. She hopes being in such a visible position will inspire other young Black students to follow in her footsteps.

"The barriers still exist and that's part of the reason I chose to be in a role like this."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

CBC
CBC