Black representation in schools is “beneficial to everyone,” says York board superintendent
Siobhan Wright worked her way up through the York area Catholic school administration system for years.
She started out as a student herself, then stepped in as a teacher, assistant principal and principal, eventually earning 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 weren’t many occasions where I saw people who look like me,” she said.
“There was no representation in the curriculum and materials used.”
Wright said she’s working really hard to change that. Part of this job is interacting with students as often as possible, which she always makes time for despite the demands of her position.
CLOCK | The superintendent wants students to see that black women “can rise to leadership positions”:
Wright is also involved with Our Voice, an annual student conference focused on Black leadership and organizing programs that give Black students and educators a voice on school boards.
She also recently received the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers’ Association Award for Excellence in Leadership. According to a YCDSB blog post, the award recognizes their “outstanding contributions to equity in the education system.”
“Having the opportunity to show students, black students, all students, that a black woman can rise to a leadership position is, I think, beneficial for everyone,” Wright said.
In addition to everything else she does, she also mentores others who work in education, including Tracy Stuart, who now fills Wright’s former role as principal at St. Brendan’s Catholic Elementary School in Stouffville, Ontario.
“Siobhan was the one who actually inspired me to take on this role,” said Stuart.
“It’s those moments, those personal moments, that she’s been able to encourage and guide me and help me get to where I am today.”
It’s important to recognize the importance of black leaders like Wright inspiring others, she added.
“By her example, by being who she is, not just on the outside but on the inside, we can go ahead and strive and show what black excellence looks like,” Stuart said.
Wright herself said she still wants a lot more representation in the education system. She hopes that such a visible position will inspire other young black students to follow in her footsteps.
“The barriers are still there and that’s one of the reasons I chose a role like this.”
For more stories about Black Canadians’ experiences—from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community—see Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.