Day 2 Keynote Panel: District School Boards

Michelle Coutinho, DPCDS Principal 

Michelle Coutinho is the principal of Equity and Inclusive Education. She had worked with the Dufferin-Peel CDS for over 25 years as a teacher and administrator. For the last six years Michelle’s work has focused on inclusion and ensuring the dignity of students and staff is upheld.

Poleen Grewal, PDSB Associate Director

Poleen  Grewal is currently the Associate Director of Instruction and Equity with the Peel District Schoo Board. Before taking on this role she was the Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. Poleen was pursuing her doctoral degree in Sociology and Equity Studies at OISE before taking a leave to focus on her new role in Peel and her 16-year-old son is a high-level volleyball player. Poleen is a strong advocate for equity and inclusion currently the Board lead on the We Rise Together action plan to support Black male youth. Poleen has co-authored a book for the Ontario Principals Council – The Principal as Equitable Leader. She often talks about the importance of recognizing lived experiences of people and the critical role of narrative inquiry in curriculum and leadership development.

Mohamed Hamid, DDSB Superintendent

A life-long learner, Mohamed Hamid is a Superintendent of Education with the Durham District School Board who is committed to Equity and Inclusion. He has spent the last 23 years creating an innovative learning culture and is currently most passionate about the work he is doing to support the diverse communities of Durham. As an immigrant to Canada turned Educator, Mohamed has developed a unique perspective when it comes to education and marginalized communities. Influenced by ongoing conversations with Knowledge Keepers and Elders, his aspires to bring multiple ways of knowing into schools and classrooms. While education is his primary job function by day, Mohamed also enjoys spending time with his family and finding mountains, waves, and roads to ride.

Cecil Roach, YRDSB Superintendent

In his long career as an educator, Mr. Cecil Roach has had the opportunity to have a very profound impact on the lives of young people. He has done this as a classroom teacher, school administrator, and now coordinating superintendent of Education. Born on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat (now sadly devastated by a continuously erupting volcano) and arriving in Canada in his early teens, Cecil completed most of his schooling in Montreal where he graduated from Marymount High School, Vanier College CEGEP, and Concordia and McGill Universities. He maintains that his time as one who has been termed the “barrel children” (children whose parents left them behind with a grandparent while they prepare for their reunion in Canada) has given him a special insight into the dynamics of immigration and its effect on student achievement and well being. This experience has also strengthened Mr. Roach’s belief that schools are places where students regardless of their social identities can expand dreams on their journey towards full participation in Canadian society. Cecil taught English for 16 years in Quebec at Chambly County High School and Centennial Regional High School and in Ontario at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute before becoming an administrator in 1995. Cecil is currently serving as Coordinating Superintendent, Equity and Community Services for the York Region District School Board (YRDSB). Cecil sums up his role by contending that, “When the doors of our schools and work sites swing open every morning, the students, staff, and community members who enter, regardless of their social identity know that they are entering places where they are safe, respected, and have strong feelings of inclusion and belonging. Our core business is student achievement and well-being and we are unwavering in our belief that all students can achieve regardless of their background and that schooling can interrupt and alter long-standing patterns of marginalization of identifiable groups of students.”

Community Panel

Silvia Argentina Arauz, LAEN

Silvia Argentina Arauz is a Nicaraguan born Latina with African and Indigenous roots. During her years in Toronto, she directly and vicariously experiences the impacts of institutional racism and other forms of oppression. In order to eradicate systemic barriers, she has dedicated much of her youth and adult life to the incubation and amplification of pro-liberation models coming out of grassroots organizing and connecting them with institutional supports. As Director of Education and Programs for a national not-for-profit, she created a Youth Social Infrastructure Administrative and Mentorship Shared Platform model, providing over 100 youth from marginalized communities supports to secure funding for their ideas without compromising ownership of their intellectual property. Silvia-Argentina then worked as Executive Director for an Africentric not-for-profit and presently works as a consultant in the role of Co-Director at LAEN- The Latinx, Afro-Latin-America, Abya Yala Education Network. At LAEN, she coordinates large volunteer-led hubs of over 500 supporters and pro-liberation programs such as the Educators Knowledge-Exchange Series committed to sustained culturally responsive and reflective learning and teaching spaces for BIPOC communities. She also works with Ma'at Legal Services as the Director for The PLUG Program, advocating for families of African descent that are facing anti-Black racism within education through punitive disciplinary practices. Silvia Argentina is an Ontario Certified Junior-Intermediate Teacher and has over 10 years of experience in developing, implementing and assessing resources from African / Caribbean /Indigenous/ Latinx diasporic perspectives as per community consultation results. She is also a TDSB Student Equity Program Advisor and is a Co-Founder of Education Not Incarceration.

Eunice Chong, Pathways to Education Canada

Eunice Chong believes in making decisions based on sound evidence, which explains her interest in the effective use of data to identify population and community needs. Currently, Eunice is a Senior Manager, Measurement and Reporting at Pathways to Education Canada, where she and her colleagues analyze student and program data to assess the impact of Pathways at the student and community levels. Prior to working at Pathways, she has been working in the area of research and evaluation with a focus of public health for about 10 years, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative data to inform program and policy decisions. Eunice received her Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Sciences and Master’s degree in Public Health. She is an active member of the Canadian Evaluation Society.

Jade Huguenin, OFIFC

Jade is Métis from the historic Métis community of Penetanguishene, Ontario. She completed her Master’s in Canadian Studies & Indigenous Studies at Trent University on Métis epistemology and historic community building in Penetanguishene. Jade strives to incorporate her Métis identity throughout her education and career. Jade’s research interests include Indigenous People in Canada, Canadian culture, and Indigenous research frameworks. She is currently a researcher at the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Circles.

Yusra Khogali is a 26-year-old daughter of a Sudanese diaspora from Regent Park, Toronto. She is a black feminist multi-disciplinary educator, writer, performance artist, activist, public intellectual, MC and grassroots community organizer. She co-founded the Black Lives Matter Toronto movement that has shifted the current political landscape of Canada by actively working to dismantle all forms of anti-Black racism, liberate Blackness, support Black healing, affirm Black existence, and create the freedom to love and self- determine. Working with the BLMTO team, she notably co-organized a 2-week occupation in front of the Toronto Police Headquarters to advocate for Andrew Loku and other Black lives who have died due to police brutality and Canadian state-sanctioned violence, mass surveillance and incarceration through racist policing and its oversight bodies. Other actions include interrupting the annual pride parade, shutting down major intersections like Dundas square, Bloor and Yonge and the Allen road highway. Yusra also co-founded the Black Liberation Collective Canada, a Black student movement through its founding chapter at the University of Toronto which works to create infrastructure for Black students around the globe to build power, using an intersectional lens, to eliminate anti-Blackness on campus. Through the work she has done with the BLC UofT team, the University of Toronto became the first post-secondary institution in Ontario to commit to continually collecting race-based data on students and administer anti-oppression training for staff and faculty at UofT. Yusra has served in student movement organizing through various capacities that include the external coordinator of the Women’s and Trans Centre, Community outreach director for the Black Student Alliance (Imani) and African Student Association and Vice President Equity for the Scarborough Campus Student Union. Yusra has also performed for 1000+ organizations, universities, colleges, high schools, festivals, and events across the province as a spoken word artist, and has MC’d numerous events across the city for crowds as large as 10,000 plus people. She is a published author and has recently been in conversation with the legendary Dr. Angela Davis. She is currently just graduated with a Master of Arts degree in social justice education at the University of Toronto OISE with a thesis research focuses on Black diaspora, Black African, Anti-colonial, Trans*feminist Liberation thought.

Sam Tecle is a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department at York University. His areas of focus include: Black and Diaspora Studies, Urban Studies, and Sociology of Education. He is currently completing his dissertation which focuses on the experiences and perspectives relating to blackness and Black identification of East African Diasporas across the UK, Canada and the US. Sam has held prestigious fellowships at both Harvard and Northwestern University in their respective African & African-American Studies Departments and was awarded the Canada Graduate Scholar Award by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Sam was one of the co-authors of the well-received "Towards Race Equity in Education: The Schooling of Black Students in the Greater Toronto Area. Sam is also Co-Chair of York University’s Black Graduate Students Collective (BGSC) which works towards better experiences of Black graduate students at York University. In 2018, Sam Tecle was awarded the Emerging Scholar Award by the Ministry of Education of Ontario. Currently, Sam Tecle is in the role of Community Based Researcher at Success Beyond Limits, which is an organization based in the Jane and Finch community in Toronto.