Community and Equity Exemplified at Central Public School

Student presents at Brantford City Council meeting

Caption: Central Public School student Johnathon Forbes presents to Brantford City Council

John Lewis’ enduring words during the Civil Rights Movement are words to live by for students, staff and families at Central School: “If not us, then who?”

Embedded in Grand Erie District School Board’s Multi-Year Plan is a commitment to creating equitable experiences in schools for all students. Over the past year, the team at Central Public School has empowered and engaged a community of like-minded individuals and groups who are partners in that goal, and the formation of a neighbourhood association is a big step in that direction.

In March 2017, the staff and families at Central Public School partnered with community members to form the Downtown Central Neighbourhood Association (DCNA). The mandate of the association is to collaborate with Central Public School to provide equitable experiences that foster a healthy and inclusive community.

“We are extremely excited to provide opportunities for children and youth in downtown Brantford, including dances, neighbourhood cleanups, and advocating on behalf of the community to establish Central Public School as an official neighbourhood hub,” said Jayme Wilson, chair of the DCNA.

“Usually, we create neighbourhood associations to assist and help schools,” said City of Brantford councillor David Neuman during a recent council meeting. “This time, however, the success of the DCNA – after two failed attempts – got traction once Central Public School and its team stepped in to help. They are simply an amazing example of community leadership.”

Some of the accomplishments of the association so far include securing $400,000 to establish Central Public School as the first Child and Youth neighbourhood hub in Brantford; $2.2 million dollars from the Province to build and create 49 affordable daycare spaces; the creation of a community garden to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to residents during the summer months; and $5,000 from the City of Brantford to establish after-school programs, including coding clubs and sports leagues.

“The official designation of Central Public School as a neighbourhood hub provides our students with opportunities to lead, learn and show pride in their community, and we’re grateful for and humbled by the support of our executive leaders at Grand Erie, City Councillors, and the amazing team at Ontario Works,” said Joe Atanas, principal at Central Public School. “Together, we’ve been able demonstrate what equity truly looks like by positively changing the trajectory of a community for generations to come.”

Mayor Chris Friel extolled the work of the DCNA and Central Public School prior to the approval of Hub funding in December 2017: “In the 10 years that we have run the Neighbourhood Associations, my overall favourite memory was seeing the entire community at Central Public School, seniors, businesses, newcomers, teachers and many students work together to create and produce something so beautiful for their community.”

Teachers smile while holding a plaque

Caption: Central Public School staff receive Volunteer of the Year award on behalf of Downtown Central Neighbourhood Association

In late 2017, and prior to funding approval for the Hub, Grade 8 student Johnathon Forbes presented at Brantford City Council on behalf of Central Public School.

“Being involved in the DCNA and having leadership roles at Central helps us show everyone that downtown Brantford is a loving and caring community,” Forbes said making a positive impression on all councillors and Mayor Friel.

On Sunday, April 22, the City of Brantford hosted its annual Volunteer Appreciation Day. At the ceremony, nine individuals or groups were recognized for their work. One group – the Downtown Central Neighbourhood Association – was named 2017 Volunteer of the Year.

Central Public School’s efforts are in step with Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan, and its commitments to Equity – with the goal of fostering welcoming, enabling environments – and Community, recognizing the partners who contribute to positive learning experiences and outcomes.

“Every day, the team at Central is reminded of the profound opportunity they have to positively impact the lives of an entire community,” said Atanas. “Their commitment, passion, empathy, and dedication to helping all students find success is the living and working embodiment of the question, ‘If not us, then who?’”

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