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Only a quarter of Peel school board workers are racialized, survey finds

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Only about a quarter of teachers and staff at one of the largest school boards in Ontario are racialized, according to new data, which suggests the work force does not mirror the shifting demographics of the region.

The Peel District School Board, west of Toronto, released its first-ever workplace census on Friday. The data comes as pressure in the region grows around whether students can see themselves reflected in their educators and if racial minorities are being shut out by managers who hire only those who look like them.

The data reveals a gap between those who identify as white – 67 per cent of respondents – and the next largest racial identity group, South Asian-East Indian, who make up 16 per cent of school staff.

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Only 26 per cent of respondents identified as racialized.

Meanwhile, visible minorities in the Peel Region now make up 57 per cent of the population, according to the 2011 National Household Survey.

Further, the school board census found that while women dominated the teaching ranks, fewer women were in senior administration roles.

The census data comes as reports from the school board and community organizations in the region have studied the problems facing black youth. They have found that black students feel isolated and marginalized in school because of a low number of black teachers, being streamed away from math, science and academic level courses, and receiving harsher discipline than non-black students.

The board is taking steps to address the issues, which includes mentoring programs.

Farrell Hall, manager of workplace equity at Peel, said the census results are a further call to action.

"If our staff and our programs would reflect the rich diverse communities that we're serving, they would be better served," he said.

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Mr. Hall said that many managers tend to hire people who look like them.

"We should have a more objective, fair and perhaps even rigid process of screening people so that we are hiring the best people, not based on connections and not based on hiring people just like me," he said.

Mr. Hall said the census data revealed that a number of staff, particularly principals and senior administrators, are expected to retire in the next five years. He said those job openings will provide an opportunity for the school board to make changes to its hiring, increase its marketing to racialized groups and speak with communities about obstacles to employment at the board.

He said the school board plans to do another workplace census in a few years. He said that he hopes to see an increase in racialized people and women on staff and in senior management roles.

"We're polling ourselves because we want to make the appropriate changes and adjustments and really hold this mirror up in front of ourselves," he said.

The response rate to the workplace census was 66 per cent.

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The school board plans to conduct a student census next year. The Toronto District School Board has been collecting race-based student data to help it support those who are struggling in school.

Sharon Douglas, director of community investment for the United Way of Peel Region, one of the organizations that has spoken out about the issue of black youth, said she is pleased the Peel school board is taking steps to make changes. She said she hadn't seen the census data.

"PDSB has come out publicly and committed to furthering the discussions around equity, data collection, trust building and transparency within the community," she said. "Again, these are great first steps."

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Education Reporter

Caroline Alphonso is an education reporter for The Globe and Mail. More

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