First Black teacher in Mississauga inspires students in his role as principal
Published February 16, 2023 at 2:43 pm
Arnold Eugene Forde was the first Black teacher hired by the Peel District School Board and former students and staff in Mississauga say he had an impact on their lives.
Forde was first hired to teach at Port Credit Secondary School in 1958, and then went on to become vice principal at Applewood Secondary School in 1967, and vice principal at Gordon Graydon Memorial, according to Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) and the Peel District School Board.
He was principal at Glenforest Secondary School by 1971 and then he served out the rest of his career as principal of Meadowvale Secondary School from 1981 to 1998.
Forde died on June 20, 2012 in his 80th year.
Originally from Sydney, Nova Scotia, Forde was inducted into the Acadia University’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989.
As a university student from 1952 to 1955, he was “considered to be one of Acadia’s best all-round student athletes.” Arnold “Bunty” Forde excelled in rugby, basketball, and track and field, the university notes. He was captain of the rugby team and led the basketball team to successive winning seasons.
He brought that love of sports to his career in education coaching several sports and bringing Port Credit’s junior football team to the Toronto athletics championship.
Making an impact on students
Many former Meadowvale students say Forde had an impact on their lives.
Meadowvale graduate Damon Ealey recalled how in an interview for his current job as principal for Centre Dufferin District High School in Shelburne, he thought of Principal Forde. When asked what person or principal had the biggest impact in his decision to become a principal and he immediately thought of Forde.
“Just because of how he treated students, he had high expectations, but really, you know, gave a good example of how to lead,” Ealey told insauga.com.
Forde was stricter than Ealey but he believes that was because it was a different era.
“He was probably one of the only Black principals at the time.”
Ealey isn’t sure if he would have become a principal without Forde’s influence.
“That’s a hard one to say,” Ealey said. “When you get to see something early, it changes who you can dream you can become.”
New Mississauga Ward 9 councillor Martin Reid also remembers how inspiring Forde when he attended Meadowvale Secondary School in the 1990s.
“He really made a difference and he had such a positive impact on not only myself, but a lot of the other students, male or female,” Reid told insauga.com.
He was known as a strong leader who consistently enforced the rules. He cared for his students and would go to bat for them but he was also strict.
“Those are the things that made a difference for the young men to see an example of a strong male, a strong Black male,” said Reid.
He also had positive impact on some kids that “were probably going the wrong way.”
Reid recalled one time the football team won the championships and celebrated with pizza. But when it came time to pay the bill, everyone left. When the restaurant called the school, Forde had one of the football team members go back and pay the bill.
Reid added that Forde’s influence played a role in his decision to run for council.
“I just really am very, very grateful for having that model of leadership growing up and recognizing now how special that was.”
Forde hired Stafford Lowe in his first teaching role at Meadowvale. Now a vice principal of Bramalea Secondary School, Lowe recalled how Forde’s approach as a principal influenced him.
As a new teacher, Lowe once advocated for a student who was trying hard but his grades were low. Lowe fought for the student to move ahead but most of the other teachers wanted to fail him. Forde decided to listen to Lowe who had spent time with the student.
“And at that time, I just felt that he was very supportive of people who advocated on the behalf of students and that stood out to me,” Lowe said.
Later, Forde encouraged Lowe to join the guidance department because he connected well with students. Lowe went on to become a registered psychotherapist.
“He saw something in me that I didn’t even see at that time,” Lowe said.
Retirement and legacy
When Forde retired in 1998, Lowe headed up his retirement presentation at the urging of students. A bunch of students got together and created a presentation with photos, singing and dancing to his support his send off.
“They wanted it to be a great celebration.”
Lowe feels Forde inspired many students.
“I think just seeing him as a Black man in a position of leadership is very inspiring,” said Lowe.
After he retired, students continued to visit him at his sporting goods store in Dixie Mall, said Reid. Lowe recalls how Forde would help out students who were less fortunate.
“I know that he would take students that didn’t have jackets or coats to the store and they would pick out a jacket,” Lowe said.
Lowe said he was not only an inspiring principal but also a family man and business owner.
“I see him from a holistic perspective and the way he’s raised his family the way he’s been such a solid educator and professional entrepreneur,” said Lowe. “He was a man of integrity through and through.”
As a lasting tribute, Reid wondered if Meadowvale Secondary School could be re-named after Forde.
“I’m a city councillor and I have no say over this, but if there’s any way to change the name of the school to A. E. Forde Secondary School that would be an honour.”insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising