With Leaside High School’s 75th anniversary being celebrated this year, Leaside Life will be profiling a number of notable members of the school in various positions, as students, teachers, and more, to mark the milestone.
As Julie Andrews most eloquently put it in The Sound of Music, “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
A little background
In 1944, the Chair of the Board of Education for the Town of Leaside, Paul McLelland, submitted a brief to the Mayor and Council of the town recommending that Leaside have its own high school. Students at that time were attending 10 different high schools, including Jarvis, Oakwood, and Northern. After acceptance of the proposal, discussion of the location of the school ensued, with the current Hanna Road site chosen as the most suitable option.
While construction took place, the first classes of Leaside High School were held in Rolph Road School, and the official opening of the school building was marked on February 16, 1949.
Leaside High’s first principal
The first principal of Leaside High was Norman McLeod. Born in Arran Township of Bruce County, Ont. in 1899, McLeod was a graduate of the North Bay Normal School and taught elementary school in Temiskaming for several years until he entered Queen’s University. Graduating with a Master of Arts in English and History, McLeod then attended the Ontario College of Education and taught for several years at the Oshawa Collegiate and Vocational Institute and the University of Toronto.
A man with a clear dedication to education in Ontario, McLeod served as the first president of the Ontario Teachers Federation from 1944 until 1945 when he took up the role as Leaside principal.
McLeod not only had a strong background in education, he was also fiercely proud of his Scottish heritage.
He was president of the Clan McLeod Society of Ontario and on several occasions hosted Dame Flora McLeod, chieftain of the McLeod Clan from Scotland, at the school. Leaside School’s choir ties were McLeod tartan, and McLeod himself was often seen in the halls dressed in his clan kilt.
The Scottish theme is still present today with the yearbook, called the “Clan Call,” pipers at commencement ceremonies, and the Gaelic school motto “Seas Gu Dileas,” meaning “Stand Faithfully.”
According to records, McLeod’s first phone call upon assuming the role of principal was from a resident asking for a delivery of a four- to five-pound roast, “something that I can turn out as a well-done roast.” While explaining that he was answering from a school and not a butcher shop, he did point out that he was working to turn out well-done products.
McLeod not only viewed school as a place of education but as a precursor to a life of civic service. In a yearbook message, McLeod urged students to engage in extracurricular activities. “Where else,” McLeod noted, “can you find a better place to get some practice in this basic training which underlies our whole system of democratic government?”
While working as principal until 1964, McLeod also served on the Royal Commission of Education in Ontario from 1945 to 1950.
Upon his retirement after 43 years of teaching, McLeod received the first of the fellowship awards for teachers from the Ontario Teachers Federation.
Retirement from teaching did not end McLeod’s involvement in education and civic engagement as he served as president of the Superannuated Teachers of Ontario (now the Retired Teachers of Ontario) from 1969 until 1971, and as treasurer of the Bennington Heights Ratepayers Association, beginning his role in 1966.
While McLeod died in 1972, his legacy lives on at Leaside High School not only through the Scottish marks throughout the school, but also through a scholarship in his name recognizing the student in each graduating year with the highest average.
As his obituary noted, McLeod was known as a 3-F man – friendly, firm, and fair. And ever did he “Stand Faithfully” to education with the roots of the school that carry on his principles of high academic standards and civic engagement.