In his expansive career as an educator, which covers three decades, Cecil Roach has always maintained that as a classroom teacher, school administrator, superintendent, and now coordinating superintendent, he has had the opportunity to have a profound impact on the lives of young people.
He notes that, as an immigrant who arrived in Canada as an adolescent, he has a unique insight into the dynamics of immigration and its impact on schooling of new Canadians. This experience has strengthened Roach’s belief that schools should be places where students, regardless of their cultural background or social identities, can expand dreams on their journey towards full participation in Canadian society.
Born on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, Roach completed most of his schooling in Montreal where he graduated from Marymount High School, Vanier College CEGEP, Concordia and McGill Universities. He holds a Bachelor and a Master’s degree from Concordia and a Diploma in Education from McGill University.
In Montreal, Roach was a very active volunteer in that city’s Black community and served on the Board of Directors of the Quebec Board of Black Educators. He later served as Chair of the Board for the Black Community Council of Quebec (BCCQ), an umbrella organization of 11 Black community organizations tasked with delivering services to Montreal’s Black community.
Roach taught English for 16 years in Quebec at Chambly County High School and Centennial Regional High Schools, and in Ontario at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute before becoming a school administrator in 1995.
As a school administrator, Roach served as Vice Principal at D.A. Morrison Junior High School for the former Board of Education for the Borough of East York; after amalgamation, he held the same position with the Toronto District School Board.
A resident of Markham since 1994, Roach joined the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) in 1999 as Vice Principal of Milliken Mills High School. In 2000 he was appointed Principal of Middlefield Collegiate Institute (MCI), becoming the first Secondary School Principal of African heritage in the York Region District School Board.
During his three years as principal, Roach focused on student achievement and led the school staff and community to the development of the MCI’s motto: High Expectations, High Achievement.
In 2003, he was appointed YRDSB Board Leader for Learning Plus, which was later changed by the then Minister of Education, Gerard Kennedy, to Student Success. Roach was then appointed as founding principal of the new Richmond Green Secondary School in 2005, where he focused on creating an inclusive learning environment for students and staff.
September 2006 saw Roach’s appointment as Principal on Assignment, Special Assistant to the Director, where he worked closely with the Director of Education. This role allowed Roach to gain valuable system perspectives, which served him well in 2008 when he was appointed superintendent.
A founding member of the Alliance of Educators for Black Students—an organization of York Region educators and community members dedicated to the academic achievement and wellbeing of students of African heritage—Roach has also served as Director of Education for the Markham African Caribbean Canadian Association.
Cecil Roach currently serves as Coordinating Superintendent, Equity and Community Services, for the York Region District School Board.