'Irreplaceable' headteacher dies after 23 years in charge at Walsall school
The long-term headteacher of a Walsall secondary school has died, it has been announced.
Keith Whittlestone, principal of Joseph Leckie Academy in The Delves for more than 20 years, died on Thursday morning, according to a school statement.
Aged in his early 70s, Mr Whittlestone had led the school since 1996 and was at the helm when it became a technology college in 2000 and when it converted into an academy in 2012.
"It is with great regret that we must inform you of some very sad and recent news," the school said.
"Keith Whittlestone our dedicated and longstanding principal of Joseph Leckie Academy, has passed away this morning.
"Keith was a mentor and close friend to so many and words cannot describe how much his loss will affect us. He is an irreplaceable part of all of the lives of students and staff.
"His love and passion for Joseph Leckie Academy and its family of students and teachers will never be forgotten.
"He touched everyone’s lives, as a man and the leader of the academy - an institution which he dedicated his life to, for the betterment and care of all the youngsters of Walsall - that he held so dear."
It is not yet known how Mr Whittlestone died.
Born in Great Barr, he had been a teacher for nearly 50 years and had a teaching block at the school named after him in 2016, the same year he was awarded a trophy for Outstanding Contribution to Education.
Mr Whittlestone attended both Keele and Birmingham universities and taught in Coventry and Greater Manchester before moving to Walsall.
"We understand that this news will be upsetting for large sections of the community Keith served," the school continued.
"During this difficult time and as we are all processing this sad news, students are advised to contact their form tutors if they need immediate support.
"We would kindly request that the privacy of Keith’s family is respected at this very difficult time."
Joseph Leckie Academy, in Walstead Road West, has more than 1,000 students aged 11 to 18 enrolled, although the majority are now based at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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