Tributes pour in for popular and much-loved Walsall headteacher
Tributes have been pouring in for a popular "much-loved and respected" Black Country headteacher after his death.
Long-serving Joseph Leckie Academy principal Keith Whittlestone died last Thursday after leading the school for more than 23 years. He was ached in his early 70s.
Among his achievements was spearheading a turnaround in standards and rebuilding previously crumbling classrooms at the secondary school in Walstead Road West, Delves.
Walsall Council's education boss Councillor Chris Towe said. “There is deep sadness at Joseph Leckie Academy and the council over the loss of Keith Whittlestone.
"Myself and many of my council colleagues knew Keith personally. He was a longstanding, much loved and respected head teacher - who since 1972, had taught generations of children in Walsall. In short he was an inspirational educator and man, who touched the lives of many.
"Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, as well as his colleagues and students at the academy."
Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz said she was shocked and saddened to hear of Mr Whittlestone's death.
"Keith was determined to transform the fabric and educational ethos of Joseph Leckie into a modern 21st century school," she said.
"He was an outstanding head who was raising the aspirations, learning experiences and achievements of the young people attending Joseph Leckie.
"His pupils and staff always came first and it was a pleasure working with him to help achieve his aims. The South Walsall community has lost a gifted educator and friend.”
Palfrey ward representative Councillor Mohammed Nazir added: "As well as being the area councillor, my family has been closely linked to the school over the years. My daughter attended Joseph Leckie some years ago.
"Mr Whittlestone was one of the borough's good headteachers. He was good at liaising with the parents. He also turned around the school's fortunes during his time. He campaigned actively to get the buildings replaced and got the community and the local councillors behind him.
"He worked hard for the school and the children. He will be sadly missed by many."
Around 13 years ago the school recorded a DVD to highlight the poor state of repair of the some of the buildings and a pupil travelled to the House of Commons to deliver it to ministers.
Since then it has undergone phased rebuilding of the teaching blocks.
The latest development has this year seen almost £4 million spent on a new block consisting of 14 classrooms along with a new entrance, offices, store rooms, and a new library.
Joseph Leckie Academy last summer celebrated its best-ever GCSE results which showed that students were making progress above the national average and the academy attained the third highest progress rating in Walsall.
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.
In 2016 he was given an award for Outstanding Contribution to Education.
Dozens have also paid tribute on Facebook.
Jane Powis posted: "I just can’t believe it. Wonderful man who I learnt so much from. I adored him. We still kept in touch occasionally. Joseph Leckie or (Leckie) as he called it will never be the same again. His poor wife Sheryl and sons."
Deana Jones posted: "I know he loved that school. It is nearly ready for completion of a brand new building as well. All instigated by him."
Lynne Peart posted: "Best - head teacher I have ever known. So shocked to see this. Both my children at Leckie under his leadership and he was amazing. Couldn't do enough. RIP."