Mon | Jul 6, 2020

Slain vice principal hailed for leadership, kindness

Published:Saturday | May 30, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Colleen Walker.

Colleen Walker, the vice principal at the Excelsior High School in Kingston who was gunned down at her home in Queensbury, St Andrew, was, today, memorialised  as a passionate educational leader and teacher, as well as an active participant in national development. 

Her funeral was streamed via Facebook Live from the Fellowship Church in St Andrew earlier today.

Walker was attacked by gunmen on April 9 as she and one of her sons completed chores in her front yard. 

Rev Al Miller, who delivered the sermon, roused congregants to use Walker’s tragedy as a reason to stand up against crime and violence in Jamaica. 

“God wants to get our attention to bring us to the reality that this crime problem must solve,” he said.

“Sometimes when it happens to those who are afar out there, we look at it and say yeah, but when it come a yard, it’s a wake up call. You can do something about it. You need to do something about it. You need to engage the process. It’s a call to me to renew my commitment to do something about it to solve the problem,” he charged.  

And, in his tribute to the educator, president of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, Owen Speid, said the situation has deeply hurt the association deeply.

“Let us hope that our beloved country will not continue in this vein,” he said, “where many of our people believe that is only by way of anger and wickedness that conflicts can be resolved.”

He called for a plan of action is needed from the country’s leadership to assist the society with managing conflicts.

Dedication to education

Meanwhile several paid tribute to Walker for her contribution to education.

The eldest of her three sons, Shane McCarthy, remembered his mother's rise from humble beginnings and love for people. 

"That is what I admired most about her, once you needed help she would always be there," he recalled.

"She dedicated 29 years of her professional career to Excelsior High School," he said, tracing her career at the school. 

"Her resolute professionalism; attention to detail; above ordinary interpersonal and leadership skills; stern, but calm demeanour; strict no nonsense approach to discipline; humour; warm, loving nature, saw her rise above the rest fairly quickly. She became highly favoured by students, parents and colleagues alike," he recounted his mother's career trajectory.

Principal of Excelsior, Deanroy Bromfield, praised the strength of her leadership style, noting her adeptness at influencing others. Walker held many positions at the school during her near three decade career, including head of the Business Department, dean of discipline and exam coordinator, before eventually rising to the post of vice principal.

Beyond the school, she authored a book, 'Office Administration for CSEC' and was a weekly contributor to the Jamaica Observer's Study Centre. She was also a marker for the Caribbean Examination Council, which administers the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams, and volunteered as a polling station supervisor and trainer for the Electoral Office of Jamaica. She was also a small business owner. 

Bromfield noted that standing beyond her career achievements, was Walker’s kindness to her students and many others.

“She was a legend where that was concerned,” he said recalling her many acts of kindness, including her doting actions towards a sixth former who was diagnosed with cancer.

“Colleen adopted him, adopted his family and co-opted a great deal of the school family, including past students, to ensure that his last needs were met and to ensure that his family was in a position to support him,” he recalled.

“At Excelsior we haven’t even begun to work out how we are going to work without her.”

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