Mon | May 16, 2022

Vere Tech in dismay at sudden death of headmistress

Published:Saturday | May 14, 2022 | 12:10 AMOlivia Brown/Gleaner Writer
Dr Edward Wright (right), chairman of Vere Technical High, reflects with administrators yesterday after the passing of Principal Antoinette Banton-Ellis on Thursday night. Also pictured are (from left) Marlon Freeman, staff representative on the school boa
Dr Edward Wright (right), chairman of Vere Technical High, reflects with administrators yesterday after the passing of Principal Antoinette Banton-Ellis on Thursday night. Also pictured are (from left) Marlon Freeman, staff representative on the school board; Education Officer Errol Haughton; Barrington Richardson, director, Region 7, Ministry of Education and Youth; and Vice-Principal O’Neil Lewin.
Antoinette Banton-Ellis.
Antoinette Banton-Ellis.
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Grieving students, colleagues and community folk gathered at the Vere Technical High School in Clarendon yesterday, struggling to come to terms with the death of Principal Antoinette Banton-Ellis, who died suddenly on Thursday evening. Sources told...

Grieving students, colleagues and community folk gathered at the Vere Technical High School in Clarendon yesterday, struggling to come to terms with the death of Principal Antoinette Banton-Ellis, who died suddenly on Thursday evening.

Sources told The Gleaner that Banton-Ellis, 49, had complained of not feeling “too well” and sought medical attention at a private facility some time after 5 p.m. on Thursday. After not feeling any better when she returned home, the educator was then taken to hospital, where she died on arrival.

Yesterday, well-wishers joined members of the school community to share fond memories of the late educator, who was also a former principal of Beulah All-Age School in New Longville, Clarendon.

Banton-Ellis, who had been at the helm of Vere Technical since 2017, was described by colleagues as a hard-working and compassionate leader.

Senior Vice Principal Oneil Lewin said her sudden passing has jolted him.

“When I got the call [Thursday] night, I was told that she was at the hospital unresponsive, and I said, ‘No. I don’t think so. This must be a prank.’ Then I got another call that she had passed on, and I said, ‘No. I am going there to find out for myself’’,” he told The Gleaner.

WORST FEARS REALISED

Upon arriving at the hospital, Lewin said that his worst fears were confirmed by grieving relatives, who said Banton-Ellis’ body had already been transported to the morgue.

When he arrived at the morgue, he met other colleagues, who wept uncontrollably.

“It was just devastating for members of staff, members of the community. [Her death] was a shocker and is still a shocker to everybody,” Lewin said of the educator who was committed and dedicated to the betterment of the school.

Banton-Ellis, he said, showed great interest in the holistic development of students and staff members alike.

“She saw this institution as a part of her family. It is a tremendous loss to the institution. [Thursday] night when we went down to the funeral home, you could actually feel what persons were feeling. The students are devastated, so what we have to do is carry out the healing process,” Lewin told The Gleaner.

Barrington Richardson, the director of Regional 7 within the Ministry of Education and Youth, said Banton-Ellis was “a dedicated educator who had given over 32 years of service to educating the nation’s children”.

Richardson said that the ministry would be providing grief counselling and psychosocial support to the school family.

Edward Wright, chairman of the school board, said Banton-Ellis was relentless in her efforts to better the school.

“You can’t get a harder worker. All our interactions were focused on improving Vere Technical High School. I just want us to focus on ... all the good things she has left us with, and the things that she has accomplished, and we will use that to strengthen us to try and further her legacy,” said Wright.

Eulogised as a sport enthusiast, Banton-Ellis was hailed by student athletes, who noted that she also had a word of encouragement.

Also at the school on Friday to give support was Keith Wellington, president of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association and principal of St Elizabeth Technical High School.

“She was someone who was very passionate about seeing Vere getting back to their glory days [in sports]. I’m feeling heartache. As a young principal, she’s someone I thought had a really bright future,” Wellington told The Gleaner.

A graduate of the St Joseph’s Teachers’ College in Kingston and the Western Carolina University in the United States, Banton-Ellis was mother to two girls.

olivia.brown@gleanerjm.com