A SCHOOL has lost two heads – but it certainly hasn’t lost its heart.
Pupils, parents and staff at Charles Dickens Juniors put on a big farewell party for their head Sandra Miller and deputy head Geraldine Cox who stood down this week.
A banquet prepared by the youngsters themselves, gifts, flowers and a disco at the Charles Dickens Centre took the pair by surprise as they prepared to say goodbye after 10 and five years respectively.
Miss Miller, 47, said: ‘It was a wonderful surprise. There was so much love in the air.
‘As soon as the children gave me the flowers I burst into tears. The boys and girls at this school are superb, it’s like a big family and I will miss it very much.
‘One of my former pupils brought me a chocolate gift and on it was written “thanks for never giving up on me” – that will stay with me for a long time.’
She added: ‘I have decided to move on but I leave this school very proud and full of hope. The children have bright futures ahead of them.’
When Miss Miller joined Charles Dickens she was the fifth head in as many years – but her energy, determination and shared experiences with families in the city’s most deprived ward gave her the tools to succeed.
As the daughter of factory workers who emigrated from Jamaica to the UK in the 1960s, Miss Miller realised from an early age that her only way out of the poverty trap was through education.
And her life story is one she has shared with pupils to inspire them to strive to achieve their best.
Miss Miller said: ‘When I first got here people asked how long would I last!
‘To be in this environment you have to get a feel for the people.
‘If you can communicate clearly you can move mountains, but it’s got to be a real partnership.
‘There are a lot of challenges facing our children – a high percentage of them are on free school meals and some have difficult social and emotional issues. We have to find ways to overcome those barriers.’
Miss Miller, of Southsea, is now looking forward to a term-time holiday in the Caribbean with her son James, three, before seeking a new headship in September.
Mrs Cox, of North End, plans to take semi-retirement to pursue her love of the arts and do some supply teaching.
She said: ‘It’s been a very happy five years.’
Their departure comes in the middle of a consultation into amalgamating Charles Dickens junior and infant schools.
Lisa Florence has been appointed deputy and Sharon Watt, head of City Girls, will stand in for Miss Miller.