MONTEGO BAY, St James — Monday will not be a typical first day of school for students and staff of Howard Cooke Primary School in St James as the institution is mourning the sudden passing of its Vice-Principal Veronica Headley Jennings.
According to the school’s Principal Dave Scott, Headley Jennings dedicated 33 years of her professional career to the primary institution. She was 60 years old at the time of her death.
“She was the only remaining teacher who started with this school in 1989. She was our vice-principal for close to 20 years,” Scott told the Jamaica Observer on Monday after news broke of Headley Jennings’ death.
“Many of our teachers met at the school today and we were really in grief mode,” he added.
Headley Jennings was loved by all who came in contact with her, Scott stressed.
“She was loved by her peers, her colleagues, her students, and all the stakeholders of the school. She is one of the pillars that the school was built around and she will be sadly missed,” he said.
With both the new school term and his vacation less than a week away, Scott noted that the school is expected to meet with representatives from the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Tuesday morning to decide on their next steps.
“I am supposed to begin my vacation leave on September 1 and she [was] the one who would have taken over the hot seat. We will be meeting with our stakeholders [Tuesday] — our education officer, our board, and senior members of staff — to direct our way forward,” the principal said.
Scott added, “That will all be done [Tuesday] but today we are just taking the time to grieve and mourn because we are really shocked by her passing, as none of us expected it. But, that is how life is. Sadly, we have to move on so we will do the decision-making come [Tuesday].”
Expecting overwhelming sadness when the school reopens, Scott told the Observer that grief counselling will be explored for members of staff and students.
“I know come Monday morning we will still be having some grief counselling. I know many teachers and students will be breaking down because she has touched so many lives and she was so integral to the life of the school. Monday will not be the usual opening of school,” Scott opined.