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With a heavy heart we pass on the news that Phyllis Baxter, headteacher at St. James’ for over 15 years from September 1990 until December 2005, passed away earlier on today.
Phyllis is both a historical and current presence in so much of what St. James’ is today. Any headteacher who dedicates 15 years of their life to one school will leave an indelible mark that will ring through the generations and already we have seen many individual tributes to her from former pupils, colleagues and parents:
‘We will always remember her strength and courage’.
‘Her dedication and commitment to our children was second to none’.
‘She was a wonderful lady and a fabulous headteacher to all our children’.
‘Phyllis was an inspiration to many’.
Mrs Baxter led our school through one of the most significant moments of its history as she presided over the transformation of the building from a one form entry establishment with just under 210 children to a two form entry school housing up to 420 children on the same land. This was an exceptional act of leadership and throughout, Mrs Baxter continued to hold her values and the outcomes for children at the heart of all that St. James’ did.
Mrs Baxter knew every child in the school by name. She was a total fan of the expressive arts and promoted dance and drama with a range of fantastic productions. After her retirement she continued to give back to the world of the arts locally through her voluntary work with the Bournemouth Music and Dance festival. She led the school to achieving the highest results in Bournemouth in national tests while also keeping the St. James’ family together. Her Facebook page ‘shares’ reveal many aspects of her life ethos, and none more so than the Roald Dahl quote concerning beauty – we have copied it into the pictures accompanying this post.
One member of staff vividly recalls the time when she brought the whole school together with a Christmas story by candlelight around the tree in the hall – an intimate and special moment for everyone who was there.
Like many people who dedicate themselves to local and public service, Phyllis’ name will not be feted in national newspapers but the more important and significant legacy that she leaves is engrained in the DNA of generations of local children and adults who have been touched by her kindness, dedication to their futures and commitment to the St. James’ community. And if all of that cajoling failed, she would just control you with ‘the stare’ and everyone would do as they were told….!
Mrs Baxter, you may not physically be among us any more, but your spirit, soul and values live on in every brick, every performance, every silent moment of reflection and every community action of St. James’. We would not be who we are without your guiding hand and we are proud and grateful that our community was fortunate enough to be under your leadership.
Thank you, Mrs Baxter. All our thoughts and prayers are with you and all those you loved and who loved you.