A LASTING tribute to a dedicated headteacher has been placed at the heart of the community she served.
An oak tree has been planted in the grounds of Whitburn Parish Church in memory of Paula Williams, who led what is now Whitburn C of E Academy for 12 years.
It was planted to commemorate the contribution she made to parish life.
Miss Williams, from Sunderland, died on January 3, 2011, after contracting pneumonia during the 2010 Christmas holidays.
Her death came just days before the top-performing former comprehensive school opened as an academy – a status she had worked tirelessly to achieve.
Alan Hardie, who succeeded her as principal, said: “The Parish Council Committee, in liaison with Miss Williams’s sisters, felt this was a fitting, living tribute to honour her contribution to changing the lives of many children in and beyond the parish.”
A plaque below the tree reads: “Joyful, generous and an inspirational teacher. Headteacher and founder of Whitburn Church of England Academy.”
The ceremony was attended by Miss Williams’s sisters, Angela and Olwen, and they were accompanied by representatives from the school, in Rackley Way, and the church, in Church Lane, both Whitburn.
Last year, Miss Williams’s sisters donated a memorial bench to the school and a cherry tree was planted in the school’s garden in February.
Miss Williams became headteacher of the then Whitburn Comprehensive School in Easter 1999.
The school became one of the highest-attaining schools in the North East, and was judged outstanding after every Ofsted inspection during her leadership.
It officially became an academy in January 2011, taking it out of local authority control and giving it more freedom.