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Westside Headteacher retires and successor is appointed

After a 43 year-long career, Westside School headteacher Michelle Barabich will be retiring, with St Bernard’s Lower Primary School headteacher, Dr Sonia Montiel Lopez, set to take on the role.

Mrs Barabich’s tenure as headteacher has seen Westside School transition into a new school building, herald in co-education, manage the realignment of key stages and face all the challenges that the pandemic presented. 

But the challenges were followed by opportunities. Mrs Barabich led 220-plus staff at Westside School and placed the needs and aspirations of their 1300-plus pupils at the centre of their professional efforts.

“It has been my pleasure and privilege to work with inspirational and dynamic practitioners during my years of service,” Mrs Barabich said.

“As the headteacher of Westside School, I am proud to have led a team of professionals who prioritise the holistic education of our learners and ensure that we focus on their wellbeing and provide them with a happy, safe and nurturing environment.”

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my professional journey. I hope that I have facilitated the educational pathway of our learners and empowered them to believe in themselves and achieve their personal best.”

As from September 2023, Westside School will have a new headteacher, Dr Montiel Lopez, who is currently headteacher at St Bernard’s Lower Primary School.

“I am very honoured to embark on this exciting new journey alongside the team of highly experienced and dynamic staff at Westside,” Dr Montiel Lopez said.

“Education is a transformative journey; our duty as educators is to inspire, challenge and uplift every child who walks through our doors.”

“Together with dedicated staff, engaged parents and the wider community, we will continue to provide a nurturing environment that fosters growth, resilience and a deep sense of belonging by recognising every child’s unique strengths.”

Minister for Education, Dr John Cortes, recognised the challenges Mrs Barabich has faced including the challenges of Covid, the changes in Key Stages and in becoming a mixed gender school.

“Sonia Lopez has led St Bernard’s with great vision and focus on the widest possible approach to teaching and learning, and I have no doubt that she will succeed in leading Westside as we develop and expand Education into the future,” Dr Cortes said.

Chief Secretary Darren Grech welcomed Dr Montiel Lopez adding that he had no doubt that Sonia’s commitment to hard work, range of experience and holistic approach to learning will serve the school well in the years to come.

“Sonia has been Special Educational Needs Coordinator, Deputy Headteacher and held a key strategic leadership role as Headteacher of St Bernard’s Lower Primary School, where she initiated a transformational journey making the school an even greater part of the community,” Mr Grech said.

Mr Grech thanked the other candidates, who the Public Services Commission thought were all very worthy applicants bringing a wealth of varied experiences and their own highly developed set of skills and competences. 

“Finally, I would like to thank the outgoing Headteacher, Michelle Barabich, for her years of service. It is difficult to steer a complex organisation with multiple interdependent parts, such as Westside. Michelle has done this admirably over time,” Mr Grech said.

The Director of Education, Keri Scott, recognised the period of transition that Westside would soon experience, given the fact that multiple senior colleagues from the school, in addition to the Headteacher, are retiring in close succession. 

“Although there is a nostalgic perspective to the retirement of our senior colleagues, we recognise that they leave behind a legacy, having invested so much of their professional lives to our vocational service and to the development of generations of our community’s young people,” Ms Scott said. 

“We also recognise that where there is change, there is opportunity, and we are certain that Westside School will continue to go from strength to strength in its provision for the young people.”

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