A MUCH-respected local school leader has announced her intention to retire.
Holy Cross College principal, Clare Bradley, has confirmed she will retire at the end of this academic year having reached a milestone four decades teaching in Strabane.
The Strabane woman taught geography and English before taking up the principal role following the retirement of her predecessor, Maria Doherty, in 2018.
As head of the district's largest secondary school - which currently has over 1,500 pupils - Mrs Bradley has steered the college through the unprecedented challenges brought by the COVID pandemic.
Approaching 40 years in education, she says now is the right time to step away from a role that has been her privilege to hold.
Announcing her decision in a missive to parents and pupils, Mrs Bradley explained: "By the end of June I will have reached a significant milestone of having taught in Strabane for 40 years - a very long time!
"I began in St Colman’s High School where I was appointed to teach boys geography and English, a post I truly relished for many years.
"Since then I’ve been privileged to have been appointed vice principal and more recently principal of Holy Cross College.
"Despite the significant changes in education, my joy and pride of seeing young people of all abilities succeed in their academic studies and extra curricular pursuits has not changed with time and is indeed the enduring reason why any of us pursue a career in teaching.
"It has been an honour to have worked with countless colleagues, governors, parents and pupils over the years and I have forged many lasting friendships."
When the school returns from the Easter break, a new principal will be appointed.
"I will be both sad and joyous to hand over the leadership of this wonderful college to another person," Mrs Bradley continued.
"To each of you whom I’ve met in my career, thank you very much for the vast number of opportunities and God Bless.
"It has been my privilege to have served you."
The announcement has been met with an outpouring of goodwill and best wishes on social media from colleagues, current and past pupils and the wider community.
One tribute read: "As many have already stated, you have been a phenomenal inspiration and a dedicated servant to the Strabane educational system. Now it's time to dedicate some time to yourself and your family. "
Another added: "You have served Strabane well for sure Clare, Enjoy a long and happy retirement as you have certainly earned it."