School has been part of Rory D'Arcy's life since the age of three. As he bids farewell to his teaching career and begins a new career as a Senior National Advisor to Catholic Primary Schools with the Managers Association, our new columnist Marie Carroll-O'Sullivan caught up with him for a chat to find out how he's feeling.
"Enter to learn and exit to lead" - what an appropriate sign to greet me as I visited exiting Principal Rory D’Arcy at a much quieter St Oliver’s National School this week.
It was lunch time in Ballycasheen and the Spúnóg Take Away was on the menu which I enjoyed with Rory as we chatted in the beautiful 20 degree sunshine.
Rory has been attending school since the age of three.
“September 1, 2021 will be the first year I am not in attendance at school in some shape or form. I was an early starter to ‘make up the numbers’ in Sligo. I did my Leaving Cert at the age of 16 and was teaching in Ballyboden in Dublin at the age of 19, in May 1988.”
After almost two decades as Principal at St Olivers NS, Rory will remain working in education as a Senior National Advisor to Catholic Primary Schools with the Managers Association this coming September, overseeing project work and giving advice on training to many of these 2,800 primary schools in Ireland.
No better man for such a position I thought. An inspirational, innovative man with magical leadership qualities.
As we ate lunch I asked about the outdoor covering in my view, which stretched across an internal play area. It was magnificent. A cream tent like cloth covering complete with equally impressive perimeter bulb lighting. “We got ahead of the pubs on that one Marie. We use it for daily assembly and recently held the Sixth Class graduation here also,” Rory explained.
That’s Rory all over. Always thinking ahead.
A KILLARNEY CAREER
“So what brought you to Kerry,” I asked. “Love is a wonderful thing!” Rory laughed. "I met my wife Siobhan who is a teacher and Deputy Principal at Barraduff National School. We were both attending St Pat’s together. We spent 11 years in Dublin, Siobhan in Knocklyon and myself between Ballyboden and Tallaght before I took up my four and a half year post at Raheen NS.
“Will I meet you at the gate?” I remember Principal Brendan Walsh (RIP) asking me as I arrived at the gates of St Oliver's.
"Not at all I said to Brendan. I remember that first day so well and the butterflies I had at the size of the school and my new position. I then thought to myself how it must feel for a little child entering the gates on their first day. In my opinion one of the most important things is a welcome, no matter what industry you work in. My aim was to welcome every child no matter what, even if they broke your heart the day before,” Rory laughed. “I think it’s so important.”
FROM PUPILS TO STAFF
I thought to myself the number of welcomes Rory gives daily and asked how many pupils are in attendance at St Oliver's.
“When I arrived at St Oliver's there were 410 students and today we have 680. We help more children with additional needs than any other school in the country, some of which travel the Ring of Kerry to school daily. We have 60 teachers and 26 SNAs and would you believe some of our teachers today were pupils during my term as principal too - Aoife O’Carroll, Gavin O’Shea, Amy O’Shea and Gemma O’Mahoney to name a few.”
“And how many nationalities attend St Oliver’s,” I asked.
"One” Rory replied. I loved that answer and I knew exactly what he meant. “All the children at St Oliver’s NS are Irish Marie. We have a colour coded system here - light blue and dark blue - the colours of our uniform, and red and yellow. You will get green if you mix blue and yellow and you will get orange if you mix yellow and red. Together with white they are the colours of the Irish flag. I remember one little girl who arrived at school in the most beautiful Bangladeshi clothing. I admired her appearance and asked her where she was from to which she replied "I am from Pinewood". There’s your answer Marie. As John Hume said "difference is an accident of birth". We are proud to say that we have many Irish speaking awards from Conradh na Gaeilge.”
I later noticed the rock over Rory’s shoulder which reads St Oliver's in Ogham script, a medieval alphabet used to write the early Irish language.
To conclude we needed a photo to go with my chat with Rory so we took a walk around the back of the school. Another forward thinking COVID friendly classroom, 'The Spooky Garden'. It was so impressive (but way too dark for photography sorry!), another amazing outdoor classroom option within the existing forest grounds, complete with actual tree stumps as seats for each child.
LIFE AT ST OLIVER'S
“Rory, before I put down the pen and paper, can you describe your time at St Oliver's in five words for me?"
Off the cuff he wasn’t phased one bit.
“Big, diverse, fun, busy and happy,” Rory replied. “Diversity breaks down immeasurable barriers and I think St Oliver’s is reflected in Killarney town. It’s a ‘can do’ town. Did you know that the Racecourse, the Town Hall and the Golf Club were all built in the 1930s, and look at how Killarney has adapted so well to COVID-19 with outdoor dining. Killarney is an amazing town of innovation.
As we chatted and snapped Rory explained to me how the Sixth Class pupils Callista, Mark, Nell and William were involved in a programme called CRAG (Children’s Research Advisory Group) with architect and parent Mary O’Connell of MRG, together with teacher Ciaran O Muircheartaigh and Rory himself in the design of two new classrooms to replace two existing prefabs. I was so impressed with this. It reminded me of that Benjamin Franklin quote "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember and involve me and I will learn”. So true.
ONE LAST QUESTION
Photoshoot over I had one last question for Rory; “What will you miss the most about St Oliver's NS?"
“The team. The team at St Oliver's are everything. They are exceptional people to work with Marie. I could not have asked for better over my 19 years here. I have been very blessed to be Principal at such a beautiful school in an equally beautiful town. Yes there were hard times too, but the happy memories that lie here outweigh those by far. Change is good and I really hope I will be as happy in my new position as I have been at St Oliver's.”
All the very best in your future career and thank you for having me at St Oliver’s NS Rory.
Fossa School says ‘bonjour’ to French classes
Fossa National School is giving its pupils a headstart in learning a new language.
The school signed up to Language Sampler scheme as part of the ‘Say Yes to Languages’ initiative in primary schools organised by Post Primary languages Ireland in 2021. This is the school’s third year running the module.
Hélène Olivier-Courtney, the school’s French teacher and director of French For All Killarney School of French, covers ten schools in Kerry over the three terms.
The success of the initiative relies on an all-school approach and the active involvement of class teachers and management.
“The whole staff in Fossa certainly helped make this new journey a special and enjoyable experience for the children as we learnt French through art, songs, games and food tasting! This year, we also organised a catwalk on our last day. Our sixth-class students will have such a head start before secondary school and most importantly will have develop curiosity interest and love for the language,” said Hélène.
Opinion: Silent majority needs to stand up and call out far-right hate
By Chris Davies
Last Friday’s Dublin Riots should not have come as a surprise to anyone. It has been bubbling under the surface of Irish society for a good number of years now. The actions of a small minority last week was a culmination of years of racism, hatred and misinformation shared online by far-right groups.
Late on Friday night a disturbing WhatsApp voice note was doing the rounds on social media where a far-right actor could clearly be heard encouraging violence on the streets of Dublin.
“’Seven o’clock, be in town. Everyone bally up, tool up…Any foreigner, just kill them”
Watching the Riots unfold on social media brought me back to when I was working in Dublin a number of years back. My morning commute from Skerries to the city centre involved a dart to Connolly Station followed by a short trip on the Luas to the Jervis. Every week, without fail, I would witness at least one racial slur or attack on someone who didn’t fit the narrow minded view of what an Irish person should look, dress or talk like. I don’t know if it is the eerie silence of public transport that seems to amplify the situation, but that’s where I found it to be most common. The abuse was usually perpetrated by a group of youths or someone who was clearly under the influence of drink or drugs. The victims were always of colour, often dressed smartly enough to presume they were on their way, or coming from work. A far cry from the perpetrators who you could tell were roaming aimlessly around the city looking for trouble.
While shameful to admit, I would often look on and watch the abuse unfold, only to spend the rest of my work day thinking about the poor person who was told to “F*&K off back to your own country”. I would sit at my desk questioning why I didn’t step in and say something. There were one or two occasions where I did step in and call it out, but not nearly often enough.
This disgusting behaviour is much more visible in our cities. Since moving back to Killarney I wouldn’t witness as much direct abuse on the streets but working with the Killarney Advertiser I would be tuned in to local news and some of the comments I read on our social platforms are far worse than anything I witnessed during my time in Dublin.
There is a significant group of people in Ireland that I would call the ‘silent majority’. We are not as outspoken on issues we care about. We tend to observe and consume the news quietly, and only speak of our support or disgust on certain issues in close circles, too afraid we might offend someone. The problem with this is that we are leaving these far-right groups unchallenged, to become louder, more aggressive and more hostile as seen last week.
The past week Sinn Fein and the Social Democrats have been busy in the media expressing no confidence in Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris but I would suggest that there is a large percentage of the Irish population that bears some of the responsibility. We witness racism in our communities and online every day and we need to start speaking up and calling it out.
On the issue of immigration in Killarney, there is no doubt resources are being stretched and our tourism industry is suffering as a result of an influx of immigration. Locals have also raised concerns in relation to the placement of so many male international protection applicants in one setting and we only have to look back on the incident in Hotel Killarney last year where a number of men were involved in a harrowing stabbing incident to see how that played out.
However, being concerned around immigration is not the same as anti-immigration. It is important to raise these issues with local representatives and Kerry TD’s but also to separate ourselves from far-right groups who are only interested in encouraging violence.
The anarchy we witnessed last week should never be the answer and research shows it is completely unnecessary. Harvard University have looked at hundreds of protests over the last century, and found that non-violent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns and that it only takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.
Let’s continue to protest peacefully for issues we believe in, but stand up and speak out against people and movements in our community that incite hate and violence.
Fossa School says ‘bonjour’ to French classes
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