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.
County Board open to GAA museum proposals
By Sean Moriarty The Kerry County GAA Board said it would operate “an open door policy” for any plans to build a GAA museum in the county. There have been talks at a political level to build such a museum in Kerry with political rivals in Killarney and Tralee both pushing for it to be built […]
By Sean Moriarty
The Kerry County GAA Board said it would operate “an open door policy” for any plans to build a GAA museum in the county.
There have been talks at a political level to build such a museum in Kerry with political rivals in Killarney and Tralee both pushing for it to be built in their home town.
Before he retired from politics in April, Michael Gleeson was campaigning to build a GAA and cultural museum on the grounds of Fitzgerald Stadium.
His campaign goes back several years before the recession set in, with a €0.5 million bridging loan secured from Croke Park along with funding from Fáilte Ireland. That funding was lost with the onset of the recession before 2010.
Tim Murphy, the outgoing chairman of the Kerry County Board, has confirmed to the Killarney Advertiser that no approaches have been made to the County Board at executive level during his five year stint at the helm.
However, he said the Board would be open to such approaches provided there is sound financial planning behind the project in place.
“The first and most important aspect is the capital funding and my understanding is there needs to be Fáilte Ireland funding in place first,” he told the Killarney Advertiser. “If it gets up and running, there needs to be very clear talks with all stakeholders so everyone knows each others expectations. A museum attracts footfall, but it costs a lot of money to run. We would offer an open door policy to all proposals but funding, first from a capital point of view and then from an operational point of view, will need to be in place.”
Loreto pupils are happy to help save the planet
By Michelle Crean School pupils are fast becoming the next generation of environmentalists thanks to a brand new litter-picking campaign. Happy to help save the planet one bit of litter at a time are the children from Scoil Bhríde, Loreto NS, who are currently partaking in the Picker Pal Programme. It’s all about taking on […]
By Michelle Crean
School pupils are fast becoming the next generation of environmentalists thanks to a brand new litter-picking campaign.
Happy to help save the planet one bit of litter at a time are the children from Scoil Bhríde, Loreto NS, who are currently partaking in the Picker Pal Programme.
It’s all about taking on a litter-picking adventure in their local area as well as learning songs, reading storybooks, filling in activity books while witnessing that their real-world actions are making a positive difference and inspiring others to join the movement.
Picker Pals is a unique primary school programme that gives children the tools and motivation to become the next generation of environmentalists, teacher Claire O’Meara explained.
“The Picker Pal Programme is a fantastic initiative and will go a long way to raise awareness of the impact litter has on our environment,” she told the Killarney Advertiser.
Real litter-picking is motivated by a Picker Pack made from upcycled dinghy sails and containing adult and child litter-picking tools, gloves, hi-vis vests and safety information.
“This pack is then taken home by a different pupil every week. That child takes their adult on a litter-picking adventure. The children then tell the story of their litter-picking adventures through art and writing. Raising awareness is an essential part of the solution to littering. Picker Pals gives young people the tools and positive motivation to steward their local environment and make the world a better place.”
The programme, run by environmental NGO VOICE Ireland, is funded by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and various local authorities across Ireland.
Now in its third year of operation, over one thousand schools all across Ireland will be taking part in the Picker Pals programme this year. In Kerry, 29 schools are taking part, and Scoil Bhríde, Loreto is delighted to be included, she added.
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