ST Joseph’s Secondary School Tulla opened its doors to students for a new school term last week and, in doing so, it also welcomed a new school principal, following the retirement of Margaret O’Brien.
A proud Portumna woman, Juliet Coman, has taken on the new role and comes to the school from St Mary’s Secondary School, Nenagh, where she had been a deputy principal for the last number of years.
Juliet went to university in Limerick and began her teaching career in Presentation Secondary School in Mitchelstown, where she worked for 14 years, teaching science and maths.
“Throughout my time there, I was heavily involved in sports and I spent some time as programme coordinator and year head and for my last year there I was acting deputy principal for one year. I was an athlete myself and I brought that with me to the various places. I’d have a great interest in sport and involving students in all sports,” she said.
While athletics is not a team activity and is often considered as a lonely sport, she said it gives an opportunity for those who may not be interested in team sports to shine, as there are so many events within athletics.
“It just gives students an opportunity to explore different areas and to be good in their own right. There’s a real feel-good factor to it. This is a very big hurling and camogie school. I’d hope to have a wider variety of options for students who are not just into the hurling and to expand on the amount of activities that are available for the students so that everybody feels they have a place,” she said.
Arriving into St Joseph’s has been a really positive experience all round for Juliet, who said not only is she delighted to be supported by a great staff but it has been great coming into a new-build school, with all the facilities it has to offer.
“I’m very lucky that I’ve come into such an amazing building, that goes without saying. The facilities here are just fantastic and it would just brighten up your day walking into the building. My job is to expand on that and to use it to its maximum capacity. It is so important to me that every student here is included and that it is a safe place for them.
“It’s really important in education and for me that they come in here and it is a happy place, it is a safe environment for them and that they will be included in whatever goes on. Everyone is good at something and I want to harness that and get the best out of the students,” she said.
Juliet will lead a team of 42 teachers and seven special needs assistants, as well as administration staff, and she said enrolment has increased significantly, with an additional 60 students this year.
“We have a great staff here. For me, to support the staff to get the best out of their students, if we can do that, we are onto a winner. In terms of the curriculum, the Leaving Cert Applied is something I’d like to get into mainstream because I feel there is a little bit of a gap there.
“Again, that is about catering to the academic needs of the students but, at the moment, it is only available if you are a part of the learning support unit. I’d love for there to be an in-between and that it would come into mainstream teaching. There is a bit of work in that,” she said.
As St Joseph’s embarks on the new school year, Juliet explained that, up to now, a lot of focus had been on the build and the new school. Now, she said, is the time to focus on the academic side of things.
“School self-evaluation would be high on my list and also the new Junior Certificate cycle,” she said.
A new arrangement that has also come into place for the school is the implementation of 40-minute classes. She explained that, per departmental direction, all classes must be a minimum of 40 minutes long.
Up to now, over the course of the week, every student was getting the same level of tuition but it was timetabled differently.
“Now, if you have nine classes in the day and the days would go on until 3.55pm, you could buy back the time with a half-day, or you could have two long days and three shorter days. It was up to the school to decide and this school decided to take the time on the Friday. It is still the same number of hours but we now finish at 1.15pm,” Juliet outlined.
She added that she hopes to continue fostering the school’s connection with the community and parish life.
“The type of school we are, being a Catholic voluntary secondary school, a huge part would be our interaction with the community parish church life. A combination of that and this is where we foster the growth of the students to ensure that they have a holistic education, not just the academic community life. This is very important to schools like ours, founded by the Mercy Sisters. The link with the community and the parish is one of the aspirations I have for a school like this,” she concluded.
Meanwhile, in another new appointment, Angela Russell is delighted to return to her native Clare as deputy principal of Scariff Community College.
Angela is originally from Kilfearagh, Kilkee, and is now living in Monaleen, Limerick.
Angela is a past pupil of Doonaha Primary School and Kilkee Convent of Mercy and a graduate of National University Maynooth and NUI Galway.
She began her teaching career in St Enda’s Community School, Limerick, and comes to Scariff from Castletroy College, Limerick, where she was a maths and resource teacher, as well as taking on the roles of special needs coordinator and acting deputy principal.