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A rich legacy in local education

THE collaborative approach that resulted in a new school build, total refurbishment and upgrading of the old primary school in Meelick has been lauded by a retiring principal.
Marie O’Looney has confirmed that she will be stepping down from the position of principal at Scoil Mhuire in Meelick, effective from August 31 of this year.
In a letter to parents at the school, the Miltown Malbay native, who has been living between Miltown and Caherdavin in recent years, recalled that it has been a privilege to serve in the school since 1988, first as a teacher and latterly as a principal from 2012 onwards.
“I want to express my deepest gratitude to each member of the school community for your unwavering support and kindness throughout my tenure,” she said.
“Your dedication to the success and well-being of the school has been instrumental in our advancements and achievements, including a new school build, total refurbishment and upgrading of the old school, teaching and learning initiatives too numerous to mention and new literacy and numeracy methodologies now well embedded in our school day.
“Reflecting on my career, I can confidently say that I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment spent in the service of the students, staff and community of Meelick Primary School, while growing personally and professionally.
“It has been incredibly rewarding to witness the growth and development of our students, both academically and personally, and to contribute to shaping their futures.
“As I embark on this new chapter of my life, I leave with a profound sense of pride in all we have accomplished together.
“While I will miss being part of the daily life of the school and especially my interactions with the children and you, their parents, I am filled with optimism for the future and am confident in the abilities of the Board of Management and the staff to continue steering Scoil Mhuire towards continued success with love and respect being always at the core of who we are, what we do and how we do it.
“I extend my sincerest wishes for the continued positive development of our school. I have no doubt that the school community will continue to uphold the values and principles that make our school so special.”
To mark her years of dedicated service to education, the school held a gathering in her honour in the school last Thursday.
It was very well attended by staff, parents and pupils past and present, and by members of Marie’s own family, and was greatly enjoyed by all present.
Denis O’Donnell, Acting Deputy Principal of the school said it was no surprise to see such a large attendance to mark Marie’s retirement considering the respect the school community has for her.
Since Marie began teaching here in 1988 and especially since being appointed principal in 2012, he recalled Maria has done untold work on behalf of this school and this community, and has contributed hugely towards making this school what it has become over the last decade plus.
In 2012, the school consisted solely of the original 1950s structure and the single classroom extension at the back.
“In her very first year as principal, Marie applied for funding and had to fight hard to get funding for this wonderful new structure that we are standing in, as the department are rarely willing to give out money,” he said.
“Marie was very much involved throughout the process of planning and construction that started in 2013, and the new building was ready for us to move in in 2014, that was some achievement, straight out of the blocks as a new principal.
“She followed this up with a further application for funding to modernise and bring up to spec the original part of the school, work on which followed soon after.
“Were it not for Maria’s drive to achieve this, it wouldn’t have happened. Maria is leaving us with some legacy, and we’re standing in it, and for that I think that we owe her a huge debt of gratitude.
“This was done while simultaneously being responsible for the education of a double class of infants. The job of a teaching principal is, in a sense, two full-time jobs rolled into one – one must teach and plan for teaching at the same time as managing what one could equate to a small business.
“The amount of work involved can be quite daunting – from the smallest to the most serious issue arising, managing teaching, dealing with the staff, parents, pupils, the wider community and the department, drawing up and implementing policies, marketing the school, running special events, day to day maintenance, for everything, the buck ultimately stops at the principal’s desk, and there is always more to be done. And, if these things aren’t done and done properly, the school suffers.”
With Marie at the helm, he said people could be confident everything was being properly managed and overseen because the welfare of the school and its pupils were always at the forefront of what she does to ensure they got the best.
“The needs and education of the children come first – that has always been evident to me. One can always see both the affection that Marie has for the children, her pupils past and present, and the respect that they have for her,” he said.
“Marie has overseen the introduction of many new initiatives during her time as principal, such as RSGM, LLO, SGLI for literacy in the senior classes, and this school was an early adopter of many such programmes, to the point where other schools were coming to us to see these in operation.
“There is a host of other initiatives from coding to Music Generation to many others that take place over any given school year, and Maria has always been keen for the school to get involved in such new ventures.
“Similarly with IT, Marie has been fantastic to support the school in keeping up to date with the latest tech, culminating recently in the purchase of our new interactive smartboards.”
In conclusion, he said she would be missed by pupils and staff following the leading role she played in the transformation of the school as she prepares for her well-deserved break.

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