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New principal relishing future challenges

John Cooke, the new principal at Ennis Community College.  Photograph by Declan MonaghanFOR Ennis’ newest school principal, the challenge of guiding Ennis Community College into the future is one he is looking forward to.
John Cooke, originally from Thurles, last week took the helm of the secondary school, following in the footsteps of Matt Power who recently retired as school principal.
Mr Cooke, who lives in Galway, has been teaching since 1995, and was previously principal of Scoil Phobail Mhic Dara in Galway’s Gaeltacht.
“I was at Scoil Phobail Mhic Dara for almost three years, it was a much smaller school in a very rural setting. It was very nice but I just wanted a greater challenge and that’s why I am here.
I’m really looking forward to the challenge here, particularly with all of the developments in the school and developments in education in the future. But I’m up to the challenge and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
However, the journey of Ennis Community College isn’t the only one Mr Cooke has embarked on with his new role.
The Tipperary man commutes every day to Ennis from his home in Galway’s Gaeltacht where he lives with his wife and young children.
“It’s a bit of a trek but the road is good. When I leave the house in the morning, I have over an hour in the car to plan my day and when I leave school in the evening, I’ve kind of left it behind by the time I get home. I have young children going to school in Galway, that was one of the reasons that we moved west after teaching for years in Malahide. There was always a draw back west for us. We have beautiful views of County Clare across Galway Bay on a clear day, which is just amazing. From what I have seen, Ennis is a really nice town but I’ve not seen much yet because I’ve been in the school.”
On Friday, the school held a concert to acknowledge the contribution Matt Power made to the school during his time as principal.
According to Mr Cooke, “It was a lovely occasion celebrating his time here. His are certainly big shoes to fill here and he is a very useful asset for me coming in new, I can call on him any time to answer questions or give me advice.”
Just in the job for over a week, Mr Cooke is still getting to know his new school. “The first task I have to do is just to see how the school ticks. We will have building development in the school in the future and my plan is to get the school ready for that and to further develop the reputation of the school as a good school, to increase numbers and to increase, if we can, given the constraints, the curriculum. I want to build on the good work that my predecessor has put in over the last, I understand, 15 years as principal. It’s a challenge over the next few weeks to get to know all the different parts of the school and to see how all the different parts work, the dynamic of the school.”
From what he has seen so far, he says he is very impressed. “There is a real buzz about the place and a good mix of kids. There is a good diverse mix, with lots of different nationalities represented as well as kids from all over the county. I’ve found the school very welcoming, both staff and students.
“Before I came here, I had heard that the reputation of the school and the Gaelcholáiste was good and that’s one of the things that attracted me here. I had heard a bit about the school, particularly about the Gaelcholáiste as I live in the Gaeltacht in Connemara. My children go to the local school there and their teacher had taught in Ennis,” he said.
Other staff changes at Ennis Community College has seen Vivienne Hogan become deputy principal to succeed Angela McNamara, who has moved to her native Scariff as principal of the community college there. Ms Hogan is a graduate of University of Limerick. She has been teaching in the Ennis college for some years and acted on two occasions as deputy principal.


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