As you all know, when we re-open for the new school year in September, we will be doing so without Rita Galvin as principal of NKETNS for the first time since the school’s inception. Rita would like to share some parting words with you all on her departure from the school after 24 wonderful years. Please see below a transcript of the speech that Rita gave at the recent retirement celebration organised by members of the school community to mark her leaving. Thank you for everything, Rita!
Rita’s Retirement Speech – 7th June 2018
25 years ago, in 1993, I attended a public meeting in the Kildrought function room about efforts to open an Educate Together primary school in Celbridge. Having worked for 12 years in an all girls’ Catholic primary school and having worked in Bangladesh as a volunteer with Concern, I was at a personal and professional level seeking something new and alternative which reflected my personal values and beliefs more closely.
I was fascinated by this group of parents who had been trying for several years at that point to open Kildare’s first multi-denominational school. I was and still am full of admiration for those pioneers, some of whom are here tonight. How brave and forward looking they were to have had a vision for a different type of school. It was a very different – and conservative Ireland then, and the school was to be only the 13th of its kind in the country.
I want to acknowledge those very brave parents who put their trust in me. My vision then was for a happy school, where children felt safe, had fun and enjoyed learning with other children who were often different from them in terms of nationality and beliefs. I do believe that over the last 24 years that vision has become a reality for the many children who have come through our doors.
A few days after I had been selected as Principal I brought my parents, John and Breda, to see the site in Ballymakealy where the school was originally situated. They looked at the ton of gravel in the middle of the field and had two very different reactions – Rita what have you done? Can you go back to your old job? There is nothing here – was Breda’s worried reaction, and what an opportunity to start something from scratch, was John’s every optimistic reaction! My reaction aligned more closely with my Dad’s probably through a combination of naivety and optimism. But the start up parents group were inspiring as they were utterly convinced it would happen and that it would grow… and so it did!…. from 33 pupils and myself in September 1994 to 332 pupils and 31 staff today.
When NKETNS was founded, Educate Together was a tiny organisation made up of a very small group of enthusiasts. Since then Paul Rowe became CEO and an office was established. It’s still a relatively small organisation but is now Patron and advisor to all Educate Together Schools. ET under Paul’s capable guidance and input has a continues to negotiate the very tough terrain of change in the Department of Education and Skills and advocates for the expansion of the Educate Together model. Our school was number 13… 24 years ago and there are now 82 schools including 9 secondary schools in that relatively short time, thanks to Paul and his team in ET.
In life there are always people that inspire you and Paul is one who has inspired me. He has combined a steely determination with astute political awareness in order to advance the case for multi-denominational education in Ireland. He is utterly passionate about and dedicated to the cause. Thank you Paul for all your incredible work, for being here in this evening and for your very kind words!
I have been very lucky in my career for so many reasons:
- So few people get to start a school from a green field site – a unique, and at times, a very challenging experience.
- I have worked with excellent Chairpersons – Catherine Boylan, Tamara O’Connor, Gerry Folan and Michael Costello.
- Our Boards of Management and Executive Committees over the years made hundreds of decisions that shaped the school we have today. I have enjoyed the support and energy of many excellent Executives and Boards of Management and would like to sincerely thank all those members, past and present, for your hard work and voluntary commitment to the school. I’m delighted and honoured to see so many of you here tonight.
- I have worked with Michael Costello (also known as 007 in our house) as Chairperson for the past 12 years. Michael and his wife Fiona, have been involved in the school as parents for the last 22 years. Similar to 007 Michael is multi-talented and has been with me on many missions, through thick and thin ones. He has a cool head, an analytical mind, and brings a multitude of talents to the role of Chairperson. Michael has a very busy family and work life, yet always finds time for interviews, Board meetings, phone consultations and always gives the various issues that arise the time needed to resolve them in the best interests of the children. We have worked together through many wonderful highs and some low times in the story of the school. He has been an excellent Chairperson, personable, ever supportive and always professional. Michael has been supported every inch of the way by Fiona and this support allowed Michael the time and space to commit so heavily to NKETNS. The relationship between Principal and Chair is a key relationship in the success of any school. I can say Michael is I couldn’t have asked for a better chairperson and I deeply appreciate your support, your good humour and your friendship over the years.
- I have also been very fortunate in the amazing staff I have worked with over the past 24 years. If I say so myself, Tamara, Gerry, Michael and I did a particularly good job in choosing the talented, dedicated and child centred group of people we have – staff who have always been highly committed to the ET ethos. I particularly want to mention Viv Butler-Rees who is a founding member of the school and is now a valued staff member for many years. Thank you Viv for your vision all those years ago and for remaining part of it today.
- Working in a young ET school is not easy as a teacher you must be ever flexible, willing to try new ideas, have lots of energy and be willing to go many extra miles!
- I know over the years I have put many demands on the staff to achieve and maintain the very high standards of work and huge array of interests our school is now known for.
I thank you for your team work, your support for me and each other, your enthusiasm and huge commitment. You never stop giving as you work here. In particular I want to thank you for the loving care you give our pupils everyday which makes them feel so happy and secure to be here. You are a really special group of people – we have always got on so well together professionally and personally and that permeates everything we do for the children.
To my lovely secretary Adrienne we have also travelled a long road of 22 years together. Adrienne has been my absolute rock of organisation, planning and efficiency… the woman who really runs the school! Adrienne is one of the most discreet people I know but she brought this to a whole new level for tonight. I now know she can keep many secrets from me. I know she played a big role in organising this evening so thanks to her, the Board of Management, the PTA and the staff for your hard work. I feel really honoured by all the trouble you’ve gone to and by your beautiful gifts.
I want to give special mention to Anne Finn who was my first Deputy for 21 years of the 24. You were such a huge support and a powerhouse of hard work in the early years and latter years, and a great partner in the management and development of the school. I will always have great memories of our time working together and look forward to you showing me the ropes of early retirement in the months ahead!
I want to thank my In School Management teams over the years. Anne, Bla, Tom, Pat, Cathy, Arlene, Niall and most recently appointed Jenny for your valued work in the management of the school. I have always been an advocate of distributed leadership and you have all taken to your leadership roles with a solid work ethic and great energy.
I want to particularly thank my amazing husband and best friend in life, Gary, who has always given me such support and encouragement through all the demanding times since 1994. Thanks also to my two favourite past pupils, my son Ben and daughter Lucy. It hasn’t always been easy with the demands the school sometimes placed on me as Principal. I hope I got the balance right and I want you to know I’m immensely proud of the people you’ve become and all your achievements.
The school has given me many career highlights and achievements to be proud of including:
- The visit of President Mary Robinson
- The opening of our Outreach Classes for children with Autism.
- Our award winning permanent building which we had such a part in designing.
- Our extension opened in 2014, which gives the ET experience to twice as many children.
- Our 8 Green Flags
- Our achievements in athletics, soccer, quizzes, art, science, technology, engineering and maths.
- The establishment of our excellent Parent Teacher Association.
- Our achievement of the Active School Flag which we got this week!
- The establishment of the Rainbows Programme in the school to support children with bereavement and parental separation.
- Our many musicals and concerts through the years.
- Our beautiful Storyteller’s Chair.
- Our 447 hampers to people in need every Christmas over the years.
- Our active and confident Student Representative Groups.
- Our Highly Commended Garden in Bloom constructed by our wonderful parent garden group last week.
And our many graduates some have come back to us on teaching practice and some to enrol their own children. We continually hear wonderful stories about them.
NKETNS has been like my third child! Like any child it has given me some sleepless nights, had its teething problems, it went through its demanding teenage years…and has now reached maturity in its 24th year!
Two weeks ago it was announced that I’ll be handing my baby over to Pat Crowe as new Principal. Pat has been my Deputy for the past 3 years, and it has been my absolute pleasure to share 22 years of his teaching career as his colleague. The school will be in very capable, competent and experienced hands and I wish him the very best as he takes the school into this next stage in its history. I hope that Pat will continue the tradition of no homework when Cork win All Irelands in the years ahead, although I can imagine the bias here will shift to the Dubs shortly!!
So while tonight I suppose is largely about me… it really is much more than that. It is about the wonderful people who have together created a fantastic, positive school community where our children thrive.
Every year at graduation I give a blessing to our graduates and I think it’s appropriate to give those same blessings to the school community this evening, on my departure.
- Fiche fad saoil agaibh – may you have a long life.
- Talamh gan cios agaibh – may you have land without rent.
- Togha bia’s deoch agaibh – may you have your choice of food and drink.
- Món on sliabh agaibh – May you have turf from the mountain.
- Gealach is grian agaibh – may the moon and the sun be yours.
- Slainte de shíor agaibh – may you have good health always.
- Gach rath oraibh agus go néirí an bothar libh – every blessing on you and may the road rise up to meet you.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh! – and thank you all for this wonderful evening.