A Great Servant To Education In Kerry Says Farewell

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Caitriona Ní Chullota (seated centre) receiving a presentation to mark her retirement from the Education Centre in Dromtacker. Included are back from left; Carol Crean, Máire Vieux, Jackie Murphy, Stacy Dineen, Linda O’Brien, Eileen Falvey and Jane Kiely. In front; Fr Padraig Walsh, Denis Courtney, Breda Lyons (Treasurer of Education Centre), Kay McCarthy (Chairperson of Education Centre), Noel Keenan and Betty Stack. Photo by Dermot Crean

SHE has been at the forefront of education in the county for the past 27 years but on Friday last it was time to say goodbye.

Caitríona Ní Chullota, from Gurrane, had been instrumental in the genesis and running of The Education Centre in Tralee since 1991 and the staff held a special celebration at the Dromtacker centre to mark her retirement as Director.

She explained how she got involved in the founding of the centre which would become a place where teachers could continue their professional development and learning.

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“We started in November 1991 when a meeting was held in Tralee attended by representatives from the unions — TUI, ASTI and INTO — with a view to founding the centre. I was home from Dublin at the time and I ended up as Chairperson of the founding committee,” said Caitríona.

“We started in the woodwork room of Tralee VEC in Moyderwell. We received great support from the trustees of the schools — the Mercy Order, Presentation Order, the CBS, the Bishop of Kerry, Tralee VEC and Kerry VEC — and then we started to prepare and run a programme.”

Caitríona Ní Chullota with a special gift from staff to mark her retirement as Director of the Education Centre in Tralee. Photo by Dermot Crean

In 1993, the Department of Education granted the centre part-time status and teachers began to come to the centre in earnest to attend courses. A year later the centre was granted full-time status and they moved to Collis Sandes House.

In 1996, thanks to EU funding, the Department of Education embarked on a building programme of education centres in the country and the Dromtacker centre was completed in 2001 and now employs eight staff. There are now 21 full-time and nine part-time education centres countrywide.

Caitriona has enjoyed her time there and thanked the people she has worked with over the years.

“I was blessed in many ways. I had wonderful principals when I was appointed who worked with me and they taught me so much. We have a voluntary board of management here who were a pleasure to work with. We were responsive to local needs and while we all have to implement the national education agenda, we also have a budget that allows us to be innovative, creative and responsive to schools locally,” she said.

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So after 43 years in education, will she miss being involved in the centre?

“Of course I’ll miss it, I love education, the main passion I had was to ask ‘how can we be better teachers so that we can help the students?’ That was the driving passion. I just want to acknowledge the contribution and support everyone has given me over the years. I’m grateful for the privilege I’ve had to serve,” she said.

The new Director at the centre is Terry O’Sullivan, former Principal of St Brendan’s NS in Blennerville, and Caitriona wished him the very best in the role.

“I think my successor will do an excellent job and he’ll bring a new dynamic. He’s full of energy…and he’s younger!”

After years of giving so much time and energy to the job over the years, when asked if she has any plans for retirement, Caitriona paused briefly before answering.

“I want to go to ‘cúinne an ghiorria’ or ‘the hare’s corner’. In the old tradition of farming, there was a part of the meadow that was never cultivated so that the hare was not disturbed or upset and it was called ‘the hare’s corner’. It’s a place of space and calm and I think I’ll stay there for a little while!”

Caitriona Ní Chullota (seated centre) with staff, back from left; Máire Vieux, Carol Crean, Stacy Dineen and Eileen Falvey. In front; Linda O’Brien and Jackie Murphy. Photo by Dermot Crean

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