Sunday, August 19, 2018

New Brannoxtown principal 'very much at home' in small schools

Dr Sarah Fitzpatrick, Principal of Brannoxtown CNS.
Her own experience as a pupil in a two-teacher school, and a subsequent career path which involved regular interaction with small schools, underpins the enthusiasm of Dr Sarah Fitzpatrick for her new role as Principal of Brannoxtown Community National School, writes Brian Byrne.

"In my heart, this is very much a homecoming for me," she told the Diary during yesterday's Family Open Day. "I'm very much at home in this environment ... and delighted to be part of a new chapter in the school."

Sarah has worked for the last three years as a teacher in Naas CNS, and reflects on how this latest move 'happened very quickly'. "I was on holidays when the position came up, and I applied for it while I was away. Then I met with Dr Rory O'Toole the day after I came home from Canada ..." And now she is in the middle of what is undoubtedly a challenge to get Brannoxtown CNS up and running in a very short time frame. "But it's also a great opportunity, with the new patron."

Prior to going back to teaching, Sarah worked with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), finishing as Deputy Chief Executive. During that time she was directly involved in developing the Patron's Programme for Community National Schools.

"We worked with hundreds of small schools, really got a sense of what they are. Though every school is different — each one has its own peculiarities and conditions that makes each a very special case."

When she decided to return to teaching, Sarah says she was inspired to work with Community National Schools from her experience with them during the development of their Patron's Programme. "Particularly from working with teachers in the CNS system."

Though not from the area, Sarah has followed the recent story of Brannoxtown NS 'from afar', and is very much up to date with what the school means to the people of Brannockstown. "There are clearly fantastic ties with the community ... it's almost overwhelming to see such a generosity of spirit from a community for the school."

Brian and Sean Murphy, past pupils, entertained through the afternoon.

Bouncy castles and ice-cream on a sunny Saturday.

A touch of paint added colour.
Yesterday's Open Day was sunny, colourful and musical, with a number of past pupils coming along to revisit their earlier classrooms. They also contributed with football displays and some expert fiddle playing.

But bouncy castles and face-painting and an ice-cream van are not what will make the revived Brannoxtown national school work. It will need a mix of patience, enthusiasm, and professional expertise, to attract families back to a school with an extraordinary heritage.

That mix is there. If a sunny Saturday afternoon is a sign for a positive future, the laughter of happy pupils in a small school will return to Brannoxtown.

Past pupils Leah Mallon, Emily Carter and Amy Nolan revisited memories.

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin, Conor O'Toole, and Anthony Carter.

Kilcullen Diary Policy on Photographs. Kilcullen Diary Privacy Policy.