Ardgillan principal to retire after guiding school for a decade
Principal of Ardgillan Community College since its doors first opened in 2009, Michael O'Leary has decided to relinquish his position in the Balbriggan school this September, but not without offering a heartfelt 'thank you' to all those who supported him through his ten years at the helm of the school.
Thirty seven years working in education, Michael has decided to step down to pursue a career in business; having worked for many years as a business teacher, he feels as though he's 'getting to an age' where he'd like a new challenge.
Speaking to The Fingal Independent, Michael recounts the early days of Ardgillan Community College and expresses his appreciation towards the students, parents and local community who all helped him build the school into what it is today: 'I remember coming out there and there was nothing there but a field.
'I was appointed in March 2009, and the building was built between March and August.
'We started out with just sixty six students that September, and a very small number of staff, so it was very very small, but very exciting.
'The growth has been phenomenal - we'll come back with almost a thousand students, so we're taking three times the amount into first year than we had in year one. We've up to eighty staff at the moment, we have an autism unit in the school which we didn't have at the beginning, so it's just been a phenomenal growth.
'I suppose from the beginning, our aim always was to develop a high-class school, and I think that's what we did. The biggest challenge for me was to provide a school where parents felt they were getting a good education for their sons and daughters, which would grow by virtue of being a good school and providing a good education.
'I came to Balbriggan not knowing the town well, but the support of the community has been phenomenal, and I'm talking about the parents in particular. The support that our school has got has been absolutely amazing. People who don't know Balbriggan and the surrounding areas would not understand the community spirit and the level of generosity of the people, how supportive they were of us.'
The students of Argillan Community College, Michael says, have been 'absolutely excellent ambassadors' for the school.
He credits this to the three 'pillars' the school has always abided by, 'teamwork, respect and excellence', which has allowed for strong relationships to be fostered between teachers and students.
Speaking of his decision to step down he says: 'I'm a very ordinary guy who was just privileged to have been given the job of being principal of Ardgillan. The thing that always struck me, the level of trust, the level of co-operation, the level of support I got from the town and the surrounding areas of Balbriggan. I really have enjoyed the job, there's been bad days like there is in any job, but my father used to say 'leave the party when you're enjoying yourself', and I'm certainly still enjoying myself.'