The ‘vision and tenacity’ of Dr Katie Sweeney, the CEO of Mayo VEC, in making the amalgamation of two Achill second level schools a reality was praised at the official opening of Mayo’s first Community College.
Dr Sweeney returned to her home village of Polranny last Friday for the official opening of Coláiste Pobail Acla (CPA) which was formed in 2011 following the amalgamation of McHale College and Scoil Damhnait.
Minister of State Michael Ring performed the official opening of the school and an extension which included four new classrooms and a ASD room. Minister Ring also opened the new Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) which was developed in partnership with Mayo County Council adjacent to the school.
The amalgamation of the two school was described as a ‘smooth journey’ by Barry Kilgannon, Principal of CPA, who along with other speakers heaped praise on Dr Sweeney for making it a reality.
“The first person I would like to thank is Dr Katie Sweeney, because without her vision and tenacity and sense of purpose we would not be here today celebrating our amalgamation. On both a personal and professional level I wish to thank her for her work for our school. She had the vision to bring this amalgamation to fruition and she has left a strong legacy for second level education in Achill,” he said.
Dr Sweeney thanked Minister of State Ring for opening the new school and its facilities and praised Mr Kilgannon, who was the former principal of McHale College and Maura Sweeney, the former principal of Scoil Damhnait for their role in the amalgamation of the schools.
She said the facilities at the new school will serve the whole community not just during school hours and will ensure education plays a central role in the community.
“Coláiste Pobail Acla is the first Community College, [in Mayo] and the word community is there for a reason because it is there to serve the community not just from nine to four but throughout the year. It will deliver educational excellence to the highest standards for learners which was built on the excellent foundations of McHale College and Scoil Damhnait.
“Coláiste Pobail Acla is now one of the finest centres of learning in the county and Mayo VEC will never be complacent in the role of education in Achill and the surrounding area. It has taken 32 years for development of this scale to take place on Achill Island. Thirty-two years is a long time, that is up to seven generations of learning, let the next one not be that long,” she said.
Chairman of Mayo VEC, Cllr Jarlath Munnelly said the project was very close to Dr Sweeney’s heart and worked hard to make it a reality. Pat Kilbane, Chairman of the Board of Management said the parish of Achill has changed in relation to the number of young people living in it and told Minister Ring that jobs were crucial to ensure young families settle in the parish.
Minister of State Ring said he was delighted be asked to perform the official opening and added to the praise for Dr Sweeney.
“This is a great day for Achill and for Dr Katie Sweeney who is a native of Achill and worked very hard to bring this together. She has shown leadership and dedication and she certainly knows how to draw money from the department. She did a great job in relation to this school and as the CEO of Mayo VEC for the work done for education in this county.”
Minister of State Ring praised the Principal and staff of CPA and praised all those involved in the amalgamation of the two schools. He said he was delighted to sanction funding for the MUGA and hopes the wider community benefit from it.
“Coláiste Pobail Acla has a superb reputation for many advanced teaching resources including information and communications technologies and places a strong emphasis on effective teaching and learning for all students. There has been a huge effort by staff involved in the provision of services for students with additional needs in the school. The MUGA sporting facility has added a new dimension to physical education in the school and is used extensively by students and by community groups alike,” he said.
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