Progressive school is barking up right tree

Senior camogie stars Leah Bird and Kelly Webster

By Jimmy Rhatigan

A LOCAL school that encompasses three counties can certainly lay claim to being a class act.

Founded in 1952 as Johnstown Vocational School, the seat of learning that covers Kilkenny, Tipperary and Laois is now a thriving Coláiste Mhuire that has been catapulted from a student population of 65 in 1995 to a projected 550 next term.

School boss is Gortnahoe, Tipperary man, Martin Gleeson and students come from Lisdowney, Johnstown, Freshford, Gortnahoe, Ballyragget, Cullohill, Durrow, Galmoy, Rathdowney, Tullaroan and Ballingarry.

Pupils represent diverse communities and staff also fly various sporting colours.

Coláiste Mhuire is a proud and very successful school that was built from frugal means but developed over the years and now boasts a state of the art complex that was completed in 1995.

Progress is fully borne out by 1964 figures when the coláiste had 65 students and five teachers and now has 530 on roll books.

With progression and ambition come increased costs and to that end a vibrant Parents’ Association, in conjunction with staff, students and friends is set to unleash a fundraising Dog Night at Kilkenny Greyhound Track on Friday, April 20 at 8pm.

For a mere €10, friends, Romans and countrymen and anyone else who wishes to join in the fun, will enjoy an 8-race programme along with a novel student versus teacher track spectacular.

The admission includes a race card and buster tickets where a clever punter can pick up €500 by forecasting the combination on the way six dogs finish a race.

Handy money maybe, but it might be worth noting that there are 720 possible finishing combinations.

Led by Parents’ Association chair, Jacinta Fitzpatrick and secretary Hilda McEvoy, a busy team of co-ordinators plan to have a night of nights, a gathering of those who were, are and perhaps will be pupils of the school.

Teacher Mary Sheehan who has delighted in the healthy growth of the school over her 37 years as múinteoir, would love to see a good gathering of past pupils, former classmates who could renew friendships and talk about old times with teachers and students.

“That would be wonderful,” Mary told The Reporter. “We have huge plans for further development, particularly in the area of IT and on that score we are so grateful to all, including the greater business community and families who are supporting and sponsoring us in this venture.

“I would also like to see a big gathering of students and their families. That would make the night a really super occasion for Cólaiste Mhuire.”

She explained that the school gym was in a new development stage as student numbers continue to grow and staff reached 45 teachers.

This summer, work will start on a new Autism Unit, a second woodwork room, a library and four classrooms.

In the last year, the school acquired extra land and the goal is to build a full sized gym to facilitate the chances in the PE Curriculum making it an exam subject.

So, it is full steam ahead for a night with the dogs which was a big hit when last hosted in 2003.

The notion is that the school will enjoy further success with its four-legged friends running up a good financial reward from a well planned event.

The belief is that parents, teachers and friends are certainly barking up the right three.