VIDEO: I wouldn’t mind girls coming to North Mon

Grace O’Sullivan has just made a little bit of history by being appointed the first female principal of boys’ school North Monastery CBS in Cork city. To mark the achievement, students in the Transition Year of the school, founded in 1811, drew up a list of questions as part of a history project and interviewed her about the appointment. Here, we carry the questions and answers
VIDEO: I wouldn’t mind girls coming to North Mon

IN THE FIRING LINE: Grace O’Sullivan, the new principal at North Monastery CBS Secondary School, Cork, being interviewed in the school by four transition year students, from left, Adam O’Mahony, Owen Roche, Seán O’Mahony and Ciarán Eivers, as part of their history project. BELOW: Grace outside the school

Q: Who is your favourite historical figure?

A: Nelson Mandela, because of the leadership he showed in South Africa and the inspiration he has given to many people all over the world.

I was fortunate to be able to go to South Africa last year with a group of teachers as part of the Niall Mellon Township Trust and saw first-hand the difference a leader like Mandela made to his people.

Q: Who inspires you?

A: My father is my greatest inspiration. He always supported me and encouraged me, even when I didn’t believe I could, he always believed I could.

Q: How did you feel on your first day as principal?

A: Very excited and a little bit overwhelmed as well. I was very excited to meet the students and the staff and I was very well received.

Q: Were you aware of the stature of the school before you became principal?

A: I most certainly was. I went to North Presentation and my brothers attended this school. I’m from the area so, yes, I was aware of the school’s famous past pupils. It was probably one of the reasons I went for the interview.

Q: How do you plan on advancing technology in the school?

A: ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is one of the areas staff have recognised moving forward. It’s in our plan to look at our whole school ICT policy and also to look at funding to improve the ICT in the school.

Phones are an issue and the proper use of social media is something we need to look at as well. We need to look at advancing it because certainly all students and nearly all teachers use mobile phones and ICT and it is the way, moving forward.

We do need to catch up, we realise that. But it’s certainly recognised by staff and there is a policy in place to move it forward as we go.

Q: Do you think our school should go co-educational?

A: Yes, I do. I wouldn’t mind at all balancing our school with girls.

I think what it does is help us to address issues between males and females on a daily basis and I think it’s a real healthy way to go.

Q: What made you apply for the position of principal in the North Monastery?

A: I worked in industry before I went into education and I always had a huge interest in management and education. I found myself teaching in my late forties and I thought, what else do I want to do? So I went ahead and did a Masters in Education and looked then at a possible management position.

The rest was down to timing. The position came up and I decided I’d go for it.

You know, I think it was just the right time for me.

Q: What do you do to relax?

A: I swim twice a week and I walk my dog, a beautiful Golden Retriever, which is great because he doesn’t say anything to me.

Q: How does it feel to be the first female principal of the North Monastery?

A: The question has come up continuously since I took on the role as principal, but the truth is, I never really thought about it, only when people have said it to me.

But in reality, I suppose it is pretty historical and it will go down in the history books. I might not live to see or hear it, but really I don’t feel any different about being a female principal.

I suppose I look upon myself as being a leader in the school and the person that’s going to be the role model in trying to move things forward educationally here, so I don’t look upon it as female against male.

Q: What do you want your legacy to be?

That I was fair and that I was fun to work with and that I cared about my students and my staff, and that I promoted education in the best way possible for the needs of our students.

Students involved in the interview directly: Adam O’Mahony, Owen Roche, Séan O’Mahony and Ciarán Eivers

The remaining members of TransitionYear 2 helped to put the questions together.

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