While many people basked in the sunshine during the long hot summer that’s just ended, the new principal of one of the largest schools in the county admits that he spent most of the time “shuddering” at the prospect of managing a school of 730 pupils, 50 teachers and 15 other staff.
However Des Feeney is pleased with the way he’s settling into his role as principal of Clonmel High School.
He has replaced Shay Bannon, who formally stepped down at the end of August after 22 years at the helm.
Although his career in education has taken him on a circuitous route from his home in Galway to Clonmel, via Dublin, Kildare and Dungarvan, Des is no stranger to the Kickham Street school. He was a teacher at the High School for 8 years before his appointment as principal, teaching English, History and Classical Studies.
He’s originally from Kilkerrin, near Tuam, and attended secondary school at St. Jarlath’s in Tuam. After graduating from UCG he worked in marketing for a few years before deciding he wanted to teach. Having completed his H.Dip at UCD he taught at Terenure College in Dublin; the Old Bawn Community School in Tallaght and in Kilcock, Co. Kildare before moving to Dungarvan, where he taught at the CBS for 4 years before taking up the post in Clonmel.
He misses the interaction with students in the classroom but is enjoying his new job, describing it as “a great challenge. This year especially will be a huge learning curve”. Dealing directly with the Department of Education is a new experience but he says that Shay Bannon has been a great help in this regard, while deputy principal Jerry Shanahan and the other staff have also helped smooth his transition from teacher to principal.
“I haven’t come in to radically change the school. It needs to be kept going on the path it’s on, every year we’ll keep working and improving on what we do.” He believes that a new discipline system is required in schools to reward students for good behaviour. “We often concentrate on the 2% or 3% of students that misbehave rather than those who behave all the time”, he says.