Presentation Secondary School, Waterford Officially Open New School Building

As Mary Ryan, Principal, Presentation Secondary School, Cannon Street, Waterford stated ‘this is indeed a special day in the life of our school. A day that was long awaited and much anticipated has finally arrived, and so we celebrate.

It is important for us as a school community to mark this day and to take time out to reflect on our position right now, at this point in the school’s journey, on March 22nd 2013.

The official opening of this new building for a Catholic girls ’school in the 21st century is a rare event. The completion of this project enables us to maintain and continue a tradition of excellence in education that dates back to 1798.

That was the year in which Presentation sisters established the first Catholic school in the city centre at Jenkin’s Lane.

The campaign to build our new school began 14 years ago, in January 1999. The then Principal, Sr Fidelis Purcell had a vision for the provision of a secondary school building that would house the entire school population under one roof.

This would put an end to the daily soakings as students and teachers travelled between the Slievekeale and Cannon Street buildings.

As principal, Sr Fidelis, and her Deputy, John Brennan, travelled to Tullamore in the hope of convincing DES officials of the need for a new school in Waterford.

The process began, albeit slowly, but excitement was mounting. Department officials visited Waterford in October 2001 and the entire team acknowledged that the standard of accommodation in Presentation was below par, that the condition of the existing building on Cannon Street was too poor to consider refurbishment and extension. In essence, Coláiste Na Maighdine needed a brand new building.

Unfortunately, as Sr Fidelis retired in June 2002, the outlook for the new building at Coláiste Na Maighdine was not optimistic.

When Terry White was appointed as Principal in September of that year, he inherited a project that was bedevilled by holdups and delays. The sale of the convent buildings went ahead in 2006, and between them, the Presentation sisters and DES were obliged to provide alternative pre fab accommodation.

This was a huge financial outlay and a total waste of money – a symptom of the financial mis-management of the era, the consequences of which we’re only too keenly aware of at the present time.

With his appointment as the first lay principal to Coláiste Na Maighdine, the progression of the building project was entrusted to Terry White. For a period of eight years, he worked tirelessly and often faced major hurdles in his quest to keep this project live. The obstacles put in his way were many and frustrating beyond belief.

Persistence and determination were required in spades. The school was supported by two formidable women in its struggle with bureaucracy. Presentation Provincial at the time, Sr Claude Meagher, and later, as the management of Presentation schools was handed over to a trust body, Anne Kelleher, CEO of CEIST.

These women fought many battles in the corridors of power on our behalf. I am very pleased that Anne can be with us for our celebration. Unfortunately, Sr Claude is unwell at present and is unable to join us.

By the time Terry White retired in August 2010, the roof was still leaking, but optimism had been restored and we could foresee a future for Presentation/CEIST education in Waterford.

Faith and perseverance were justly rewarded when, two years ago to this day, on March 22nd 2011, we turned the sod to lay the foundations for the beautiful edifice that stands alongside us.

Our efforts have been truly vindicated and justly rewarded as first year enrolment for the coming year has increased by 37%. Clearly, there is a demand for our product.

The plans prepared by our architects, CJ Falconer & Associates have converted to a building that is bright, spacious and welcoming, as well as functional and practical. The school design incorporates the latest Department requirements together with a wide range of Special Purpose Rooms. Internally, natural light has been brought in to the entrance and social areas.

The interior courtyards extend this light to the wide open circulation spaces. Externally, the natural stone at the main entrance echoes that of the original convent building. Following demolition of the badly sited old building and removal of prefabs, the exposure and development of the grounds gives our school a status as one of the finest new buildings in Waterford today.

It gives me great pleasure to see so many Presentation sisters with us today and to have the opportunity to say thank you for creating that legacy for us. We feel immensely proud and indeed privileged to continue the journey on your behalf. It is particularly satisfying to have three sisters in attendance who served as principals in the secondary school.

I extend an especially warm welcome to Sisters Fidelis, Margaret Mary and Immaculate.  While we are now a CEIST school, we remain deeply rooted in the Presentation tradition.

I would like to thank Anne Kelleher, CEO of CEIST for making the transition to trust governance so seamlessly and so sensitively. Anne has taken a particular interest in our school and in the building programme. Her commendation of our efforts often gave us the impetus we needed to keep going.’

Ruth Gallen, Deputy Principal welcomed the guests to the ceremony -

It was attended by Waterford Mayor, Councillor Jim D’Arcy, priest from the parish of St. Paul’s Fr. Pat Fitzgerald and Fr. Richard O’Halloran. Also in attendance were past teachers, past pupils, parents, and members of the design and building teams.

During the ceremony 7 candles of blessing were lit –

  • Vision – Anne Kelleher, CEO of CEIST
  • Leadership – Terry White, former principal
  • Heritage -Sr. Fidelis Purcell, former principal
  • Promise –Shannon Corr, student
  • Knowledge & Wisdom – Helen Byrne teacher
  • Nurture - Lorraine Duke, parent
  • Community - Susan McGill, Special Olympics

Fr. Pat and Fr. Richard blessed the building whilst the choir, conducted by Music teacher, Mark Scanlon and accompanied by retired teacher Jenifer Long, sang ‘Gaelic Blessing’ (Rutter) and then Lupita De Bháil, retired teacher and Mark Scanlon sang ‘Journey’s End’ (Lawton).

Mary Ryan gave a speech (see above) and Michael White Chairperson of the Board of Management thanked all for their help in preparing the ceremony, whilst acknowledging the work of Mary Ryan and Ruth Gallen.

In the Presentation we like to think of it as a living history and 3 Pres girls took us on a trip down memory lane - Sr, Margaret Mary, former principal and past pupil; Ann Brennan, member of staff but in a former life she was Ann Mahon, past pupil; and Nicola Cooney, 3rd year student.

It was a wonderful reminiscence and those listening laughed as they recalled times spent in the Pres, whether it was on Jenkin’s Lane, Hennessy’s Road, in the Convent, Stone Building, prefab or Cannon Street.

As Mary Ryan told the students ‘the lantern is yours now and the light burns on at the Back of the Convent. The future lies before you – here’s wishing you the brightest one possible.’

As the ribbon was being cut by past pupil and former teacher Sr. Assumpta O’Neill, the guests were kept ‘entertained’ by the Transition years with excerpts from their recent musical ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’.

Guests were then provided with refreshments in the new school, and many of the students were there to bring the guests on tours of the wonderful facility.

Slideshow of Photos