A community is celebrating the golden jubilee of a successful primary school.
St Michael’s Primary has existed in Dumbarton’s west end for five decades, emerging from a “terrible” former site to today’s new-build school.
And headteacher Jennifer Mulvenna, who has worked at St Michael’s for her entire 26-year career, praised “joyful” pupils and “dedicated” staff and parents for contributing to the school’s success.
Parents, staff and pupils joined dignitaries – including Archbishop Philip Tartaglia and former teachers – for a celebration mass at neighbouring St Michael’s Church last week, to begin a programme of special events marking the anniversary.
Former pupil Father Paul Gargaro delivered the gospel at the commemorative mass, alongside the Archbishop and parish priest Father Vincent Toal. A host of former staff also attended the event, as young pupils delighted the assembled crowd with their preparation for the event.
Headteacher Mrs Mulvenna told the Lennox: “The children were incredible throughout the mass and absolutely raised the roof with their singing. They created a real buzz. Our depute head Anne Anderson is a beautiful pianist and she also played.
“It was just a really lovely day and we had bunting outside to mark the occasion. It was the first time we have seen many of the former staff for a long time and St Michael’s committee put on a really beautiful tea for us.”
The event is the first in a series which will mark the 50-year celebrations.
Pupils will perform their take on Disney’s The Lion King before an audience of dignitaries, parents and parishioners in March, ahead of a planned event open afternoon for former pupils later in the term.
Mrs Mulvenna also praised the community for lending their backing, saying: “It has been a really big event for the parish generally and everyone has given us a lot of support, a lot of parishioners came along and the parents have also been very good.”
St Michael’s first opened its’ doors on August 25 ,1969 in the former Clerkhill High School under the leadership of inaugural head, Sister Mary John – the first of a succession of teaching nuns which included Sister Helen and Sister Elizabeth Brady.
They were eventually succeeded by head Julie McGrogan, now an education officer with the local authority and Jennifer herself.
She began her career as a class teacher at the former St Michael’s before rising through the ranks and says the “ethos” of staff, pupils and parents has been the anchor which kept her at the Cardross Road school.
Jennifer added: “It really is the wonderful ethos at the school I enjoy, the children are spirited, they are very joyful – there is great joy here – and the staff are outstanding. They give everything they have. The school motto is ‘we shall serve’ and that’s what we try to do.”
She also paid tribute to parents of the school’s young pupils, saying: “The parents here are very supportive, it was actually the parents who led the campaign to get us a new school.
“We were in a terrible old building when I started and it was falling apart. We had to teach the children in terrible conditions and it was the parents who campaigned for us. In 1998 we moved to this lovely new building and it still looks new, there are still high standards around it, we use soft shoes indoors and try to look after it.”
In fact, children were joined by staff and parents to form a procession from the former school site to the state-of-the-art building when it opened on the site of the former St Patrick’s High School, on February 18 ,1998.
Jennifer is still proud of the school and the pupils it produces, despite the challenges of working in an area which experiences pockets of deprivation, she commented: “We try to provide a very high standard for the children, we expect them to learn and achieve. We really feel there is a positive future, we want our children to be safe, happy and learning and to continue to do well.”