A lot changes in a school over 50 years. Blackboards turn to smart boards. A Common Core curriculum is required. And students are glued to cell phones and social media.
But in all that time, at least one thing has remained constant at Our Lady of Mercy Regional School in Cutchogue: beloved teacher Rosemary McGoey.
“When I was first hired, one of the first people I did meet was Ms. McGoey,” said school principal Alexandra Conlan. “And the principal who was here at the time, the interim principal, said, ‘Anything you need to know about the school, please refer to Ms. McGoey. Because she will tell you anything and everything about everybody because she has just been the heart and soul of the school for so long.’ ”
Ms. McGoey would have celebrated her 50-year anniversary at Our Lady of Mercy in September, but the school is set to close at the end of this academic year.
She began her teaching career in New Rochelle, teaching there for two years before moving to Southold and starting at Our Lady of Mercy in September 1968.
“I feel very badly about the school closing. Obviously I’ve been here a very long time,” Ms. McGoey said last Monday. “I think anyone who has been a part of this school or part of this environment will probably tell you exactly the same thing. It’s more like a family.”
The diocese announced in March that it would consolidate Our Lady of Mercy and St. Isidore in Riverhead. Children will attend school at the St. Isidore building, but the school will be known as John Paul II Regional School. Ms. McGoey does not know where she will be next year, but has volunteered to help at the new school in whatever ways she can.
“It’s a very, very nice environment and it’s sad to see it end,” Ms. McGoey said of Our Lady of Mercy. “I feel that so many other children now won’t have the opportunity to experience it.”
Ms. McGoey became a teacher because she had worked with children throughout high school at her home parish in New Rochelle.
“I was always interested in helping children and working with children,” she said. “I enjoyed working with the children, doing sports with them and crafts. So, I think I decided I wanted to take that to the next level and get into academics as well.”
She attended Good Counsel College in White Plains, which is now Pace University, and sought work at a Catholic school because of fond memories from her own 16 years of Catholic education.
“I chose Catholic school because I believed in passing on my faith as well as my academic background,” Ms. McGoey said.
At Mercy, she was primarily a fifth-grade teacher, but has also taught sixth through eighth grades, which the school offered until about 15 years ago. She decided to retire in 2012 to give a younger teacher a chance to have the same experiences she did. But she couldn’t stay away from the children for long, and returned the next fall to work in Academic Intervention Services.
“I really never left,” she said. “ I’m not one to just sit around and be idle.”
“I still felt like I wanted to work with the children, but in a different way rather than taking a full-time teaching position,” she added. “I could still do what I liked to do and I was lucky enough to be able to do that.”
Ms. McGoey also works in the Before Care program, looking after 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents drop them off early.
“[The former principal] just made me understand that she’s the resource, the history, the present of the school,”Ms. Conlan said. “And just how giving she was and that is reflected in everything she does.”
Photo caption: Rosemary McGoey has taught at Our Lady of Mercy Regional School in Cutchogue for the past 50 years. Her tenure there will end when the school closes this month. (Rachel Siford photo)