The book of Proverbs in the Bible says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Matt Irish says it was definitely God who helped him decide to stay in North Platte.
After 14 months of prayer and discussion with his wife, Melissa, and trusted friends about his future, he has accepted the job of principal at St. Patrick Junior and Senior High School in North Platte. Current St. Patrick Principal Mark Skillstad announced a few weeks ago that he was retiring at the end of the 2020 school year.
Irish is currently the principal at Lincoln Elementary School.
“I estimate for over 300 days I’ve sat down with Jesus and asked Him, where do you want me, what do you want me doing? I’m willing to do anything,” Irish said.
He and his family had been considering a move west and other options.
“My family is at a transition point with a daughter graduating from college, a daughter graduating from high school, and they want to move to Arizona,” Irish said. “One of my daughters is going to do track in Arizona and my son is in junior high so we knew we had an opportunity before he got in high school.”
He began the interview process at a school in Tucson and was in the final stages of interviewing for a job at Lincoln Pius X. Additionally, he had looked at moving to Ohio and all the way to Europe.
“I was doing all that and one day God and (St. Patrick Superintendent) Kevin Dodson talked with me about staying here,” Irish said. “There were so many signs along the way and I prayed and asked God, ‘Am I where I’m supposed to be?’”
Leaving Lincoln Elementary, Irish said, is bittersweet.
“I love the community here,” Irish said. “We’ve built such a strong base of community involvement and the personal relationships with the kids and the families, that makes it hard.”
Irish graduated from St. Patrick in 1991 and his family has a longtime legacy at the school.
“One interesting fact is when my daughter graduated, I graduated 25 years before her, my mom graduated 25 years before me, my grandmother graduated 25 years before her,” Irish said. “We had four generations graduating every 25 years from there, so it’s a very special connection.”
He said he is excited about the new job.
“At first I was nervous and apprehensive because you’re not really sure if this is what God truly wants you to do,” Irish said. “It’s moving from two very different worlds — from elementary to high school, but also from public to faith-based education.”
Irish has been an elementary principal for North Platte Public Schools for 15 years and before that served as principal at Adams Middle School. He is a deacon at St. Patrick Parish.