By Seth Daniel
Barbara Kelly has been returning to Beachmont for years around the holidays, but never has she returned to the Beachmont School – which is just what she’ll do this year as she takes the reins of the Paul Revere School tomorrow, Aug. 27, on the district’s first day of school.
The Paul Revere School will be located in the Beachmont School for one more school year, until the new Paul Revere School is finished on Revere Street.
“I really feel like I’m coming back home again,” said the Beachmont native (whose maiden name is Penta, and who is the sister of former Ward 1 Councillor Richard Penta). “I feel like I went away and came back for Thanksgiving. I see a lot of people I graduated with that now work alongside me in the School Department.”
Kelly now lives in Lynn with her husband, Kevin, and spent the last 28 years in the Lynn School Department. She was the vice principal of the Ford School for the last 14 years. The Ford School, sadly, closed its doors last spring due to budget cuts after decades of service to that community.
“I never thought all this was possible when the Ford School closed,” she said. “They say a door closes. I felt like this was a sliding door and not a window that opened for me…When the opportunity came up, it felt like a perfect match.”
Kelly, who has three adult sons and eight grandchildren, attended the Mary T. Ronan School and the Julia Ward Howe School when she was growing up in Beachmont. She went to the Garfield School in ninth grade and then graduated from Revere High.
After college and a short stint at a nursery school on Winthrop Avenue, Kelly entered into the Lynn Schools.
Now, she’s come full circle and is ready to lead the Paul Revere School community.
However, she hasn’t been tapped to perform the typical principal duties.
The Paul Revere School got a state grant earlier this summer to become a Readiness School, which is simply an initiative that uses Charter School principles and applies them to a public school.
One of the main things is that union contracts are significantly altered for those in the building, and board of parents, teachers, administrator and community partners decide on the curriculum and character of the school.
So far, an interim Initial Technical Assistance Team of 12 people has been formed and they will pound out the specifics of the new Paul Revere governance board.
“I have all these different visions, but it can’t be my vision alone,” said Kelly. “It has to be a collaboration of visions from everyone on the panel that will shape how this school runs. That’s a lot different.”
Even the process of choosing Kelly was very different, as she was chosen from a panel of state and local education officials, as the new program requires a dynamic individual.
So far, it seems the Paul Revere has gotten that person. Kelly has already been beating the pavement on Revere Street for several weeks. One might mistake her for a political candidate rather than an enthusiastic principal.
“I’ve already been walking the Paul Revere streets,” she said. “I’ve visited the businesses from the Beach to the other end. I’m speechless so far with the reception I’ve gotten. The businesses are looking forward to the re-opening of the school and the kids coming back…I’m really looking to connect with the community. You need everyone. It builds that sense of pride that everybody is taking part in making these children successful.”
Additionally, she has reached out the Paul Revere House historic site in the North End of Boston. She said it would be a natural connection for the school – one of the few schools in America named for Paul Revere.
“They told me that we’re the only Paul Revere School other than one in California,” she said. “I would like to build a partnership with them. They do have an impersonator for Mr. and Mrs. Revere and maybe they’ll send them out for the Grand Opening of the school next year.”
Likewise, on her first week, she’ll be reading to the students from the poem ‘The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.’
One major goal for this year, she said, is to re-invigorate the Paul Revere Parent Teacher Organization – which has suffered with the move to Beachmont.
“I want to start doing home visits,” she said. “I’m going to have to start doing outreach to the parents. Whether it’s taking a trip to the Point of Pines or down to Revere Street, I’m willing to do that.”
Another thing that she will be bringing to the Paul Revere is Night School – which will be for parents and will focus on teaching English and U.S. Citizenship. Such a program at the Paul Revere was wildly popular with Italian immigrants nearly 100 years ago when they were assimilating into the Paul Revere community.
“If you educate the parents, you educate the kids too,” she said, noting that she spearheaded a similar program at the Ford School in Lynn. “I really want to bring that back to the Paul Revere. The culture is so diverse and I want to address that.”
And with Kelly, the ideas keep coming and the enthusiasm doesn’t stop quickly. Whether it’s discussing the continuation of the school’s veterans program or the implementation of a new partnership with NASA, the school is set for a reinvigoration.
Most importantly, though, as with former Paul Revere Principal Nick Quaratiello, Kelly said she wouldn’t be bound to her office.
“I will be out helping to teach lessons in the classroom frequently,” she said. “That’s what I love. I told everyone that I probably wouldn’t be using my office very much.”