As a student walked through the halls of Revere High School (RHS) recently, Principal Lourenco Garcia put down his hand-held radio and discreetly told the young man to take his hood off.
One student later, he was questioning where the student ID was at.
Other students might have been too loud and others might have been running a little fast.
Each was corrected.
Less than an hour later, Garcia was smiling and (almost) dancing with those same students he had just corrected while a full band played a concert for the entire student body.
In the middle of the gym floor, students began to congregate and dance in a circle. It was enough to make any high school administrator a little nervous, a little concerned, but Garcia let the fun continue.
“I trust them,” he said.
The year 2014 has been a banner year for the Revere High School, winning the NCUST best urban high school award – among many other accolades, but it has also been a year where the incredible environment Garcia has helped create has shone through.
For the awards and the overall environment Garcia has fostered at Revere High School, he has been named the Revere Journal’s Man of the Year.
“On the one hand you want kids to be prepared when they go for a job,” Garcia said in a recent interview. “You want the kids to know how to present themselves to an employer. They expect a person to be properly dressed and to embrace a culture of high accountability and expectations, but they don’t want to oppress a person either. It’s drawing on the same model. We want high expectations and standards, absolutely. They have to be properly dressed and respect their colleagues and teachers. We also want to develop a culture that bridges the cultural divide between faculty and students.
“The concerts we have had are a perfect example,” he continued. “It’s one way of teaching kids we have high expectations for them, but we also want them to have fun and we trust them to have fun. Social and cultural development is critical for the development of a child. You can’t just demand, demand, demand and have nothing for them to enjoy…You have to trust they’ll do the right thing. That trust relationship is important.”
That trust relationship between Garcia, the staff and the students is, likely, one of the things that has been key to what has been an extraordinary year for RHS.
It can’t be overstated that the City’s high school is the best urban high school in America.
It is a fact; very intelligent people from thousands of miles away in San Diego travelled all the way here in May to proclaim the fact. They wouldn’t do that for a phantom, for nothing.
Anyone who has spent any amount of time there could easily tell you it is not hard to see why it is the best school.
When the NCUST team came in to evaluate the school last year prior to RHS winning the award, they were blown away by the relationships that students and teachers shared. They were blown away by the order that is kept in a racial, ethnic, linguistic and economic melting pot like RHS. They were blown away by the seriousness of the students. They were blown away by the many pieces of the RHS puzzle that fit together to make a winning combination.
Part of that groundwork was in place before Garcia arrived from Brockton five years ago.
However, almost immediately after arriving, he would propose and bring to a vote controversial and sweeping changes.
One of those changes was the block schedule that changed the way time and the school day are approached at RHS. Garcia allowed teachers to vote on it, and it just barely passed. Now, it has become the backbone of the successes. In 2014, that gutsy change paid dividends.
“I gave the faculty a choice to choose or refute it,” he said. “They chose it. You can go around now and ask people whether it was the right choice and they would tell you they have fallen in love with it. If you were to tell people here that you were taking the block schedule away now, there would be a revolution in this place. No one now wants to go back.”
It was, he said, one of the major reasons that the high school took the step from being a very good high school to the best high school.
Other changes that blossomed in 2014 were advisory periods, the Freshman Academy, the JROTC program, the student iPad program and teacher professional learning time.
Garcia has also faced a tremendous amount of obstacles in 2014, as the district has grown poorer, transiency has increased and the numbers of students have increased.
“All of these things did not prevent us from getting where we want to go – to a system that is accountable, reliable and student-centered,” he said.
The bottom line is that Garcia understands his teachers, and he also understands the kids that come through the doors. His teachers have a willing ear to listen to them when they have concerns. His students find someone who demands proper behavior, but isn’t afraid to reward them for a job well done. His students do not tend to fall through the cracks.
No one is left behind at Revere High, unless that is just where they choose to be.
He has found a formula for success in a challenging urban environment, and we commend him for not only the system, but how he has seen fit to implement it in a very human way.
“What we’re doing is putting in place the right structures and supporting the teacher’s needs,” he said. “Our kids come and are happy. Every school needs a structure in place and a faculty willing to entertain reforms and that is not afraid to fail and learn from failure. We don’t have a high turnover rate; teachers want to be here and kids want to be here. Revere High is a place people want to be.”