If one had suggested to new Revere High School (RHS) Principal John Perella one year ago that he would be leading his hometown high school this school year, he would have thought it an impossibility.
But what seems impossible in life, many times, suddenly come to pass, and that’s just what has happened as Perella settles into his leading role at RHS, happy to be home in Revere and feeling an instant sense of connection with the students and the community.
“It’s a little surreal to be back,” he said. “Sometimes I have to remind myself I’m back home. Some things have changed dramatically and there are some things that really take me back…Overall, it feels great. I feel like I am where I should be. That’s a great feeling because I haven’t always felt that way in my career…Students are pretty much the same; kids are kids. They don’t change much. However, I really enjoy interacting with Revere students. Maybe it’s a shared experience. I’m not entirely sure yet, but I feel connected, and that’s very good.”
Former Principal Lourenco Garcia was promoted to the Central Office in the Revere Public Schools in June, and Perella was chosen for the new position soon after.
Perella, 47, took the reins of RHS over the summer after leading Medford High School for many years. That, however, was only a deviation from his Revere roots and his earlier career in Revere Public Schools.
Perella grew up on Proctor Avenue and attended the former Barrows School. He want to middle school at the Lincoln, and then to Malden Catholic High School. He attended UMass Amherst in college and came to Revere in 1997 to teach AP history. He was also the head soccer coach at Revere High for a time, and served as a dean (associate principal) at RHS over six years.
That’s when Medford came knocking, and while they did get Perella away from Revere for a while, it didn’t last forever.
The new principal comes into a high school he already knows well, having served for a long time with most of the Central Administration staff previously, as well as many of the faculty in the building. He also enters a high school that has been a model of urban education, and one that he said is working well.
“This is a very important position as principal of the high school, and not just for the school, but for the community as well,” he said. “Once you acknowledge that, it’s a huge weight. You represent a district, a community and thousands of students and parents…The first thing I’ll do is establish a trusting environment and culture. That’s the foundation of any good organization. That may already be in place, but it can always be strengthened. I’ll identify and understand the needs of the community, listen to the students and teachers, and then develop a strategic plan to get to the destination.”
One thing that he will also face is the prospect of building a new Revere High School, which will be front and center later this year when it comes before the state School Building Authority board once again. The RHS project has been deferred twice already, but it is expected that at some point it will be accepted. That time could very well be in Perella’s tenure.
“I do hope to be part of planning for that,” he said.
In doing so, Perella did say he had an interest in exploring the idea of bringing back vocational education, or Career Technical Education (CTE). He said that while in Medford they brought back nine CTE programs to the district, and saved about $1 million per year and gave students an option in their own city. Instead of going all the way to Minuteman Regional in Lexington, they could stay in Medford for the same programs.
“I’d like to see some CTE or vocational education brought back,” he said. “You have to plan and build for that. I think that’s a critical component of a community’s education. We ship students out for that now, but that comes with a price tag. Most schools are shifting and bringing some programs back…I hope to really push that.”
Additionally, he will also address with trying to increase sports participation amongst students, dealing with social media fallouts and keeping ahead of the current technology – whether that be with student cell phones or the latest in teaching tools.
But it comes down to an old fashioned community atmosphere, he said, and he hopes to bring that kind of atmosphere to parents as well – making them feel genuinely welcomed.
“I find that the best way to get parents involved is to make them feel comfortable,” he said. “You have to create a truly genuine and welcoming environment. You can pretend or fake it, but they have to feel it. If they feel important to what we do, they will be involved. If they don’t feel like a part of it, they won’t be involved.”