Whelan School Welcomes New Faces to Their Administration Team

By Melissa Moore-Randall

As the almost 800 students at the A.C. Whelan School began their new school year in August, they were greeted by a brand new administrative team.  Over the summer, the district transformed the team with the additions of Principal Andre Pelletier, and Assistant Principals Brian Stanley and Rachel Shanley to the school community.

Principal Andre Pelletier came to Revere after 14 years teaching Kindergarten, first and second grade in public and private schools in the Greater Boston area and Denver. He eventually became an Assistant Principal in Lexington where he worked for five years before starting his tenure at the Whelan last summer.

Pelletier grew up in Connecticut with his parents and sister.  “We always lived very close to my grandparents while I was growing up, and they were a big part of my childhood. My grandmother was even my Gym teacher!. I played lots of sports as a kid including baseball, basketball, tennis and lots and lots of soccer. My Dad was my soccer coach in high school before I went to Tufts University which is what brought me up to the Boston area. I live in Somerville now, about 2 miles from the Tufts campus, with my wife, Andrea, our two boys, Colin and Levi, and our two dogs, Kendall and Boulder.”

Pelletier’s background initially was not in education. He studied Environmental Engineering at Tufts. “I always coached kids at soccer camps and took care of my younger cousins in the summers. I worked for about 10 months as an Environmental Consultant before realizing how much I preferred running around with and helping kids. So less than a year after graduating I found myself back at Tufts as a graduate student studying Elementary Education which was 20 years ago.”

His decision to come to Revere Public Schools stemmed from his friendship with Donna Bonarrigo, the Principal at the Paul Revere School. “Donna was my Principal/Leadership partner in Lexington, and since she moved over to Revere 4 years ago she has raved to me about the commitment and collaboration she’s experienced here. When she and I started in Lexington, we shared with our school community that one of our goals was to make our “big” school (it had 500 kids) feel small  to focus on building connections and relationships with everybody who was a part of our school community. Joining the Whelan community was an opportunity to lean into that kind of work in an even bigger way. And after meeting Brian and Rachel, it was clear that we all share that focus, and were excited to bring our extensive, collective elementary experiences to the school. I also see a lot of similarities between Whelan and the school my two boys go to in Somerville, the East Somerville Community School. I was intrigued by the prospect of bringing my parental lens to work.”

When asked about becoming a new principal in a large school after a year of remote learning, Pelletier said, “I see/saw the return to school after remote learning as a huge opportunity.  If the past 18 months have proved anything to us, it’s the importance of care and connections, and starting new somewhere is all about establishing a caring and connected environment. While it’s true that Whelan is bigger than any school I’ve worked in before, I see it as just way more opportunities to establish relationships which are really the key to helping kids and families feel comfortable being back in our building.”

Along with Pelletier, Whelan welcomed two new Assistant Principals this year, Brian Stanley and Rachel Shanley, creating a brand new administrative team for the school. Principal Pelletier had nothing but praise for his two assistants. “It’s awesome. They are amazing, and I tell them that everyday. I feel very lucky to have their perspectives to lean on as two people who are very familiar with our district. I also think it’s great to have pretty expansive elementary school experiences within our leadership team, and I hope that we bring lots of relevant ideas to the table as we look to support our staff, kids and families.“ He also expressed his excitement about being part of the Whelan community. “I enjoy the people, whether they are five or 55. The thing I value most about working in schools is that they are only as good as the relationships you have within them, and I have really enjoyed learning about our teachers, our kids, and our families.”

As with any new position, there have been challenges. “I think the things that have been the most challenging can also be reframed as the most exciting, which is the fact that we have a completely new leadership team.  We are learning a lot right now! Learning new things, as we all know, can be very scary, but it is also exciting because every new piece of information seems to spark intriguing ideas and possibilities!”

Pelletier is certainly enjoying his new role. “I do really appreciate that lots of kids recognize me around the building. I think that’s important , not in an “I’m important, so everybody needs to recognize me” way, but because it means kids are familiar with me.  When they wave and say hi it means that I’m one more connection in the school that they feel comfortable with. Now I’ll just have to make sure I know all of their names.”

Assistant Principal Brian Stanley returned to the district this year after working in Woburn as an Assistant Principal. Brian was born and raised in New Haven, CT. “I am a third generation educator. My grandmother was a preschool teacher and my mom was a high school business education teacher.”

Stanley earned his undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and graduate degree in Moderate Special Needs from Boston College.  “During my master’s program, I was a member of the Donovan Urban Teaching Scholars Program, focusing on how to meet the needs of students within urban education. At Boston College, I had the opportunity to participate in several service opportunities focused around education. In 2017, I received my CAGS in Educational Leadership from UMASS Boston.”

In 2012, he started teaching in Revere at the Lincoln, McKinley, and Hill Schools as a fourth and third grade teacher.  He also worked for two years as a Consulting Teacher in the Colleague to Colleague program which provides one-on-one peer coaching around goal(s) set by the partnering teacher. He left Revere last year and took a position in Woburn as an Assistant Principal in an elementary school.

Stanley said his decision to leave the classroom was based on many factors. “ Being a former learning coach, I really saw myself wanting to continue to support teachers as they grow in their practice through collaboration and classroom visits.  As an assistant principal, I really enjoy being able to build connections with students during lunch, etc.  and to capitalize on those relationships.”

When the Assistant Principal position became available at the Whelan School, he decided to apply and try to return to the district. “As a Consulting Teacher, I worked with several teachers at the Whelan School and was always impressed by their dedication to their students.  Decisions were always made around what is best for students.”

Stanley sees collaboration as how his new administrative team is making it work at the Whelan. “ I really appreciate our collaborative work. We all strive to listen to not only one another but staff, students, and families as a whole to gain greater perspective and grow in our roles.  We are all reflective in nature and strive to make decisions that are centered around what is best for our students.  We also share a commitment to distributive leadership.”

Since coming to the Whelan he has really enjoyed getting to know the students and staff at the Whelan.  “I really enjoy building connections with students at lunch whether it is talking about our favorite types of pupusas or weekend plans. It has been wonderful to build relationships with students outside of academics.”

However,  there have been challenges. “ Being that we are an all new administrative team, some of the biggest challenges have been more logistical, such as the procedure for Picture Day.  Luckily we have many supportive staff members who have shared past practices and an extremely flexible team of staff overall. However,  I really appreciated how several fifth graders in Ms. Johnson’s class took it upon themselves to create a video introducing the new administrative team.   This came about because students had difficulty differentiating amongst the new admin team.  Three students came together to video each of us (with interview questions) and edited the recordings to create one video.  Students came together, advocated to solve a problem, and solved it!  This is what I hope to see continue at the Whelan, students collaborating to help strengthen our school community.”

The second addition to the Whelan School’s AP staff is longtime RPS teacher Rachel Shanley. Of the three administrators, Shanley’s Revere roots run deep. “I grew up in Revere and attended the Revere Public Schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. I attended Lincoln School from K-8 and then Revere High School. I am the middle child of three siblings. My family also attended Revere Public Schools and is deep-rooted in the Revere community. I am the proud mom of three boys who also attend Revere Public Schools. After graduating from Revere High School, I attended UMass Amherst where I focused my studies on Early Childhood Education and Sociology graduating in 1996. I attended Salem State University for a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education graduating in 1998. Most recently in 2021,  I earned a CAGS from Salem State University in School Leadership. Through my experiences both as an educator and my personal life, I have three core values:  courage, connections and collaboration.”

Like her fellow Assistant Principal, Shanley also has had a long and successful teaching career in Revere. “Shortly after graduating from UMass Amherst, I began teaching second grade at the McKinley School. I taught there in both first and second grade for eight years and also taught for a year at the Beachmont School. I also taught second grade at the Abraham Lincoln School for nine years. At all three of these elementary schools, I am proud of the meaningful relationships I built with others. Each school community I have been part of, I have felt a familial connection. I am so grateful for the meaningful relationships I have made along the way. I look forward to continuing my journey!”

Last summer, with almost 20 years of teaching experience, Rachel felt ready for a change. “Over the past few years, I had taken on more leadership roles and found myself torn between leadership and teaching. I will always consider myself a teacher first and foremost. During my coursework in leadership, I became very interested in family engagement in schools and also providing teachers with support they need. My hope at Whelan is to support these teachers to grow their practice and build a culture of positivity and collaboration.”

The majority of Rachel’s teaching experience was within Revere’s smaller schools. When asked about making the change to the Whelan, she remarked, “I was interested in the challenge of joining a leadership team in a large building. Much of my work this year will be spent on building and strengthening the school culture that exists at the Whelan.”

Like Stanley, Rachel says collaboration is the key to making her new administrative team tick. “Brian, Andre and I collaborate daily. We bounce ideas off of each other. Fortunately, we are all passionate about brainstorming, often thinking outside the box to find creative solutions to issues that come up. I am comfortable to lean on both Andre and Brian for support. We have a unique situation at Whelan since we are a brand new leadership team. We are learning together every day.”

Despite some jitters about her new role, Rachel has really been enjoying her new position. “I have enjoyed so many things about being the new Assistant Principal at Whelan. Getting to know students and families has been one of the most enjoyable aspects for me. Visiting classrooms and getting to see the Whelan teachers and students learning and growing together has been amazing. One of the biggest challenges I have experienced is literally running out of time each day. Visiting classrooms is my top priority. I hope in the future to be able to join in on more professional learning groups to meet and support grade level teams.”

When asked what has been her most memorable moments as the new Assistant Principal, Rachel added, “One of my favorite parts of my day is greeting students and families each morning. I can’t think of a better way to begin each day. Seeing smiling students walking through the main doors of the building is wonderful. One “memorable” moment was when a group of 5th graders interviewed Andre, Brian and I. It was fun and we had a lot of laughs during the interview. I love that students took the lead on this project and got to share the end result with all of the students and teachers to enjoy.”

Shanley is looking forward to building meaningful connections with everyone including  families, students, teachers, office staff, cafeteria workers, custodians, nurses and substitute teachers. She knows it takes many, many people to build a school community that is successful. “I look forward to leading with courage, connecting with students, families and colleagues and collaborating with colleagues to encourage growth for all students at Whelan.”

Superintendent Dianne Kelly is excited about her new administrative team at one of the city’s largest schools. “We are really excited to have our new administrative team on board and to have been able to expand that team to include a third member.  Brian and Rachel are well known to us with decades spent as our colleagues.  We know they are both amazing educators and will work well with parents and staff to ensure all students have what they need. Although André is new to the Revere community, his educational focus is also centered on student needs.  We feel his approach to inclusivity and leadership will enable staff to participate in decision making so the mission and vision of the Whelan school can be realized.  It has been a tough couple of years but we feel this change in leadership will mark a new beginning and renewed focus on the best possible outcomes for kids.”

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