by Stephen Fujii, in partnership with Matthew Montgomery, Ph.D., Superintendent of Revere Local Schools
Revere Local School District (Revere) boasts a strong history of academic excellence. With four schools and one preschool, Revere serves approximately 2,800 students and attributes their success to their student-centered approach and strong relationship with community members. The district leadership team is working with the community to develop a Portrait of a Graduate and articulate the competencies necessary for all students to thrive.
The Vision of a Minuteman will be the first step of Revere's strategic planning process. This critical step called for close collaboration between the district and the broader community. As the previous strategic plan was sunsetting, the district wanted to ensure the new strategic plan would center on the 21st century learning experiences to prepare their students to become leaders in a rapidly changing and complex world. Both district and community stakeholders were poised to engage in purposeful conversations with stakeholders as they collectively designed the Vision of a Minuteman that would steer the district's work moving forward. Throughout the process, students have provided a critical voice as they advocate for their education.
Revere's superintendent, Dr. Matthew Montgomery, understood the importance of engaging with the community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social justice resurgence. The Vision of a Minuteman design process created a forum that catalyzed these critical and courageous conversations and channeled them into an exploration of the skills and competencies students needed to navigate the realities of today and tomorrow. At times of political strife, misinformation, public health crises, it was paramount to bring the community together in service of students. More importantly, the Design Team meetings centered on asking themselves: how can our schools prepare Revere students to become leaders who tackle our society's challenges?
Community engagement done well allows for the democratization of voice and invites a diverse group of community perspectives to elevate the needs of different stakeholders. Leadership at Revere intentionally established a Design Team that represented a cross-section of their community—students, parents, educators, administrators, business leaders, and community leaders. Each Design Team meeting was formulated to ensure all stakeholder groups contributed to the Vision of a Minuteman in a meaningful way. The overall goal was to empower Design Team members—to become change agents within the education system.
"The community is important, and we should work with people from all over the school and community—students, bus drivers, and even the administration," explained Portrait Design Team member and high school student Elisha Dennis-Brinson. "Leaders should always be willing to listen to the people around them."
Revere students played a strong leadership role in the development of the Vision of a Minuteman. They are, after all, the central focus of the Vision of a Minuteman. Young people are positioned to lead and take action on our society's critical challenges—they are passionate about equity, empathy, and diverse views as the pandemic has deeply impacted them.
Dr. Montgomery affirms that "it was inspirational for stakeholders to hear student leaders speak to the future of their school." Student discussions were rich and robust because students were keenly aware of what they needed.
Middle school student Avery Stein said, "Being part of this group, I'm able to talk […] about what I think needs to be changed and what the student body as a whole wants for the future." Students focused on the importance of finding their voice and building their confidence to become leaders in their community. As stakeholders weighed different considerations and decisions, they relied on students' voices as a litmus test. Giving students a voice is empowering.
Mr. Dennis-Brinson shared that he felt "proud to be able to share from my perspective and see my ideas be taken into consideration by creating a discussion on how we as a school can improve." As a result, the Vision of a Minuteman articulates that Revere students embody empathy and confidence, which students had advocated early in the process.
Student participation in the Design Team allowed them to model agency. Ms. Stein explains that "being 14, I didn't think I would play a part in how I can change my future, but my voice is being heard. I'm able to talk to principals, teachers, and people who are working in the schools. They want to know my opinions and they want to know the pros and the cons and what I think could shape a better future."
Outside the Design Team, students further demonstrated their investment in this vision that would guide their future and their peers' future. Students interviewed Dr. Montgomery and collaborated with Battelle for Kids to write a story on the Vision of the Minuteman, which will be featured in the student newspaper, the Lantern. This initiative demonstrates that they want to advocate and raise awareness of this important endeavor.
The Vision of a Minuteman precedes the upcoming strategic planning process, where students and other stakeholders will continue to play a leadership role. District and community stakeholders will develop a strategic plan that sets forth bold strategies and measurable objectives that will bring the Vision of a Minuteman to life. This process will be founded on quality stakeholder engagement, unity of voice, and ensuring the broader community is invested and committed to student success.
Dr. Montgomery's aspiration is, "all stakeholders in the community live the Vision of a Minuteman every day, spurring meaningful change, helping students find their voice, and preparing them to become the leaders of the future.