During the day, Nick and Rebekah deVries enjoy their day jobs, but when the clock strikes 5 p.m., they turn their focus to the students in their community. This husband-wife duo serves on charter school boards at Innocademy and iCademy Global. The decision to serve was an easy one for them. Nick has been a school board member since the beginning of Innocademy while Rebekah joined the board of iCademy Global when her daughter began attending.
Before Innocademy was a charter school, the school was a magnet school of Zeeland Public Schools. All the deVries children attended school here, so when the switch came in spring of 2012, it was natural for Nick to support from a Board position. In a matter of months the team obtained the charter, found a building, hired the teachers and got everything ready for students to have a comfortable learning space in the fall.
Rebekah watched the amazing work Nick had done as a PSA board member, which only made the decision to join iCademy’s board easier.
I was excited to have Nick on the [school] board because he’s a really good leader and he can do strategic planning really well. When our daughter was 12, she was ready to start high school, but she was too young to start at the traditional high school. My underlying passion is for kids to have access to a quality of education despite age, sex, gender, or any demographics. I knew I had to do something.”
- Rebekah deVries
As board members, Nick and Rebekah are heavily involved in making decisions around budgets and curriculum in addition to ensuring that each school’s vision is clear and implemented fully. But it extends further than that at these schools.
Both our schools are teacher-led schools. We want to make [board meetings] a collaborative space. We rarely make decisions without significant teacher input. The decisions boards make are very high level. When we bring in the teachers, we make decisions like creating an outdoor education space. Then we they [teachers] make decisions about how to incorporate that space into our curriculum so that it can be used for all subject areas. Or whether we wanted to do Spanish immersion classes. Teachers are some of the smartest people and so often they’re told what to do instead of being given the freedom to do what they do best. It is our job to create the environment in which their ideas can flourish.”
- Nick deVries
One of the best parts of being both married and on the school boards is being able to support each other. Both Nick and Rebekah have grown past the initial concerns of where to draw the line about school board conversations at home. Now, though, they say it’s nice to have someone to talk to who understands this volunteer position. Rebekah is especially appreciative of having Nick there to talk her through some of the tougher situations that arise.
All but one of their children have moved out of the Innocademy and iCademy schools, but both Nick and Rebekah choose to stay on their respective school boards. Rebekah’s passion for creating immersive and positive learning environments for all students - not just the ones who come from her home - has kept her as a decision maker at iCademy Global.
Nick doesn’t plan to leave his school any time soon, but wants to encourage people to be involved in school boards.
Innovation doesn't come easy for like-minded people. To have a diverse board and have new blood is important. For people to join a board and contribute new and creative ideas is important. I’ve been here a long time. Sometimes I am part of the problem when we’re stuck. One of the ways to deal with that is to bring in new people. Our schools are growing our future, this is important work.”
- Nick deVries
We need voices like yours on charter boards!
Michigan charters are facing a board member shortage, and we need passionate community members to help support our schools