By Madison Friend
WORCESTER – Cotey Collins is no stranger to politics.
“This past summer, I volunteered on Jeff McCormick’s campaign for Governor [by] collecting signatures,” said Collins. “My hobbies are studying statutory law and the political processes of this country.”
Even so, it’s highly unusual to see an 18-year old – Collins is a senior at Worcester Technical High School – run for one of five school board seats in the upcoming city election. Collins’ campaign platform hinges on what he perceives as public dissatisfaction with the way that Superintendent Melinda Boone has handled the recent bouts of violence at North High School.
Boone has faced criticism from teachers, students, and community members alike for her plans to combat violence at the school, which include constant video surveillance by the Worcester Police Department, as well as an increased police presence on-campus.
Other measures include reducing the length of teacher lunch periods from 30 to 20 minutes in order to accommodate a new student lunch period that will reduce the number of students in the cafeteria at any given time.
Local organizations like the YWCA and Black Clergy Alliance have expressed support for many of Boone’s actions, condemning those they claim are only using the situation for political purposes. But even her supporters have misgivings about the on-campus police presence.
Joyce McNickles, former North High School teacher and co-chair of the YWCA Racial Justice Task Force, told the Telegram & Gazette, “Research has shown that the more encounters young people have with the police, the more opportunities for unnecessary arrests and involvement with the juvenile justice system.”
They have requested that trained parent liaisons be utilized over police officers at the school.
Collins has drafted his own safety plan for the entire Worcester Public School System. While he won’t reveal the details of that plan at this time, he’s scheduled to meet with Worcester Public School’s Safety Liaison rep Robert Pezzella, where the two will review a draft of Collins’ plan and discuss the possibility of setting up a public forum in which to discuss it.
His plan emphasizes the issue of gang involvement at North High, and would involve the amendment of laws that Collins feels makes it difficult to suspend or expel those students that disrupt the learning environment.
Collins believes that Boone’s employment contract was extended prematurely, before the effectiveness of the safety measures she authorized at North High could be addressed. He told the Telegram & Gazette that if elected, he plans to ask Dr. Boone to resign.
“Under the leadership of Dr. Boone, there’s no such thing as accountability, only excuses,” said Collins. “If elected to the School Committee, I will act responsibly and quickly to [address] any major issue the School Committee may face in the future.”
A primary election will take place on September 8, and the general election on November 3.
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