Marco C. Rodrigues officially began his role as interim superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools yesterday [Tuesday, Dec. 1]. He replaced Melinda J. Boone, who took the helm of the Norfolk (Virginia) Public Schools.
Perhaps the most contentious issues Rodrigues will immediately be faced with are school safety and the role of Worcester Police Department school resource officers.
Officers were placed in schools in the spring in response to an increase in fighting. In August, Boone, Mayor Joseph M. Petty, City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. and Police Chief Gary Gemme announced an expansion of the resource officer program. There are now seven officers, five at high schools and two in junior high schools.
The issue took center stage again when 66 people signed a petition that reads, in part, “We request the Worcester City Council to adopt the policy that the City of Worcester should not arrest children at school unless there is a clear and immediate danger.”
The petition was on the agenda at last night’s City Council meeting.
Tomorrow Rodrigues will give his first report to the School Committee and has prepared an entry plan.
Rodrigues writes that one of his goals is to, “build on School Safety practices that encourage a respectful, positive climate and culture.” To that end he lists as his first two steps:
“Create a Safety Advisory Committee (secondary, middle, elementary school principals, School Resource Officers, Worcester Juvenile Court, School Safety Liaison, Chief Financial/Operations Officer, Child Study, teachers)
“Develop training for School Administrators and Police Officers to support the School Resource Officer Model”
We believe the petition and the entry plan are positive developments to the extent both appear to acknowledge the need and public’s desire for school resource officers.
In our view, the petition goes too far in limiting school resource officers, but this will be debated in the coming weeks and months. What apparently won’t be debated is whether the police should have a presence in the schools.
This allows the city and schools to move forward, and because of that this is a win for Worcester.