New assistant principal calls for stability, racial equity at Turners Falls High School, Great Falls Middle School

  • KOTRIGHT

  • Joey Kotright, new assistant principal at Turners Falls High School and Great Falls Middle School, hopes that his perspective, as someone of full Puerto Rican heritage, can bring some diversity to Turners Falls. “It’s not just about being an educational leader, it’s about being a brown educational leader,” Kotright says. “It’s almost all of who I am.” Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 8/2/2021 3:56:22 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Growing up in The Bronx, Joey Kotright said his personal life involved “a lot of trials and tribulations.” Throughout these struggles, though, he’s always felt an incentive to convert his experiences into resources that benefit his community.

“I come from a long line of mentors that teach me to throw the rope back,” he said.

That’s just what Kotright plans to do in his newest role as assistant principal at Turners Falls High School and Great Falls Middle School.

Kotright, a Shelburne Falls resident, joins new Principal Christopher Barnes to fill vacancies left by Assistant Principal Tom Gaffigan and Principal Joanne Menard, respectively. A longtime associate of current Gill-Montague Regional School District Superintendent Brian Beck, Kotright looks to bring decades of educational experience and local involvement to the school system. Perhaps most importantly, he hopes his individual experience as a person of color can bring a necessary perspective to the community.

Since getting married and moving to the hilltowns, Kotright has worked at schools in Chicopee and Holyoke, as well as at Mohawk Trail Regional School in Buckland, where he served as assistant principal under then-Principal Brian Beck. His most recent job was as assistant principal and dean of students for ninth and 10th grades at Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School in Chicopee.

Now, having started in his new role on July 12, Kotright said his priority at Turners Falls High School and Great Falls Middle School is to “stabilize leadership, build trust, and prove that we’re here and not leaving” in a school district that has recently dealt with “a lot of transitions.”

“The big draw was coming close to home,” Kotright said. “While I love the diversity in Chicopee and Holyoke, this is where I live and breathe.”

Following years of diversity bringing him perspective, Kotright, who is of full Puerto Rican heritage, hopes that his perspective can bring some diversity to Turners Falls.

“It’s not just about being an educational leader, it’s about being a brown educational leader,” Kotright said. “It’s almost all of who I am. I didn’t break these barriers just because I can. ... There’s systemic flaws that we have to start thinking about.”

Kotright said there is work to be done in terms of pursuing equity in the community. Last year, he led a Black Lives Matter protest in Shelburne Falls following the death of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. More recently, he’s observed patterns of poverty and cultural disparity in the school community. He remains optimistic, however, that he can make a difference with new Principal Barnes by his side.

“I think we’re humble enough to know where we have to do work,” Kotright said. “We have all the makings of a powerful team.”

Kotright said he and Barnes complement each other well, with Barnes excelling in executive, educational and disciplinary work, and himself having formed a strong relationship with the community and the facility. He said the common denominator between them is their passion.

“We come from the heart,” Kotright said, “and lead with strong work ethic.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.




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