Dr. Barbara Cooper takes helm at Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced the appointment of Dr. Barbara Cooper as secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (DECE), effective immediately.
The position was vacated effective June 1 by the retirement of longtime DECE Secretary Jeana Ross. Dr. Trellis Smith has been serving as acting secretary of the department since then.
According to a release from the governor’s office, Cooper brings significant experience and expertise to the role, and she has previously held senior level positions with both DECE and the Alabama State Department of Education.
“Dr. Barbara Cooper has spent her professional career dedicated to helping students achieve their greatest potential. She and I share the same goal, and that is to make Alabama a better place, which begins with our youngest citizens,” Ivey said in a statement.
The appointee has more than 30 years of education experience and most recently has served at DECE since 2018. She previously served as the department’s director of the Office of School Readiness and the Birth to Grade 12 advisor for the Ivey’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation. Notably, she was appointed by the Alabama State Board of Education to serve as the chief administrative officer during the Montgomery Public Schools intervention, where she worked to improve leadership and governance.
Additionally, Cooper’s administrative experience includes prior service as deputy state superintendent/chief academic officer of the Alabama State Department of Education, deputy superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, chief equity and engagement officer of Aurora Public Schools (Colorado) and a principal with Denver Public Schools. She has teaching experience ranging from elementary to teacher instruction.
“With her vast experience in various administrative positions, Dr. Cooper is more than qualified, and I have no doubt that she will continue the impressive work of the Department of Early Childhood Education. I am confident that Alabama will continue leading the nation with the best early childhood education system,” Ivey concluded.
Among other important programs, DECE runs Alabama’s world-class, voluntary First Class Pre-K program.
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) recently ranked First Class Pre-K as the nation’s highest quality state pre-kindergarten program for the 14th consecutive year.
Last year, a major study concluded that students who participate in the voluntary pre-k program are more likely to be proficient in math and reading, with no evidence of fade out of the benefits over time. These long-term results hold true even after the study controlled for student demographics and other variables such as poverty.
Cooper is currently in the process of earning a certificate in Early Education Leadership from Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She has a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and Innovation and a Master of Science in Administration, Supervision & Curriculum Development from the University of Colorado at Denver and a Bachelor of Science in Education from Western Illinois University.
“Education is the greatest profession and the work we do in our calling as educators will last beyond our lifetime,” Cooper stated. “I look forward to serving Alabama’s children and families for many years to come. I appreciate Governor Ivey’s confidence in selecting me to serve in this new capacity and I look forward to hitting the ground running.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn