Earl Cooper: Years of Service to HCS
May 9, 2018
(HOOVER) - If journalists craft the “first rough draft of history,” elected/appointed officials stand among those making that history; knowledge which eventually becomes the lore of our time. For school board members like Earl Cooper - himself a student of history - helping write the story of Hoover City Schools through his service has been an “honor.”
Cooper completes his second and final term on the Hoover Board of Education in May 2018. As his time draws to an end, he reflects on his ten years as a board member and his general involvement with the city he calls home.
“We are great simply because we have great people across our community and in our schools,” Cooper said. “From community volunteers helping schools to my fellow Board members and the superintendent and her support staff, to the administrators, and especially the classroom teachers; we are very blessed.”
Cooper was involved with the Hoover City Schools Foundation prior to seeking appointment to the Board of Education. His wife, Kay, taught at South Shades Elementary School at the time and his children, Erin and Christian, were in Hoover schools. He says he was ‘...asked by a number of people’ to consider the opportunity.” Not for the faint of heart, Cooper quickly learned that school board members must continually make decisions in the context of “what’s best for all students” - setting aside personal agendas.
“As a Board member, you may have a little more information than most of the constituents you serve. But I tried to consistently realize that as a Board member I had no authority to make decisions unless the Board is in session. Most items of general concern regarding the school district are operational issues. As difficult as it can be as a Board member, I often offered thoughts to fellow Board members and the superintendent, but it was not my job to ‘fix’ operational issues; that responsibility belongs to the superintendent. Board responsibilities are about policy, not operations.”
Operationally, Hoover City Schools proves a complex beast. It’s a multi-million dollar operation with high levels of diversity, growth, and change. Woven into a city with outstanding services including police and fire protection, Cooper reminds everyone of the intrinsic connection between a community and its schools.
“I believe the quality of the school district is the most important contribution to Hoover residents because it impacts all residences and businesses from the lives of people’s children long term to property values to retail business. But, the continued success of our school district remains consistently vulnerable to impacts from city growth, changes in the economy and political maneuvering at the local, state and federal levels.”
For Cooper, helping engineer the strategic direction for an operation such as HCS falls well within his wheelhouse. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, he’s had global active duty tours including Korea. He’s a retired Lieutenant Colonel with more than twenty-five years of experience. In the private sector, Cooper managed many initiatives for Alabama Power. Those experiences eventually coalesced into skill sets he adapted for the Board.
Among lessons learned - study hard, seek your own answers, and trust those responsible for making decisions.
“I quickly learned how important it was for me and my fellow Board members to support the superintendent. Never publicly embarrass the superintendent or fellow Board members by comments or questions that should have been previously addressed. No one ever has all the facts. There are always many sides to every situation. We have very competent, trusting people across the district who are consistently trying to do the right things.”
What’s next for Earl Cooper? Perhaps a brief period of rest - and of course family time. Especially with his newest addition to the family - granddaughter Margaret Helton. As that chapter begins, Cooper offers food for thought aimed at those seeking similar leadership roles with the Board.
“Pursue the many opportunities to learn from training and from fellow Board members. Enjoy the personal satisfaction that comes from giving back freely and making a difference in the lives and futures of our children,” Cooper said. “It has been an honor to serve our community and especially its children. I believe I have made a difference which was my sole goal in initially deciding to serve.”