County schools chief named

December 14, 2011

By ERIC STEINKOPFF - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Henry County School Board on Tuesday hired Dr. Jared A. Cotton of Virginia Beach as its new superintendent of schools.

Cotton, 41, will begin the job Jan. 17. His contract will run about three and a half years, from Jan. 17, 2012, to June 30, 2015.

About 30 people attended a special school board meeting Tuesday in which Cotton, an associate superintendent for education leadership and assessment for Virginia Beach City Schools, was appointed superintendent.

School board Chairman Kathy Rogers and Cotton both signed his contract, which includes a salary of $130,000 per year, $12,000 annuity or deferred compensation, $800 per month car allowance and reasonable moving expenses not to exceed $7,000.

“It’s official,” proclaimed Rogers, as people applauded.

“I’d like to welcome Dr. Cotton to Henry County, and I’m looking forward to getting to know him,” said school board member Joseph DeVault.

The board then adjourned, just five minutes into the special session.

Immediately after the meeting, Cotton explained his decision to move to Southside Virginia for the position.

“I was very impressed with the (Henry County) school system, the 21st century curriculum, student achievement and, honestly, I was very impressed with the school board,” he said.

According to a news release, Cotton has a doctorate and master’s degree from The George Washington University in Washington and a bachelor’s degree in middle education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk.

After the meeting, Cotton and his wife, Joanna, attended a reception in the lobby of the Henry County Administration building, where they were met by music from the Magna Vista High School choir and about 100 people eager to meet them.

Rogers introduced Cotton to the visitors, explaining that he comes to the area from a school system with about 69,000 students, about 15,000 employees and about 81 schools.

Cotton thanked the choir and said its presentation “was very moving.”

“First impressions are important,” he told the crowd. Henry County Schools is “a quality school system” and Cotton said he wants to be there for “our most important customer, our students.”

Cotton said he wants to be part of “reaching a new level of success.”

It was DeVault’s second time through the superintendent selection process, and he shared some of what goes into decisions such as Tuesday’s.

“We go through the Virginia School Boards Association,” DeVault said. The VSBA advertised the post nationally and screened applicants to “about 20 or so. We selected from that group the ones we wanted to interview.”

“We interviewed four finalists and narrowed it down to two,” Rogers said. “You kind of get to know someone” during the interview. “I liked” that Cotton “helped kids in the 21st century skills. Those are the soft skills they need,” such as technology in classrooms. Cotton also has worked “in a collaborative way with teachers, students and the community.”

According to school board member Rudy Law, Cotton’s “experience and his attitude” were key.

“We’re a real progressive school system in terms of technology in the curriculum,” Law said. “He was an excellent fit.”

Outgoing board member Charles Speakman added that Cotton “has the potential to be around for awhile,” which would be a plus.

“Dr. Cotton had done a lot of research on our school system” and thought “it was one of the best in the state,” DeVault said. “We feel very good about the selection. We feel we have a good man.”

Cotton has 20 years of experience in public education and has worked as a fifth-grade teacher, summer school coordinator for middle and high school, an instructional technology specialist, assistant principal at two elementary schools and a director of assessment and accountability with Chesapeake City Schools, the release said.

Since 2005, he has worked for Virginia Beach City Schools as an assistant superintendent for research, evaluation and assessment and in his current position, the release said.

It was too early to talk about specific projects Tuesday, but when he takes the helm Jan. 17, Cotton will be primarily on a fact-finding tour.

“I need to meet with the stakeholders,” and “I’m going to visit schools and meet with administrators,” he said. “Henry County already has many successes. I want to take it to the next level.”

Cotton also will work with acting Superintendent J. David Martin to ensure a smooth transition, the release said.

Martin, a former Henry County superintendent, has been in the interim position since July, when former superintendent Anthony Jackson left the system for North Carolina.

Jackson was superintendent in Henry County for two years. He started the job with a salary of $125,000 with an additional $5,000 when he got his doctorate, $10,000 contribution per year to an annuity or deferred compensation plan, and a $700 monthly car allowance and reimbursement for business travel outside the county, according to previous Bulletin reports.

According to Cotton, he and his wife plan to move to the area with their 15-year-old daughter, Michaela. Their 20-year-old son, William, likely will remain in southeastern Virginia, Cotton said.


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