By Brian Besch
The school board at Wills Point ISD held a meeting Monday to accept Corrigan-Camden superintendent Richard Cooper to the same position.
The search for a new superintendent at Wills Point continued for six months until they named Cooper the lone finalist a few weeks ago
“This was an opportunity that was too good to pass up,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the move will put him closer to family members, friends and his hometown. Wills Point is a Class 4A school with an enrollment of 778 students. By comparison, Corrigan-Camden recently dropped to Class 2A with 226 enrolled.
“I am very lucky to have been able to have been the superintendent of Corrigan-Camden ISD,” he said. “I am very proud of all the work that the teachers, administrators and students and parents have done here at Corrigan-Camden in the last three and a half years. We have improved academics, we have increased enrollment, we passed a bond to make improvements to our district’s campuses, and I will always have a place in my heart for Corrigan-Camden ISD and Polk County.”
Taking over in June of 2019, Cooper now has a quarter-century of experience in education, serving as an assistant principal, principal and superintendent. He is a graduate of Henderson High and Stephen F. Austin University, and was previously superintendent at both Kennard ISD and Garrison ISD.
Though many changes were made in Cooper’s short time on the north end of Polk County, the one he may be remembered for most was the switch to a four-day school week.
“We were on the pioneering edge of the four-day week,” he said. “A lot of folks said it wouldn’t work. Heck, not only did it work, it is very successful. It did exactly what we wanted. We are able to hire teachers, it improved our academics, we are able to keep teachers, and now the state is adding anywhere from 60-100 new districts a year to a four-day week. We weren’t the very first, but we were the first little handful. We are just excited that we could be on the forefront and the cutting edge of using that as a tool to improve education at our rural school.”
Cooper said many of the same challenges he faced in Corrigan await him at the new position.
“It’s a great school district that is in close proximity to larger suburban districts of Dallas, just like we are to Houston. Their academics have dipped, and they are trying to hire a new football coach and (athletic director). That is going to be one of the first things I do when I get there. The academics are not in dire straits, but they just need bolstering. They have had a couple of failed bond elections in the past.
“It is a great school district and there are great people there. There are just a few issues that need to be addressed and we are going to address them one at a time and get through it, just like we have done here. It is not going to happen overnight and it will take three or four years to check everything off the list. There are challenges, just like the superintendent that comes here. Even with all the work that we have done, there are still challenges here. Somebody is going to have to complete the bond sale and they have a big construction project ahead of them. There are challenges everywhere.”
Cooper has not suggested anyone to take his place as superintendent at Corrigan-Camden, but instead conveyed that he will be involved in the process as much or as little as the school board would like.
He recently had a conversation with someone, telling them that Corrigan Camden ISD is the job that has been most difficult to leave.
“This is a great place right here. Somebody is going to be very fortunate to get to be the next superintendent here, because this is a great place.”