Deniese Cooper

Position: Principal

School: Grove Street Elementary School

School District: Irvington Public Schools

City, State: Irvington, New Jersey

About the Nominee: Dr. Deniese Cooper was nominated by Diane Barnett. In addition to her exemplary educational background and experience, Dr. Cooper is best described as a phenomenal leader who, on a daily basis, reminds her staff and students that failure is not an option. In return for her support, resourcefulness and vote of confidence in her staff, Dr. Cooper mandates academic excellence for all students. She follows an individual growth model, and she is strategic and intentional in her actions as they pertain to student achievement and the quality of her staff. In all stakeholders, she has successfully instilled a desire to succeed and the urge to obtain their full potential. She genuinely believes that these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence and self-actualization.

Dr. Cooper is, without question, one of the most dedicated and competent instructional leaders one could ever meet. The professional development sessions she facilitates for her staff and protégés are encouraging, data-driven, research based and informative. While Dr. Cooper’s school leadership skills are exemplary, her contributions to the district do not stop in her school building. She has done outstanding work as an advisor and mentor to new principals and teacher leaders. She continues to be a trailblazer for her district's strategic vision. This effort facilitates staff buy-in, as well as noteworthy community and staff involvement. It has also led to a renewed vision and effort to improve student academic achievement.

Dr. Cooper's strong leadership skills have earned her a reputation as an educational professional who listens to and respects the voices and opinions of others. She is an outstanding communicator, both orally and through the written word. Dr. Cooper has a thorough knowledge and understanding of school finance, school law, curriculum, assessment, community engagement, special education and a plethora of policies and best practices. She does not hesitate to share her knowledge with stakeholders.

Dr. Cooper conducts herself with uncompromising integrity. Ms. Barnett states that over the years of being under her tutelage and working closely with her, Dr. Cooper continuously emphasizes the importance of making informed decisions in the best interest of all students. She reiterates the importance of making school experiences meaningful and enjoyable for all students. Along with a rigorous standards based curriculum, her students receive countless opportunities to participate in various school trips. Additionally, they enjoy performances each month from groups such as the African Dancers, the Travelling Animals and the Chinese Acrobats, to name a few.

It is common knowledge that the Grove Street School Community has become a significant component of Dr. Cooper's existence. Her level of dedication is unparalleled. She arrives at 6:45 am and often works until 10:00 pm. She is known as the Fearless Servant Leader Warrior because she allows nothing to get in her way as she serves her staff, scholars and all stakeholders in the Grove Street School Community.

Since her arrival at Grove Street School, stakeholders have witnessed a paradigm shift. Respect, hard work and accountability have all become deeply embedded in the espoused beliefs of all stakeholders. Noticeable changes include an 18 percent increase in student enrollment, an average monthly staff attendance of 97.2 percent, significant increase in student performance on state and district assessments, a warm and inviting school environment, the incessant thirst to build capacity and implement best practices, and the creation of a safe school environment where all stakeholders are seen as essential and valued members of the school community. The mantra of Grove Street School is as follows: “The Home of the Champions for Children where we teach and work as if our own children attend this school.” Dr. Deniese Cooper is truly the quintessential Champion for Children!

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