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Cook receives Kids First Award

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Taylor County School District Superintendent Roger D. Cook recently received this year's Kentucky School Boards Association's Kids First Award.

Cook, in his fourth year as superintendent at Taylor County School District, was recognized for the relationships he has built with legislators and his willingness to contact them in support of KSBA legislative concerns. He also is a member of the governor's Transforming Education Task Force. With his zero dropout policy, Cook most recently was a supporter of raising the state's dropout age to 18.

Cook's dedication to children is exemplified through his actions:

He implemented the state's only pre-kindergarten through high school senior year performance-based education campus.

He has seen zero dropouts in his districts for eight consecutive years and donated a vehicle to a graduating senior for 18 years.

He began the Taylor County Schools iPad initiative and his district was named one of four Districts of Innovation in Kentucky.

His district was the first in Kentucky to raise the dropout age from 16 to 18 and he began Cook's Kids program for at-risk students.

This is the 10th year the award has been given. Each year, KSBA gives the award to a superintendent, board member, state senator and state representative for exemplary work on the state or federal legislative levels on issues relating to public education in Kentucky.

The following is the nomination form as submitted:

"Roger Cook is, simply put, leadership in action. Mr. Cook has brought dynamic change to the district, starting from day one. During his first year as superintendent, Mr. Cook transformed our district into a performance-based educational system, challenged teachers and students to meet 21st century expectations with rigor and relevance, and spearheaded the effort to fund new, much-needed facilities.

"As an instructional leader, Mr. Cook is, more than anything, visible. He knows his teachers and the subjects they teach. He uses data collected from his regular walkthroughs of district buildings to guide decision-making and resource allocation. When he sees a need, he finds the means to create solutions.

"Additionally, Mr. Cook serves on the Governor's Education Task Force and the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative Board of Directors. His participation in these programs is most beneficial in ensuring that alignment of curriculum and policy benefits not only students and teachers, but also the education community at large.

"Dropping out is not an option. Mr. Cook personally counsels potential dropouts and their parents. The District has had a zero percent dropout rate for four years, Mr. Cook has had a zero percent dropout rate in his district for eight years.

"Mr. Cook is focusing on the future economic stability of our community. He has worked diligently to find ways to replace our buildings, one of which was built in 1939. He has included all stakeholders in the process. He will not stop the fight for new facilities and we are confident he will find a solution to our urgent needs.

"He isn't afraid to ask for help from other districts or expose our strengths and weaknesses so that we can target areas for improvement. He wants this district to succeed beyond all measure and serve as a model for others. Mr. Cook has led the Taylor County School District to become the only performance-based pre-kindergarten through 12 campus in the state. The district is now at the forefront of finding better ways to implement the rigorous curriculum expected with the adoption of common core state standards.

"Mr. Cook began the iPad Initiative at Taylor County High School, developed with Board support, and will utilize $500,000 to purchase 860 IPads to be used by students in the high school. In order to provide students with 24-hour access to their iPad, Mr. Cook developed a lease and insurance program where students could maintain control of their device and utilize it whenever they needed to.

"In order to provide equal opportunity for all students to participate in extra-curricular activities and show pride and support in their school, Mr. Cook eliminated the gate admission fee for all home football and basketball games.

"The key to being a successful leader is not just out of the box thinking, questioning norms, and giving employees the ability to improve processes, it should culminate in results."