By providing for his students’ basic needs of food, clothing and social and emotional welfare and giving them academic opportunities that they would not otherwise have in their small rural community where more than 60% live in poverty, Dr. Cotton has inspired his students to have hope which has led to significant achievements. His leadership skills in communicating with parents and the public and his ability to forge partnerships with community organizations have allowed him to mobilize critical support for his students and engender in them the belief that they can be successful. As a result, Henry County school division has closed the performance gap between disadvantaged students and their peers in reading and math allowing all of the division’s Title I elementary schools to be fully accredited and significantly increasing the school division’s graduation rate.
Dr. Cotton has long been considered among Virginia educators and policymakers as a leader in the development and use of balanced assessments. He established this reputation as Associate Superintendent in Virginia Beach City Schools and solidified it with his work in impoverished Henry County where he helped his teachers and administrators to embrace new ways of thinking about how students can be taught and assessed.
With an emphasis on student engagement and deeper learning, he guided his division toward using more project-oriented and performance-based assessments that captured not just what his students knew, but how they applied their knowledge in a way that more clearly demonstrated their growth and proficiency and better prepared them for their futures. His school division is the first in the state to house two New Tech academies, which are part of a national network of schools that promote project-oriented teaching and learning.
Today, Henry County serves as a model in Virginia for the leadership and systemic changes that are needed to improve education. Dr. Cotton has been recognized for his efforts and has been appointed to statewide leadership roles such as the Chair of Governor’s Innovation Committee Assessment 2.0 Sub-Committee.
In presenting Dr. Cotton with the Virginia Superintendent of the Year Award, VASS Executive Director Ben Kiser said, “Jared Cotton’s name has become synonymous with innovative leadership in education in Virginia.” He continued, “He has implemented new approaches to teaching and learning in the Virginia school divisions he has led and as a result his students and staff members have demonstrated significant growth.”
Dr. Cotton started his administrative career in public education as an assistant principal in Chesapeake City Schools in 1999. He worked as a principal and Director of Assessment and Accountability in Chesapeake from 2002-2005. In 2005 he began working as the Assistant Superintendent for Research, Evaluation and Assessment in Virginia Beach City Schools before becoming the school division’s Associate Superintendent for Educational Leadership and Assessment. In 2012 he was appointed as Henry County’s Superintendent of Schools.
As Virginia's Superintendent of the Year Dr. Cotton will be eligible for the National Superintendent of the Year Award, which will be presented next February in Los Angeles, CA by the American Association of School Administrators. The Regional Superintendents of the Year include:
Region I – David A. Myers, Division Superintendent, New Kent County
Region II – Jennifer Parish, Division Superintendent, Poquoson City
Region III – Robert B. Benson, Division Superintendent, King George County
Region IV – David T. Sovine, Division Superintendent, Frederick County
Region V – Doug Schuch, Division Superintendent, Bedford County
Region VI – Jared A. Cotton, Division Superintendent, Henry County
Region VII – Brian C. Ratliff, Division Superintendent, Washington County
Region VIII – Amy Griffin, Division Superintendent, Cumberland County