Submitted by Rene Carroll
The Association of Washington School Principals has named David Cooke, Principal of Jemtegaard Middle School, as the Washington State Secondary School Principal of the Year for 2020! The Secondary School Principal of the Year award is given to individuals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, and community involvement, as well as advocating for education.
“I am honored to be the Principal of Jemtegaard Middle School,” said Cooke. “It is an incredible place to work. This award represents the culture and efforts of the staff and students who come here every day.”
AWSP leadership joined WSD leadership at a middle school staff meeting to make the announcement to Cooke and his staff. Superintendent Mary Templeton announced the guests from AWSP, who proceeded to share accolades with Cooke.
“Under David’s leadership, Jemtegaard Middle School has gone from a school that was failing to make progress under No Child Left Behind to one that has been State Recognized multiple times for academic performance increases and closing the achievement gap,” Templeton said.
“Through this work, Washougal students are rising, and our district with them! I could not be happier for David receiving this great recognition! It is so well deserved.”
Cooke has fostered a culture of support for students and their families, focusing on equity, positive behavior expectations, high engagement, and the whole child. “At every opportunity, David credits the teachers and staff at Jemtegaard for the school’s accomplishments,” said Kurt Hatch, AWSP Associate Director of Middle Level Leadership, adding “His staff has a willingness to challenge practices, remove barriers to success, and do what is right for students.”
“I could not be prouder of my staff,” said Cooke. “About six years ago, we knew that we needed to make changes to ensure that all students could be successful. It was not easy, but we persevered as a team to make difficult decisions, learn together, and build the best opportunities for all students. As a result, our students have experienced significant growth. We have been supported along the way by so many including our fellow Washougal teachers, staff, District Office and an amazing Washougal community.”
Cooke has overseen implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention Support system at Jemtegaard, featuring common classroom expectations, quick support responses, and a focus on ensuring that students who need help are guided through restorative practices and back in the classroom as quickly as possible. This has led to a dramatic reduction in missed instructional time, and fewer discipline referrals for students. “David exemplifies the best of the best in school leaders in his relentless pursuit of bringing adults together in a common purpose and mission. Their focus on equity, student achievement, and intentional impact on each and every child is what brought his nomination to the top,” said Scott Seaman, AWSP Executive Director. “Leading educational change that is student-centered takes an entire school community and David’s leadership has fostered that ongoing culture.”
“Our students are caring, hardworking and resilient,” Cooke said. “They support each other in their academic, social, and emotional growth.”
The Spanish Speaking Family Night initiative was started by Cooke in response to feedback from second language speaking families, who wanted to connect with the school and learn how they could be part of their students’ learning. Cooke worked with community leaders and Spanish speaking staff and translators to build relationships with students and their families, identifying resource gaps, communication barriers, and providing support and resources that ensure families and students have what they need to succeed.