Virginia Excels Announces Taikein Cooper as Executive Director

RICHMOND – Virginia Excels, an education advocacy organization focused on K-12 education, today announced that Taikein Cooper will serve as its next executive director. Cooper succeeds the organization’s founder, Eva Colen, who has taken a position as policy adviser to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

“I can personally attest to the impact that educational inequities have on a child’s future, and how it affects our communities,” said Cooper. “The bedrock of a vibrant democracy is a public school system that meets the needs of ALL students; that’s why I’m excited to be leading the charge as Virginia Excels moves from its incubation phase to advancing key education initiatives in Richmond and throughout the Commonwealth.”

“This fall we will launch our parent advocacy program in Richmond to help give parents and students the tools, skills and training to be advocates for education at the local and state level,” added Cooper. “We will also begin advocating for policy initiatives at the local and state level that are best for kids. I look forward to building support for this organization and putting big ideas into action.”

Born in historic Prince Edward County, one of the five counties in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, Cooper graduated from Southside Virginia Community College and Prince Edward County High School through a dual-enrollment program, before attending college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010, he returned to his true passion, fighting for the betterment of the people of Virginia. As a counselor in a correctional center in Chesapeake, VA, Cooper saw first-hand how political decisions affect the social welfare of constituents. Cooper then led a private behavioral agency, which served nearly 100 clients throughout the Commonwealth.

Community organizing and activism has always been central to Cooper’s life. Long before Cooper could drive, he was canvassing throughout Virginia’s communities as an 11 year old to help elect his D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) teacher, Travis Harris, as Prince Edward County’s Sheriff. During his college years, Cooper led various political action committees, served on the prestigious Chancellor’s Search Committee and even led a grassroots effort to Jena, Louisiana, calling for justice for the infamous Jena Six.

Most notably, in 2012 Cooper ran in a special election for Prince Edward County Treasurer at just 24 years old. At 25, Taikein was asked to run for US Congress in Virginia's 5th Congressional District in the 2012 special election. Since then he has been speaking at universities and colleges, community rallies and other local institutions across the nation about the importance and power of young adults in today’s political environment and the importance of being engaged.

Founded in 2016, Virginia Excels is a platform for communities to shape public education by advocating for policies and practices that are good for kids, families and communities. The organization is focused on Greater Richmond and at the state level with the Virginia General Assembly.

Virginia Excels is an affiliate of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. 50CAN supports local leaders to advocate for a high-quality education for all kids, regardless of their address. Founded in 2011, 50CAN has grown to a network of 50+ advocates across 13 state and local organizations working together to reimagine American K-12 education and democratize education advocacy in communities across the country.

About Virginia Excels

Virginia Excels is a 501c3 education advocacy organization that is working for the day when every student in the Richmond region and across the Commonwealth has equitable access to an excellent public education, regardless of race or family income. To learn more about Virginia Excels, visit www.virginiaexcels.org.

Contact:
Taylor Keeney
taylor@virginiaexcels.org
(804) 543-7053 

 

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Our Kids Can't Wait...

Over the past few months, Richmond Public Schools has found itself on the front page of the paper quite a bit. From the cheating scandal, to the revelation of millions of dollars, to the improper calculation of GPAs and, most recently, the length of school days that fails to meet state guidelines. Coupled with the professional development expectations, we find ourselves discussing the issues in RPS more frequently than any of us would like. Unfortunately, during these discussions, we tend to ignore the people affected the most: the students and, ultimately, our community.

Tonight, the School Board will vote to approve the amended start times at local high schools, as well as the professional development plans suggested by Superintendent Kamras late last week. Yes, the timing and method of these changes were flawed, but these changes must be made. I have observed and participated in numerous discussions about these changes over the Labor Day weekend and most people say that these changes inconvenience teachers. But we should be discussing how the current system is failing our students. We should be discussing that our students deserve better and we should all be willing to sacrifice a little more to help them.

Research suggests that students in districts experiencing high poverty lose dozens of hours of class time per month because of stressors such as: unstable housing, lack of medical care, community violence, unreliable transportation and old, dirty schools. These are all issues that affect RPS. I am sympathetic to many of the issues and concerns that I hear from teachers; some of my closest friends and family members are educators. They all say that they became teachers because of the impact that they can have on the world. Remember that mission, BECAUSE our kids can’t wait.

Statement of Virginia Excels on Richmond Public Schools Superintendent

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 20, 2017

Contact: Taylor Keeney
taylor@virginiaexcels.org
(804) 543-7053

RICHMOND – Virginia Excels issued the following statement today regarding the announcement that Jason Kamras has been selected as the new superintendent of Richmond Public Schools:
 
“Jason Kamras is the dynamic, collaborative leader Richmond schools deserve,” said Eva Colen, executive director of Virginia Excels. “Jason’s experience teaching and leading in DC Public Schools, as well as advising at the federal level, will be immensely valuable to our schools in Richmond. We need a leader who will bring fresh vision and relentless dedication to Richmond students; I am confident that Jason will do just that. We look forward to partnering with Jason as we work to advance education policy in the city and statewide.”
 
Virginia Excels is a platform for communities to shape public education by advocating for policies and practices that are good for kids, families and communities. Learn more at www.virginiaexcels.org.
 

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