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Rebecca Cooksey’s district is 2-to-1, with computers at home and at school for every student.
Cooksey lets student needs guide her
August 22, 2022
ACSA Administrators of the Year graphic.
Name: Rebecca Cooksey Award: Technology Administrator of the Year Title: Assistant Superintendent of Innovation and Technology Services, Lancaster School District ACSA highlights: Member since 2003; Region 15 Member at Large for Programs and Director of Charter Presidents; Antelope Valley Charter board member (since 2008); certified ACSA Leadership Coach.
Ten years ago, the board of Lancaster School District pledged to put a computer in the hands of each of the district’s 15,000 students. Today, there are not one, but two devices for every student — one at school and one at home — and a district culture that embraces technology as essential for student learning.
These successes are a testament to the innovative leadership of Rebecca Cooksey, who arrived at the district in 2013 and has served as the assistant superintendent, Innovation and Technology Services, since 2018.
Cooksey lets the needs of students, parents and staff guide her work, including projects to create a blended alternative education program and a dual language immersion pathway. She also developed the first two computer science immersion schools in the Antelope Valley, which give students the foundational skills for in-demand careers in the tech industry.
She has fostered innovation through a professional development ladder for teachers who desire to become trainers and mini-grants for teachers who want to learn new technologies.
Cooksey also created Lancaster School District’s Welcome and Wellness Center to provide support to families in need, and she extends that support to the broader community as an active volunteer with local groups.
“Rebecca is well known for her heart and passion for people and doing whatever it takes, with a smile and confidence, to improve her community, with an unapologetic focus on doing the right thing for children,” said Lancaster School District Superintendent Michele Bowers.
What’s your favorite book or quote on leadership? My favorite book on leadership is an old one, but a classic by Jim Collins, “Good to Great.” Even though it was not written for an educational institution, I like the strategies of using data to make tough decisions and creating a culture of discipline.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? I was a coordinator for Palmdale School District, and I wanted to apply for a director position. My superintendent at the time was Roger Gallizzi. He told me that it was important to be a principal first before getting a director position. I didn’t think I needed that experience to become a director, but he was correct. The experience of running a school helps give you perspective to understand the constantly changing environment and the pressures experienced by the site. This helps you be a better district administrator so you don’t get tunnel vision and think that your program is the most important.
What’s your best strategy for work/life balance? It is important to remember that you must make time for you and your family. There is always more work to do and you could work 24/7 and never be done. Stop working and have dinner with your family. Take that vacation. Unplug on the weekend. Your physical and mental health are important and when you attend to those, you are a better employee.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? People might be surprised to learn that I used to work for the Magnificent Moorpark Melodrama and Vaudeville Company during college. I was an actor, wardrobe designer and box office manager during my time there. I had a wonderful time.
What are you proud of accomplishing? Raising our four wonderful, accomplished and talented children has been the greatest accomplishment in my life. Nothing tops that. However, in my professional career, a huge accomplishment happened during distance learning. We were able to provide technology (devices and mobile hotspots) to all students and staff to ensure learning continued during the pandemic. My superintendent, Dr. Michele Bowers, supported my decision to purchase 5,000 hotspots early in March 2022, which meant we had devices in hand to support learning. That was a very difficult time, but our students and staff did not have an interruption in learning.
How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position? I have been a member of ACSA for over two decades now. ACSA provides great workshops and conferences to support my continued learning. I have participated in Legislative Action Day several times and it is such an empowering way to connect with our local representatives. During the last year I have really enjoyed the ACSA Legislative Lunch Breaks that keep us up-to-date with current events. I have met some wonderful people by serving on the regional board and I really appreciate the networking opportunities. By working on the regional board, I got to learn a lot about programs that were different from my district and local experience.
What new strategies are you using to ensure student success in the post-“return to school” period? I am fortunate to work in a district that provides a lot of innovative opportunities for our students. Even during the pandemic, we offered online clubs for students. Now that students are back in school, we continue to offer additional learning opportunities. This summer we are offering an enrichment program that runs for nine hours so families have the support they need. Students sign up for classes that interest them, but also have a fun learning component. Some of the courses are Antelope Valley’s Top Chef, Test Flight School, Ocean Explorer and Art Explorations.
2022 Technology Administrator of the Year Rebecca Cooksey.