Principal Tim Cooper of Antioch’s Live Oak High School named association’s Administrator of the Year

Live Oak High School Principal Tim Cooper.

Article & photo y Antioch Unified School District

The Association of California School Administrators has named Antioch’s Live Oak High School principal, Tim Cooper the Region VI Continuation Education Administrator of the Year. According to their website, ACSA Region 6 represents School Administrators from Alameda and Contra Costa counties. ACSA serves educational leaders in the pursuit of equity and excellence to meet the diverse needs of all California students. Region 6 has local charters that meet regularly to support administrators in our region.

Although, he notes he didn’t get into education for the accolades, the ACSA nonetheless has recognized Cooper.

He was taken aback when he learned he had been singled out for his work at Live Oak High School.

“I was like, ‘Oh really?’”, Cooper said.

He’s in his fourth year of overseeing one of Antioch Unified’s two continuation high schools, an alternative for teens who are floundering in a mainstream setting. Students transfer to Live Oak after failing classes and falling at least the equivalent of one semester behind their peers. Mostly juniors and seniors, the vast majority are here because of truancy, not disruptive behavior, Cooper said, noting that there have been virtually no fights on campus over the past three years.

“The vibe I give off has an effect,” he said of the correlation between the conduct of the young people in his charge and his attitude toward them. “Students don’t care what you know until they know you care.”

And they do. Cooper knows the first and last name of every one of Live Oak’s 160 students, a feat he achieves in part by visiting classes every morning.

Sometimes he simply observes the action from the sidelines; on other occasions he’ll join a group of kids in a trivia contest or other activity. Teens who feel anonymous lack a sense of accountability for their actions, he said. And because Live Oak has so few students, he has more time to have a conversation with each instead of just comments in passing, Cooper said.

He began his career three decades ago as a substitute teacher in Pittsburg before coming to Antioch Unified in 2001 as a Deer Valley High Vice Principal. Cooper then opened Bidwell Continuation High School as its Vice Principal and did a stint as Black Diamond Middle School’s Principal before returning to Deer Valley High.

At Live Oak he shapes the curriculum by bringing in guest speakers, arranging field trips and developing the school budget.

One of the toughest aspects of his job is the frustration of drawing up a to-do list only to walk into the office the next morning and find everything has changed.

Then again, the element of surprise “kind of makes it exciting,” he said.

A highlight for Cooper is Live Oak’s graduation speeches, when seniors describe the obstacles they’ve overcome.

“I meet so many students who are super stars — they do well inside the classroom, they get involved in their community,” he said. “And some didn’t think they were capable of that.”

Cooper, who’s married with two grown children, is a fiend for golf and has played all over the Bay Area as well as at Lake Tahoe, the San Diego area and even Vancouver, Canada.

“Wherever I can tee it up, I’ll tee it up,” he said.


Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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