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Back to school with TCC Alum Jared Cotton, superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools

Great Bridge High graduate Jared Cotton could have attended some of the commonwealth’s best universities after high school, but he chose to start at Tidewater Community College.

Named superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS) over the summer, Cotton earned his Associate of Science in Education at TCC, where he developed a passion for teaching.

“The day I earned my degree was when I decided to become a teacher,” Cotton said. “It was still a struggle because there was a lot of pressure to be a doctor, pharmacist, something to make money. But I really enjoyed working with kids. And my professors at TCC inspired and believed in me.”

His parents couldn’t afford for him to go away to school, but he found the direction he needed close to home.

Cotton holds a doctorate in educational administration and policy studies and a master’s in educational administration from The George Washington University, and a bachelor’s in middle school education from Old Dominion University.

“I had so many interests, including science, physics, astronomy, history, medicine and law. I discovered that as a teacher, I could explore all of these areas and get children excited about them as well,” he said. “I’m proud of the start I had at community college, and now as superintendent, I have the opportunity to change the trajectory of many students’ lives and give them all of the resources to be successful.”

While at TCC, Cotton learned piano at the Chesapeake Campus. He taught tennis camps at the YMCA and was a lifeguard, swim team coach, and residential counselor at the Pines Treatment Center in Portsmouth.

His 25-year career began when he started teaching fifth grade at Crestwood Intermediate. He worked his way up the ranks in CPS from instructional technology specialist to principal and assessment director. He also served in leadership roles in Virginia Beach Public Schools and as superintendent of Henry County Public Schools in southwestern Virginia for the last six years.

He was recently named Virginia’s 2019 State Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.

During his first weeks on the job in Chesapeake, Cotton hosted meet-and-greet events at Chesapeake’s seven high schools. He connected with students, teachers and staff and brought a message of “inspiring hope in others by doing our best work.”

He challenged staff to remember their why.

“What we do in education has such a powerful impact on our students’ lives. We need to reconnect with our why because that’s what gives us the motivation and drive to continue our work,” he said.

A proponent of community college, Cotton says CPS will continue to partner with TCC for dual enrollment and career pathway options for students like the ones in mechatronics, collision repair technology, welding and electrical wiring.

 “When we work together, we can accomplish much more than we can do alone,” he said. “Strong partnerships are absolutely essential for student success.”

Cotton encourages students to learn as much about the different opportunities available post-high school.

“It’s worth the time to find out what you like and don’t like while still in high school. And if you can find your passion before earning your diploma, that’s even better,” he said.

Cotton’s mother, Delores Bolton, who died in 2016, was a TCC alumna and nurse. His sister, Merrie Cotton, earned her Associate of Science in Science and went on to become a physical therapist with an advanced degree.

Cotton and his wife Joanna a former educator, have two grown children. Their daughter, Michaela, is a community college graduate who earned her degree while still in high school. She also has a bachelor’s from University of Virginia. Son Billy also started at TCC and now is working in the HVAC industry.


TCC graduate found her passion to serve while in college

Shorntail Goodrich came to Tidewater Community College to retrain for a new career. She spent her 20s and 30s working as an apartment complex manager and later as an identification clerk for Norfolk Police Department.

“With no degree, I was stuck in low-paying jobs,” she said. “You can have a great work ethic and think you will be moving up. But all I saw was more responsibility, and no more pay.”

Today Goodrich is an administrative assistant for the Norfolk Community Services Board and plans to start her own nonprofit.

Goodrich, 42, came to TCC to prepare for a career in management. On May 12, she will walk the stage at the Ted Constant Convocation Center to receive her Associate of Science in Business Administration.

Shorntail Goodrich accepts her leadership award from Linda Berardi, chair of the Women's Center Advisory Council.
Shorntail Goodrich accepts her leadership award from Linda Berardi, chair of the Women’s Center Advisory Council.

She found her passion working with Hearts Full of Grace, a nonprofit organization providing support for individuals and families coping with food and housing instability.

Aside from providing meals and clothing for those experiencing homelessness, the group hosts empowerment workshops for individuals in transition, and gives toiletry bags to those in need.

“My original thought was go to TCC and further my education and then get a job in a big corporation or bank,” she said.

Encouragement from Emanuel Chestnut, dean of students on the Norfolk Campus, and Jennifer Dixon-McKnight, professor of history, led her to re-examine her direction.

“I really have a heart to serve,” Goodrich said. “I see myself opening my own nonprofit, an extended-stay center to help clients get back on their feet. I see it as a road back home for those facing homelessness, where they can learn basic life skills and gain job training to become self-sufficient again.”

While at TCC, Goodrich served as vice president and president of Alliance of Excellence (AOE), an empowerment and community service club on the Norfolk Campus. In her first year, she organized an anti-bullying campaign and earned “Student Leader of the Year.”

Goodrich also planned a human trafficking symposium to raise awareness of modern-day slavery.

Alliance of Excellence human trafficking panel members included Adriana Mirarchi, special agent, Homeland Security Investigations; Courtney Pierce, Samaritan House, human trafficking grant coordinator; Ebony Velazquez, Attorney General’s office of human trafficking, task force coordinator; Shorntail Goodrich, TCC student; Krista Fulton, Norfolk deputy commonwealth's attorney state prosecutor; and Rebecca Stone, Norfolk Police Department, task force officer.
AOE human trafficking panel members included Adriana Mirarchi, Homeland Security Investigations; Courtney Pierce, Samaritan House; Ebony Velazquez, Attorney General’s office of human trafficking; Shorntail Goodrich, TCC student; Krista Fulton, Norfolk  Commonwealth Attorney’s office; and Rebecca Stone, Norfolk Police Department.

She also served as vice president of the Student Government Association and was the 2018 Mary Pat Liggio Student Leadership Award recipient, named for the founding coordinator of the Women’s Center.

Goodrich was also honored with an Exemplar Award by the Hampton Roads Gazette for going above and beyond in serving her neighbors.

“Shorntail is a person who rises to the task time and time again with grace and humility. I’m inspired by all that she has accomplished here at Tidewater Community College,” said Dixon-McKnight, also a faculty advisor for AOE.

Goodrich tried college right after high school with little success. “I was older and wiser this time,” she said with a laugh. “This time I found TCC to be like a village with people checking up on me, investing in my success.”

Goodrich credits her husband, Dante, with “being her rock.”

“It was really hard to go back to school after 23 years. I had to take a step of faith and really trust God with my future,” she said. “My husband encouraged me and told me that I would have a job before graduation. And I do!”

“If I can do it, anyone can do it. Just take advantage of every resource TCC has to offer and see what you can do.”