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Barry Cooper explains Cooper Christian Academy’s mission

Posted on Wednesday, May 8, 2024 at 8:00 am


Barry Cooper holds a preliminary sketch of an 85,000-square-foot school building for Cooper Christian Academy, a two-phase project. (Photo by Mark McGee)

Barry Cooper isn’t comparing himself to Noah, but he can relate to the lack of belief most people exhibited toward him.

Cooper isn’t building an ark, but he has preliminary sketches of an 85,000-square-foot school building for Cooper Christian Academy, a two-phase project. The academy is completing the first of three years in classrooms leased from First Christian Church.

Cooper, the founder, stresses the academy is not affiliated with Cooper Steel other than the family name.

“Putting your name on something you build is a kind of a guarantee of integrity and competency,” Cooper said. “I could have named it Hope Academy or Faith Academy, but that would not have conveyed the deep, deep commitment I have to fight through the difficulty, opposition, and discouragement to keep grinding it out to see it through.

“I can’t just give it the college try and slither away quietly if it doesn’t pan out. My personal reputation is written all over this academy, and that creates the discipline and accountability I need for me to do it to the very best of my ability.”

Cooper Christian Academy’s mission is “to provide a strong academic program and Christian education to our students in an environment that honors God.”

“Ultimately, the academy is owned by God who owns everything,” Cooper said. “I want us to do this in a God-honoring way, and leave the results to Him.

“I always try to remember that. Thankfully, I have strong board members to help hold my feet to the fire.”

This year there have been classes for kindergarten through second grade with fifteen students. The goal is to expand to a K-8th grade academy.

While pleased with the reports from the classrooms of the kindergarten through 2nd grade, Cooper is frustrated more parents are not showing an interest in this new opportunity.

“I have been surprised by the low level of interest so far,” Cooper said. “Either we are communicating poorly or we have overestimated the appetite for Christian education in Bedford County. Maybe I need to exhibit more patience. 

“I have learned most all-private Christian schools start very small. In one smaller town, not far from here, they started with seven students the first year. Now, 13 years later, they have 317 in grades K-12.”

With the establishment of the academy, Cooper wants to offer students something they can’t receive in a public school setting. He was on the Bedford County School Board for 18 years, serving as chairman for the last 16 he was there.

“I support public education,” Cooper said. “I am very aware of the great challenges that public educators face each and every day. There are hundreds of dedicated teachers and staff in our public schools who strive to teach the children under their care. I appreciate what they are trying to do.”

He references the Bedford County School System mission statement: “to create an environment to enable every student to learn and become a good citizen.”

But, Cooper points out, there is no mention of God.

“I know their mission statement by heart,” Cooper said. “It is an appropriate mission statement for a government school. Our mission is totally different. Our spiritual beliefs are the core of what we are about.

“Notice it does not mention God or religion or Christianity for a very good reason. It isn’t the government sponsored public schools’ job to proselytize for Christianity or any other religion. In fact, it is against the law to do so.”

Homeschooling is becoming increasingly popular, but Cooper is not a fan. Through his experiences on the school board and his own personal observations, he believed only a minority of students are prepared for their academic futures.

“Kudos to those who can pull it off,” Cooper said. “So, any of those parents who think homeschooling is the only alternative to a public school education need to at least give us a look. We will get the job done and parents can enjoy being mom and dad to their kids instead of being a schoolmarm.”

Cooper stresses the academy is non-denominational. He wants every race and ethnic group to be represented.

“We are not an elitist school because Jesus is not an elitist God,” Cooper said. “Our first academic year went better than I expected.

“We are excited that all our kindergartners can read and are reading short stories. Most of our first graders were behind where they should have been on day one and are now caught up. All of our academic teachers signed for next year as soon as they were handed a contract.”

Cooper looks at the turmoil in the world and seeks to have the academy to be a haven for change.

“What the world needs is a big dose of Jesus and how he intends for us to live in His love and grace,” Cooper said. “We hope to give our students what they need to lead successful, hope-filled lives.”