Personal drama overshadows elected service

5/19/2018, 9:49 p.m.

We were gravely disappointed by news of the arrest yet again of Henrico School Board member Roscoe D. Cooper III.

The 43-year-old Mr. Cooper has given a lot to the community in terms of service. He has been pastor of Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church since 2003, serves on the board of the Capital Area Health Network and was elected to represent the people of the Fairfield District on the Henrico School Board.

We supported Mr. Cooper in his 2015 campaign. He won the election by a mere 42 votes. We noted in endorsing him that his record as a visionary and problem-solver for health needs in the community and as an advocate and successful administrator would be a major boost in addressing and correcting the  inequities in funding, facilities, discipline and support for schoolchildren in Eastern Henrico.

But Mr. Cooper’s arrest this week on a misdemeanor assault charge — the fourth publicly known incident since 2017 — has put him in the headlines once again for a seemingly messy domestic situation that places a cloud over his reputation and judgment and is distracting from his ability to serve. 

Certainly, we all face personal situations that can divert and sap our focus and energy at work, such as a divorce, the illness of a child or spouse, the death of a loved one or serious problems with our children at school or at home, to name a few. We can reduce our work schedule, use vacation time or the Family and Medical Leave Act to take time off to get our situations and ourselves in order.

In Mr. Cooper’s case, we recommend that he step down from the School Board to take the time —  and privacy — he needs to get a handle on the personal issues that are causing instability and headlines. 

The Fairfield District, which has long been shortchanged, needs an upstanding representative without personal drama who can focus full attention on the needs of the schools and the students. This is particularly critical during the board’s current discussions with the Henrico Board of Supervisors on teacher salaries and retention and classroom overcrowding. How School Board members address these issues today may impact the county’s schools for years to come.

Just weeks before his arrest in August 2017 on charges of driving under the influence and refusing to take a blood alcohol or breathalyzer test, Mr. Cooper told his congregation that flawed people are still good.

Yes, we believe that. But we expect more from our elected officials, including our School Board members who stand not only as advocates for our children, but as positive role models for behavior and achievement.

The Fairfield District needs more and deserves better.