Erin Cooperman, the newly appointed member of the Monroe County Community School Corporation Board of Trustees, said schools are important to communities because they educate the next generation, provide access to resources and serve families.
“Schools are where our children spend most of their time,” she said. “They are really, in my opinion, maybe the most important bedrock of the community, or foundation of the community, for helping people.”
The unified Monroe County Circuit Court appointed Cooperman to the District 5 seat April 6, according to an MCCSC press release. The seat became vacant on Jan. 25 following the death of Keith Klein, who had been a member of the board since 2009.
The MCCSC Board of Trustees is a group of seven members, usually elected, who serve as a legal entity for providing a system of education. Some of the board’s jobs include selecting a superintendent and consulting with the superintendent regarding the development or revision of policies, according to the MCCSC policy manual.
Following her appointment, Cooperman attended a training session for the board as a guest Wednesday to meet the rest of the members. She will take the oath of office at the next board meeting April 27 and will serve the remainder of Klein’s term, which will end in 2024.
Cooperman, who is also a lecturer for IU’s School of Public Health, said she decided to apply for the position because her daughter started elementary school this school year and she felt she could help with COVID-19-related issues as a public health professional.
After Cooperman graduated from IU in 2001, she worked for a teen pregnancy prevention program in Toledo, Ohio, called Incentives for Excellence. During her time in the program, Cooperman taught comprehensive sex education and served as a mentor for girls in 6-8th grade who were living in one of the lowest-income areas in Toledo.
In 2003, Cooperman went to law school and following graduation started working in a management position for an AmeriCorps program, which promoted health in lower-income school districts. Cooperman oversaw volunteers for the program who would go into school districts such as the Brown County School Corporation, figure out where their school was not addressing certain aspects of physical, mental or emotional health, and find a way to address that need.
Lisa Greathouse, the manager of coordinated school health for IU Health Bloomington, said solutions to these issues include applying for grants, planting a school garden and getting funds for stability ball chairs so kids can expel energy to help them focus better during lessons. Greathouse, who was never directly employed by AmeriCorps, worked with Cooperman as a volunteer recruiter and trainer for the program, which lasted from 2007 to 2017.
Greathouse said she enjoyed working with Cooperman because they had a shared goal: happy, healthy children.
Cooperman said her work in these two programs will help her in her position on the board because those experiences taught her about the importance of both equity and health in education. She said she is excited to serve as a board member because it will allow her to help make long-lasting changes to systems, environments and policies in regard to inequality and health.
“We are ensuring the conditions where kids can learn and thrive,” she said. “I ended up never really being a traditional teacher, but this is how I think that I can help improve the lives of children.”
MCCSC Board President Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer said she believes Cooperman’s public health background will give her a helpful perspective when it comes to supporting children’s mental, social and emotional health. She also said Cooperman was passionate and enthusiastic about public education during her interview for the position.
“I think that Keith would be happy to have another person who’s dedicated to the schools and students and to making them better because goodness knows he was as well,” Fuentes-Rohwer said.