College prep school celebrates 25th year
When George Mitchell, founder of The Woodlands, initially conceptualized what the 100,000-resident community would look like, an independent private school was always a part of the plan. Mitchell wanted the area to have a strong business foundation, and he knew a college preparatory school would serve to attract medical, science and technology companies and their families.
"This 44-acre plot of land we are on was never up for sale," said Michael Maher, who has been the head of school at The John Cooper School since July 2000. "It was always designated as the future site for the independent college preparatory school that Mr. Mitchell wanted The Woodlands to have."
The school is named after John Cooper, the renowned former headmaster of Houston's Kinkaid School.
Cooper was brought in as a consultant during the early development stages, playing a crucial role in determining how the school would function.
He was instrumental in designing the school's lower building, which was the main classroom building at the time. He also helped design the curriculum, Maher said.
"He had a significant hand in the actual curriculum that was going to be taught," he said. "He created a philosophy. To this day, we still have that emphasis on liberal arts and balance. We still have an emphasis on small classes and high levels of student-teacher interaction."
The John Cooper School opened on Sept. 6, 1988. Known as a humble man, Cooper rejected the idea of having the school named after him.
However, the founding board decided to name the school in his honor anyway, citing that his impact was significant and profound. Cooper remained with the school as a consultant until the end of October before handing the reins over to the board.
The school had an enrollment of 175 students in its first year, from pre-K through seventh grade. It added another grade to its system every year moving forward until the first senior class graduated in 1994.
The John Cooper School's main function has always been preparing students to be successful in college. Part of Cooper's vision involved creating a balance between academics, athletics, arts and community service opportunities, Maher said.
"In the early years, we were heavily emphasizing the academic side, but were a little thinner in those other areas," he said. "As we got bigger, we were able to develop more programs. We now have a full complement of sports and visual and performing arts."
In March, The John Cooper School celebrated its 25th anniversary with a ceremony and reunion. Many of the school's alumni returned to show support, Maher said.
"The school is so tremendously different now than it was when those people were enrolled," he said. "It is very motivational and very rewarding just to know that there is strong belief in the school. It is an honor to be here at this exciting stage of its life."