Home News Local News Federal programs director dedicated to RISD’s success

Federal programs director dedicated to RISD’s success

Jennifer Cole, director of federal programs for RISD, explains some of the details for a federal grant she recently acquired for the district. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

In her career in education, Roswell native Jennifer Cole has worked mostly in the front lines — teaching language arts, kindergarten, first grade and working as assistant principal and principal at Mesa Middle School.

Altogether, she has worked in the Roswell Independent School District for 17 years, taking a one-year break to teach at Sidney Gutierrez Middle School, which is a charter school near the air center. She also worked in the Hagerman district for five years.

In July, Cole came back to the district to become the director of federal programs, replacing Harry Tackett, who is now superintendent of instruction. Tackett is now Cole’s direct supervisor.

Cole’s husband, Chad, is the district’s assistant superintendent for finance.

“The solid instructional background is good for what I do now,” she said.

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She works behind the scenes in an office on the third floor of the district’s administration building, finding funding sources for the schools and instructional programs.

One such program is Title I, which helps students in underserved populations in reading and math, homeless students, students in foster care and neglected and delinquent students.

Cole said she also oversees students in the county’s juvenile detention facility, the district’s migrant population and works with attendance and truancy.

That sounds like a lot of responsibility for just one person, but Cole said she’s got a great coach working in her corner — her husband.

“Chad pushes me every day to challenge myself to do more,” she said. “I would never have become a school administrator without his encouragement and his belief in me. I’m a pretty lucky girl.”

Recently, Cole landed a $400,000 federal grant for the district that will fund two full-time positions, a licensed social worker and a safe school liaison.

Funds from the grant, called Student Support and Academic Enrichment, also will build partnerships with several local nonprofits.

“We are deeply grateful to Jennifer Cole and to RISD for being so innovative and receptive to these programs,” said Carrie-Leigh Cloutier, executive director of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Chaves County.

Along with her husband, Cole gives credit to some of the people who have been mentors to her, like Interim Superintendent Susan Sanchez and former Superintendent Mike Gottlieb.

“I am lucky for all of these years to learn from some smart people,” she said.

Cole is a third-generation Roswellian on one side of her family and a fourth-generation Roswellian on the other side.

She graduated from Goddard High School, attended ENMU-Roswell and then ENMU-Portales and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in education.

Cole said her grandparents were a positive influence while she was growing up.

“I spent much of my time growing up on the east side of Roswell with my grandparents,” she said. “They were both hardworking, working-class people and I learned my work ethic, my value system and my sincere love for people and this community from them.

“My granddad was part-time farmer and a full-time milkman, delivering milk to homes and schools every day for Price’s Dairy. I used to love being in first grade at Edgewood Elementary and seeing the milk truck pull up to deliver the milk — that was my granddad!

“My grandmother worked for 30 years in the school cafeterias and retired from the school cafeterias. My granddad was an elder at the Church of Christ and I grew up  in the Church of Christ. Again, hardworking individuals with an outstanding set of values, integrity and work ethic. They gave me a great foundation — Walter and Tessa Sallee.”

She added that her love of New Mexico came from her grandfather.

“When my granddad would return to New Mexico from visiting relatives back east, he’d say, ‘Ahhh … back in God’s country!’ And he was right, New Mexico is God’s country!”

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.

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