Thursday morning, Dec. 16, Governor Jared Polis announced the appointment of the Governor’s Early Childhood Transition Director, M. Michael Cooke, who will be leading the transition to the new Department of Early Childhood and will focus exclusively on the transition and change management associated with the establishment of the new agency.
“We’re excited that the new state early childhood department plans will make Colorado more affordable, save families money, and expand access to quality early childhood services for Colorado kids,” said Governor Polis.
Over the past several years, Colorado voters have shown strong support for early and public education. They approved public kindergarten and the formation of a new Department of Early childhood Education to focus on preschool education and development. M. Michael Cooke will serve as the Transition Director for approximately two years. The administration will soon begin the search for an Executive Director for the new agency, to be hired in spring, 2022.
M. Michael Cooke has served with Council for a Strong America (CSA) since 2017 bringing more than 25 years of public sector and nonprofit experience to the position. In her role as State Director with CSA, Michael opened the Colorado office which has been an advocacy voice for children and families since that time.
At this point in time, there is a critical shortage of qualified infant and early childhood facilities across the state. The state and local counties are attempting to encourage more in-home childcare providers to get qualified. Until the supply of state-approved preschool resources improves, it will continue to impact the ability of working families, particularly working mothers, to go back to regular work schedules. the Chaffee County Early Childhood Council has focused on this need on a local level.
Prior to becoming the CSA State Director for Colorado, Cooke was elected to two terms on the Board of County Commissioners in Douglas County followed by an appointment by former Governor Bill Owens to his Cabinet. In that role, she served as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, and later as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Cooke then joined a public charter school serving at-risk K-12 students throughout Colorado. An advocate for advancing education opportunities for all PreK-12 students in Colorado, Cooke served as Executive Vice President. She earned a Bachelor’s in Communication from the University of Denver. She is a fourth-generation Colorado native and resides with her husband, Dennis, in Englewood.
Featured image: Governor Jared Polis (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)