In 1995, James R. Cotton, Jr., M.D. and his wife, Norma Cotton, saw the need in Tyler for a school that would provide a superior academic program enhanced by training in performing arts and a technologically advanced curriculum. After meeting with a number of local educators, Cumberland Academy opened its doors in August 1996 with 30 students. Three years and 60 students later, Cumberland Academy became the first charter school in East Texas and, on August 30, 2010, will open at a brand new, 38,000 square-foot facility in Tyler with an enrollment of 440 students.
In opening the new facility, the Cumberland Academy governing board made the decision to transform the existing school into the first nationally recognized iSchool in the state of Texas and only the second in the United States to be designated an iSchool. Partnering with technology giant Apple, the iSchool will provide a digital curriculum to create a unique and innovative learning environment for students. The curriculum will be taught on school-issued MacBook laptops and teachers will use interactive white boards during class. Required reading homework will be downloaded directly to a school-issued iPod Touch for the student to take home for the evening.
In addition to serving Cumberland Academy this year as chairman of the board of directors, Dr. Cotton is also chairman of the Medical Review Board of Texas and serves as president of the East Texas Medical Center Medical Staff. He is a member of the Texas Medical Association, the Smith County Medical Society, the Renal Physician’s Association, and the Development Board at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.
“Each person should seek and find an opportunity to give back to society with a commitment to make a real difference,” Dr. Cotton said.
Mrs. Cotton serves Cumberland Academy as the school director. As a community volunteer, she is a member of the board of directors for both the Tyler Museum of Art and the Cowan Center. She serves on the development board for The University of Texas at Tyler and volunteers at Parent Services Center. She is a past chairman of the Women’s Symphony League Ball.
“You should always ‘pay it forward,’ ” Mrs. Cotton said. “You can never give too much to your community.”
Dr. Cotton, originally from El Paso, Texas, and Mrs. Cotton, originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, have been members of the Tyler community more than 32 years. Dr. Cotton received his bachelor’s degree from Baylor University and his medical degree from The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Mrs. Cotton has a background as a registered nurse. Married 30 years, Dr. and Mrs. Cotton have five children, David, Melissa, Michelle, Michaela, and Natalie. They are members of Green Acres Baptist Church.
“Tyler is a great place to raise a family. It is easy to serve in a community which has enriched our family in so many ways,” Dr. and Mrs. Cotton said.