I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the College of William and Mary. I have taken graduate classes and several professional development courses and workshops in nonprofit management and marketing. My own childhood education growing up in a Navy family was comprised of attending eight different schools across the country and overseas.
My career has consisted of four different vocations: two paid and two volunteer. Right out of college, I was a wildlife educator at a small zoo, presenting hundreds of live animal programs for schools, daycare centers, retirement communities, and other groups. This included development and promotion of the programs in addition to a wide range of other responsibilities. I was ultimately promoted to General Manager. Later I spent several years in nonprofit marketing and membership management for scientific professional societies, including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In recent years, I have been a community advocate, seeking to strengthen our local schools. This has included supporting a local grassroots group Carroll Values Education and volunteering for pro-education political candidates. I also helped establish another local grassroots group called VOCAL Carroll County which encourages citizen participation in local government. Finally, I have been the primary at-home caregiver for my two children who are young adults now, spending many years opting out of the full-time workforce during their pre-K and teen years.
Given the financial situation facing CCPS and assuming no significant changes to state funding formulas or commissioner funding support, where does improving teacher salaries rank as a priority for you and why? If you believe it needs improvement, how do you propose doing so?
Dueppen: No significant funding changes in either the state formula or commissioner support could be disastrous for Carroll County Public Schools. The lack of competitive compensation makes it very difficult to recruit and retain high-quality employees. With or without significant funding changes, improving teacher salaries is one of my top financial priorities because it is crucial for providing innovative and effective instruction for students. If funding doesn’t change, then in order to avoid unacceptable increases of class sizes and other serious impacts to equitable learning opportunities, some extra-curricular activities and other aspects of non-classroom operations would have to be restructured.
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In light of current school shootings and security discussions, what do you believe are necessary steps CCPS should take to ensure the safety of its students? What are your thoughts on School Resource Officers? Crisis counselors?
Dueppen: CCPS personnel led by the Supervisor of School Security and Emergency Management are supported by a Board-appointed Security Advisory Council (SAC). It is “…comprised of school directors, principals, representatives from all employee groups, and parents, as well as members from the law enforcement and emergency management community.” Missing in that equation, at least at the high school level, is the student voice. They are young adults who will quickly become much more responsible for their own well-being. We teach our children to take ownership of their personal safety from an early age and it is right for them to have empowered voices in their schools. The CCPS Security Advisory Council should make it a priority to develop a revised plan for preventing, mitigating, and responding to active shooter and similar incidents plus establish enhanced communication with parents about these protocols. While one aspect of security involves keeping some information guarded to avoid providing a roadmap to potential attackers, fear and worry is stoked by a lack of knowledge. Another delicate balancing act is how much to harden schools versus fostering a welcoming atmosphere and nurturing learning environment. School Resource Officers, if appropriately trained and utilized, can be beneficial. And with the Maryland Safe To Learn Act, I believe SROs will be a reality for CCPS. However, figuring out the funding is difficult, especially when there are so many demands for those dollars. This includes crisis counselors, which I believe might provide even more value to the students.
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In previous years, there have been discussions about CCPS graduates having to take remedial math and English classes at Carroll Community College. Do you believe CCPS curriculum is rigorous enough and what specific improvements would you like to see made at the local level?
Dueppen: I do not believe that there is enough rigor in the CCPS curriculum. But the typical things many people think of – more work; harder work – are not what really add rigor in my view. In fact, such tactics are often counter-productive. I think that rigor is best introduced when lessons are creative, experiential, and cross disciplines, like the payoff of solving a difficult puzzle. Instruction can be rigorous if students are supported and encouraged to take risks and ask lots of exploratory questions themselves. Teachers need to be empowered and rewarded for lesson-planning this way. Students should be taught to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, build resilience, set goals, and stretch. The key is not just high-level tasks and expectations but teaching high-level thinking and making it fun. Students who learn to support and celebrate each other’s efforts will also elevate rigor naturally. Hiring, training, retaining, and empowering teachers who can do this successfully is the key. These teachers are the ones who should be primarily responsible for the necessary curriculum design.
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What further steps if any should the district take to improve career and technical education offerings?
Dueppen: The Carroll County Career and Technology Center (CTC) is a very high-performing part of CCPS. It is long overdue for modernization and expansion but since a new state-of-art center was not funded, I support the current plan to phase in those improvements. There is also an educational specifications committee that will soon be issuing a report on future direction and priorities that will inform Board decisions. Some CTC programs are in very high demand with dozens of interested and motivated students left out. I would like to see specific focus on how to increase access. This could include offering grant or fee-based summer programs, expanding classroom-based programs in other high schools, or even distance learning options if the subject matter supports it (computer science, for example). As with many improvements, there is a fiscal impact on most options for improving career and technical offerings but funding issues impede growth. However, with parts of the recommendations from the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (aka Kirwan Commission) being implemented, I am hopeful that the funding picture for Career and Technical Education from the state will improve.
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What are your thoughts on PARCC and standardized testing in general?
Dueppen: The pitfalls of high stakes testing and teaching to the test are widely acknowledged. I do not support elimination of all standardized assessments, however, because I also think some usefulness is clear. Achieving the right balance using the most valid tests is important. CCPS has managed to reduce the amount of testing locally but the jury is still out on PARCC. It is mandated by the state of Maryland but has been problematic and is not required by the federal law ESSA (Every Students Succeeds Act). It is my hope that Maryland will make it a priority to ensure that using PARCC is justified and not simply a continuation of the culture of over-testing. This is another area of education policy that I think should be driven to a greater degree at all levels by current classroom teachers.
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How important is improving the diversity of the CCPS workforce and how would you proposing doing so? What would be appropriate goals for diversity hiring?
Dueppen: I accept the notion that all students benefit from diversity and believe it is very important to improve the diversity of the CCPS workforce. This includes ethnicity, age, and gender. In terms of ethnicity, I agree that a proportion of minority employees that mirrors the student population is appropriate. However, continuous improvement towards that goal is advisable. According to CCPS’s 2017 Diversity Recruitment and Retention Report, the percentage of minority students is 16% - with staff at 4% and the resident population at 8%. Despite several initiatives, there has been minimal improvement. I need to see a deeper analysis of other statistics to ascertain which efforts are working are which aren’t (and to provide more granular metrics for goal-setting). Are the most effective activities simply palliative? One newer initiative for CCPS that may hold promise in the long-term is the effort to cultivate local students into local teachers in the future. A major roadblock is that having a diverse workforce is not a goal unique to Carroll County. Other counties target this highly sought-after, yet limited, candidate pool. Lack of competitive compensation exacerbates the problem. Another roadblock to CCPS teacher recruitment surely factors in as well - the fact that the budget cycle prevents the administration from offering contracts as early in the year as other counties. Beginning to address these concerns and improving the value proposition of working for CCPS may be necessary to make more significant gains in diversity hiring.