Dupo schools are under new leadership this year, and she’s the first woman to be hired as superintendent.
“I’m thrilled,” said Kelly Carpenter, Dupo District 196’s new leader. She thinks seeing a woman in the district’s top position will be encouraging for the girls in Dupo.
“I think it empowers them to see the opportunities that they can have for themselves as well,” Carpenter said. “Even though I think that there is gender bias that occurs in the world, it is possible to overcome it. Absolutely.”
Carpenter is taking over for former superintendent Steve Smith, who resigned to take a job as superintendent in Benton District 47. In his letter of resignation, Smith said his time in Dupo was “without a doubt the best four years of my professional life.”
“I look forward to keeping in touch and hearing about the many accomplishments that lie ahead for Dupo 196,” Smith wrote. “Thank you for being so good to me and making my first superintendent experience such an amazing opportunity. I hope my work there over the last four years leaves the district better than I found it.”
Carpenter came to Dupo from Collinsville’s school district, Unit 10, where she spent the last 12 years working in various positions — from assistant principal to assistant superintendent.
My goal really this first year is to learn, to observe and to become part of the community, both in Dupo and with the school system, and then to … work collaboratively with the administrative staff and principals and teachers and spend time with kids.
Kelly Carpenter, Dupo District 196 superintendent
While Dupo served about 1,100 students in its three schools last year, enrollment in Collinsville’s 11 schools was almost six times higher. Carpenter said she likes the “small-town atmosphere” of Dupo, which is also how she remembers her hometown of Troy.
Carpenter, 48, lives in Maryville with her family today.
But Troy is where she first decided she wanted to become a teacher and where she started her career.
Carpenter said she was inspired in elementary school to pursue a career in education because of a teacher in a Triad District 2 classroom. Her first position was in the same district: a special education teacher and cheerleading coach at Triad High School.
After a decade teaching, Carpenter said she started moving into leadership roles — first in the Madison County Region II Special Education Cooperative and then in Unit 10.
She says her experience at all levels of the school system will help her make decisions as a first-year superintendent.
“I think it gives me a unique ability to see a big picture,” she said. “I think that every decision that’s made, there’s a domino effect, and a good leader needs to be able to try to predict what that might be.”
Carpenter said she wants to be a collaborative leader, getting feedback from the community, parents, teachers, administrators and even former students. In a message posted on the district’s website, the new superintendent wrote an invitation to stop by the central office to share thoughts, concerns and suggestions with her.
“My goal really this first year is to learn, to observe and to become part of the community, both in Dupo and with the school system, and then to … work collaboratively with the administrative staff and principals and teachers and spend time with kids,” she said. “I think it’s important.”
She feels input from graduates of Dupo High School, in particular, could help improve test scores. According to last year’s assessment, just 13 percent of high school students met or exceeded state standards.
“I’d love to be able to have a conversation with students that are no longer at Dupo, that maybe just recently graduated, about what benefited them, what they needed,” Carpenter said. She also wants to hear from District 196’s curriculum council.
“I think it’s important to be goal oriented, but the goals can’t come from me,” she said. “I don’t believe it should be a top-down; I think it needs to be a team, and it needs to be collaborative. We need to have those conversations that can best benefit kids, but kids need to be a part of that.”
This school year, District 196 not only has a new superintendent, it also has two new leaders at Bluffview Elementary School.
Victoria White is the school’s new principal. She’s coming to Dupo from Cahokia District 187. The elementary school’s new assistant principal, Brad Daubach, is a former Dupo High School teacher.
Carpenter said there will be even more new leadership in District 196 next year because Dupo Junior and Senior High School Principal William Harris is retiring. She says turnover can be beneficial because new employees bring fresh perspectives with them.
“It’s exciting times,” Carpenter said. “It’s exciting to get new ideas.”
Like other school districts in Illinois, District 196 faces an uncertain future for state funding. Carpenter said district officials are “thrilled” that Illinois has a budget for the first time since 2015.
But schools won’t receive general state aid money from the state until the governor and General Assembly agree on a funding formula, which is how the money will be distributed to them. General state aid is based primarily on the local property wealth within each school district.
District 196 relies on the state for about half of its revenue and another 39 percent comes from local sources like property taxes.
“We’re hoping that there’s some resolution to that or we’re going to have to be real creative as all the other districts are,” Carpenter said.
Schools will be starting on time on Aug. 15, according to Carpenter.
As District 196’s new leader, Carpenter’s salary is $131,000.
- Age: 48
- Education: Bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University; master’s, specialist and doctoral degrees from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
- Experience: Triad District 2 special education teacher and cheerleading coach; Madison County Region II Special Education Cooperative assistant director; Collinsville High School assistant principal; Collinsville Unit 10 special education director; Collinsville Unit 10 student services director; Collinsville Unit 10 human resources director; Collinsville Unit 10 assistant superintendent; Dupo District 196 superintendent
- Family: Husband Bob Carpenter; children Clay, 23; Kelsey, 22; Colton, 18; and Caleb, 17
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org