Dupo’s incoming principal has experience analyzing data and leading changes to the content educators teach from her time in Collinsville schools.
Tiffany Zobrist will take over next school year as principal of Dupo High School, where data shows less than half of the students have been meeting the state’s standards for what they should know over the past 10 years.
A majority of metro-east high schools have, at one time or another, seen their students score at the same level or lower than Dupo students. Statewide averages aren’t much higher with between one-third and half of Illinois students meeting expectations in the same 10-year time frame.
When another group of Dupo students took the state science test a year later, their scores were higher, with 25 percent of them meeting standards at the high school level.
Superintendent Kelly Carpenter said Dupo District 196 leaders decided this year that they need to give students more help with science, in particular, “during the foundational years.” At the next school board meeting, she said board members will consider adding positions to provide help where it’s needed.
According to Zobrist, that strategy has worked at Collinsville Middle School, where she serves as an assistant principal today. She says the staff there tries to focus in on what at-risk students needs from their teachers.
For some middle-schoolers, it was advanced classes because they weren’t being challenged. For others, it was “behavioral contracts” because they weren’t coming to school.
For lots of kids, it was extra help with math during study hall hours.
“That has been something that has been tremendously successful here because we’re not just having students shoved into special education or falling through the cracks,” Zobrist said. “That’s something I look forward to doing in Dupo as well.”
Zobrist says her first step will be talking to Dupo’s teachers.
“And building relationships with them, so we can have open conversations about what’s good with what you do and what you are willing to make changes on and just kind of eliciting their feedback in order to make improvements and figure out what we can do to help the kids,” she said.
Zobrist will also oversee Dupo Junior High School. She is replacing Principal William Harris, who retires at the end of the school year after “a successful career that has had a tremendous impact on countless individuals,” according to Superintendent Carpenter.
“The retirement of Mr. Harris will be a loss to the district,” Carpenter said in a statement.
Between Zobrist’s experience and a teaching staff who Carpenter describes as “very strong and devoted,” the superintendent is optimistic about the future.
“I am confident that she will bring collaborative leadership to our existing team of effective teachers to support an increase (in) academic performance for all students,” Carpenter said.
Zobrist said being able to work with Carpenter was one of the reasons she wanted to come to Dupo. Like Zobrist, Carpenter previously worked in Collinsville Unit 10; she was an assistant superintendent for the district before she took the job in Dupo for the 2017-18 school year.
“She’s very solution-oriented and always wants to get what kids need,” Zobrist said.
One of Carpenter’s goals when she started as superintendent was to talk to District 196 students after they graduated or dropped out to learn what helped them and what they needed from Dupo schools.
Since then, Carpenter said she’s heard that they wanted to leave school with more job skills, so the district created a work study program that starts in the 2018-19 school year. This year, the district has been involved in an economic development group for Southwestern Illinois to partner with businesses in the region, according to Carpenter.
To help the students who have dropped out, she said the district is connecting them with job training outside of Dupo schools.
Meet Tiffany Zobrist
Zobrist got her master’s degree from McKendree University in Lebanon and her specialist degree to become a principal from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her bachelor’s degree is from Eastern Illinois University.
In 2012, she started teaching in a third-grade classroom at Caseyville Elementary School in Collinsville Unit 10. Two years later, she moved to another Unit 10 school, Dorris Intermediate, to work in a fifth-grade classroom with some of the same students.
Two more years went by and Zobrist became an assistant principal at Collinsville Middle School, where she supervised more of those students as seventh-graders.
“So I have been with the same group of kids, this group of about 525, for a really long time and their families,” she said. “It will be hard to leave Collinsville, but I appreciate all of the opportunities that Collinsville has given me.”
Dupo Junior and Senior High schools have about 422 students on average, which is less than half of the enrollment that Zobrist is used to at Collinsville Middle School. She said she’s looking forward to working in a smaller town.
“That has been one of the most exciting parts for me because Collinsville is so large, and Dupo feels a lot more like home,” she said.
Zobrist grew up in Highland, where she lives with her husband Justin and 18-month-old daughter Alyda today.
The new principal has a one-year contract with Dupo District 196. Her salary will be $90,000.
At a glance
▪ Name: Tiffany Zobrist
▪ Position: Dupo Junior and Senior High schools principal
▪ Education: Bachelor’s degree from Eastern Illinois University; master’s degree from McKendree University; specialist degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
▪ Experience: Two years as Caseyville Elementary School teacher; two years as Dorris Intermediate School teacher; and two years as Collinsville Middle School assistant principal
▪ Family: Husband Justin and daughter Alyda