Advocate Staff Report
This year’s outstanding superintendent has roots in her district that go back to 1965, when she entered its Head Start program.
Dorothy “Dot” Perkins went on to graduate from Gallatin County High School, eventually returning to teach there and moving up the administrative ladder to assistant principal and director of districtwide services before taking the helm as superintendent in 2002.
“When the board launched a national superintendent search in 2001, Dot was the obvious choice,” the Gallatin County school board summed up in nominating her for the 2013 F.L. Dupree Award for Outstanding Superintendent. “Some said it took a national search for the board to realize that the right person had been with the district since 1965.”
The award was presented to Perkins during KSBA’s annual conference, Feb. 22-24 in Louisville.
PHOTO: From left are Bill Scott, KSBA Executive Director, Tom Dupree Jr., grandson of the award's namesake, Gallatin County Schools Superintendent Dot Perkins, and KSBA Immediate Past President Tom Blankenship.
Describing herself as “just an old farm girl,” Perkins accepted the honor with thanks to a host of people, including God, her family, administrative team and staff who work behind the scenes.
“Today, I accept the F.L. Dupree Award on behalf of the Gallatin County Schools, our board of education, our students, our administrators, our staff, our community, and especially the team of caring, committed adults around me that make me look good every day,” she said.
Perkins added that the district could not have made progress without the support of the school board. “You are priceless,” she told the past and present board members who watched her receive the honor.
In a revolving-door era of superintendencies, Perkins’ continuity is remarkable. But the Gallatin County school board’s nomination of her points to her achievements well beyond longevity that have improved the district’s finances, student achievement and stakeholder relations.
One of Perkins’ first initiatives as superintendent was implementing full-day kindergarten, which significantly increased the number of students leaving the primary grade reading at or above grade level. She developed a District Instructional Leadership Team of teachers and administrators that devises professional development and builds internal capacity. Team members receive additional training, which is then passed along at the building level. Perkins also emphasizes “growing our own,” with a program for aspiring principals.
Perkins, who holds a doctorate from Northern Kentucky University, also partnered with the neighboring Carroll County school system on an instructional rounds program for classroom monitoring and walk-throughs. During her tenure, high school ACT scores have increased from 16.7 in 2008 to 18.5 in 2012.
Perkins created the Superintendent’s Fine Art Award Recognition to recognize students for their work in that discipline at monthly school board meetings. Her programs for singling out employees for praise include awards for outstanding customer service, creative problem-solving and birthday notes of appreciation. Perkins also set up a suggestion box for ideas and continues to research ways to increase morale when the district is hard-pressed financially to give raises.
She has set up multiple focus groups that meet regularly with her to share information and get input from middle school students, high school students, parents, business community and senior citizens. Perkins also laid the groundwork for the school board to add a student representative to its membership. In 2012, she hosted a Community Leaders meeting with the school board and all local elected officials and state lawmakers from the area to talk about Gallatin County’s schools and their funding.
Her other communications efforts include the recording of school board meetings to be posted on the district website, a weekly blog and weekly staff email.
Gallatin County Schools’ financial condition is solid, with a 6.5 percent contingency fund. Perkins successfully led the charge for a recallable nickel tax to complete construction of an elementary/middle school, which was the district’s first building project that did not have to be built in phases. Her nomination notes that she continually seeks grant opportunities; most recently, the district received a three-year Teacher Integration Gates Grant that will provide $65,000 per year for training and implementing new language arts and math standards.
Perkins’ collaborations with local and state agencies and officials have resulted in shared costs for a school resource officer, acquisition of property for that new school and allocation of state urgent needs funding to help pay for it.
Perkins currently serves as president of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, is a member of the board of Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative and a member of the Local Superintendents Advisory Council that advises the state school board and education commissioner on education policy. Perkins also is one of six superintendents invited to be part of the Doctoral Executive Ed.D Program at NKU.