Katie Purper, principal of Winfield Elementary School, and Shannon Zepp, assistant principal at Francis Scott Key High School, have been named as the recipients of the 12th annual Rita Board Dowd Awards for Outstanding Carroll County School Administrators.
These awards are given annually to two school administrators – one principal and one assistant principal (K-12) – awarded independently. The goal of the awards is to recognize exceptional educational leadership in serving Carroll County Public Schools and its students.
Katie Purper has been the principal of Winfield Elementary School since 2018. Prior to that, she was an assistant principal at Manchester and William Winchester Elementary Schools and a teacher at Taneytown and Robert Moton Elementary Schools.
Purper is a well-rounded leader who prioritizes students and their academic achievement. She has a strong understanding of curriculum and instruction and uses her knowledge base and experience to effectively model, speak to, and provide specific feedback for good teaching.
Purper has established and grown a culture in which the school’s work is student-focused. She instituted weekly “kid talking” and professional development meetings, as well as monthly data meetings for grade level teams to maintain a shared team focus on student achievement. Teachers often attribute the growth in the school’s achievement data during her tenure to the culture she has helped to create at the school.
Purper has shown excellent leadership during the challenges brought on by the COVID pandemic. She has kept her staff and families current with the rapidly changing information available and has shown compassion for staff and families while maintaining high expectations for teaching and learning. The calm, caring, and positive leadership she has shown during this school year has helped maintain the morale, motivation, and drive of the school’s staff in what has proven to be a most challenging year.
Shannon Zepp has served as an assistant principal at Francis Scott Key High School since 2019. Prior to that she was an assistant principal at Liberty High School from 2013 to 2015 and Winters Mill High School from 2015 to 2019. She began her career in Carroll County as a teacher at North Carroll and Manchester Valley High Schools.
Zepp is a dynamic and engaging school leader who goes out of her way to accommodate the needs of all students and their families, both in and out of the school. She promotes teamwork between the teachers, students, and staff and is a communicator who truly takes to heart what people say and does her best to respect each person’s feelings, beliefs, positions on issues, and concerns.
Zepp works tirelessly to make sure students’ needs are being addressed in the classroom and that they have the access to the instructional materials they need to be successful in their classes. She is an amazing troubleshooter, instantly finding a suitable solution to any problem.
Zepp’s attention to detail and ability to work out problems and navigate logistics kept the school running and ensured the safety and wellbeing of students and staff during the COVID pandemic. She was a constant presence checking in on students and staff to ensure the smooth operation of materials distribution, learning pods, and other key instructional components. Her ability to support students, promote community and teamwork, and communicate effectively exemplifies the traits required to successfully lead a school.
The Rita Board Dowd Award for Outstanding Carroll County School Administrators was created in 2010. Dowd taught biology and science at North Carroll High School from 1997 to 2002. She was a member of the faculty that opened Winters Mill High School in 2002 and taught biology until her appointment as assistant principal in 2006.
Any full-time elementary, middle, high school, career and technology, or alternative program principal or assistant principal in the Carroll County Public School System may be nominated for this award. Any student, administrator, teacher, parent, faculty and staff member, or other individual may nominate someone they feel deserves consideration for the award.
The selection committee was composed of a member of Rita Board Dowd’s family, the previous year’s winners, school directors, and the Chief of Schools. The entire committee reviewed every application and letter submitted. There were many deserving nominees, although only one could be named in each category.