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Nipps brings variety of perspectives to School Board

December 27, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Doris J. Nipps first became involved in the school system as a mother, so it's fitting that she feels maternal about watching it grow.

When she ran for re-election to the Washington County Board of Education in 1998, Nipps said it was like wanting to see an infant turn toddler. As a candidate again, she easily extends the metaphor.

"It's like the toddler is now walking," she said.

Nipps said she has helped start a lot of changes in the school system since she took office in 1996. She wants a final term to foster them to maturity.

Nipps has seen the school system steer off a rocky road onto the right track. An educational consulting firm's curriculum audit found a "dysfunctional" organizational structure and identified other failings in 1997.

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At about the same time, the School Board hired a new superintendent. Community committees created a strategic plan to help solve the school system's problems. The board implemented a curriculum "scope and sequence" and countywide high school exams.

It started a new reading program in the elementary schools and formed a three-year funding plan for the County Commissioners.

Having helped form those programs and policies, Nipps wants to follow through. "I would like to see those things finished," she said. The system stood still for a time but it is now seeing success, she said.

"I feel like I've put a lot of time and effort into the school system in the past five years, and we're now reaping some rewards," she said.

Nipps, 47, moved outside Hagerstown in 1972 with her husband, Jim, who is manager of facilities for Allegheny Energy. Their twins, Scott and Tom (now 20), attended Old Forge Elementary School.

She joined the school's PTA and became president. She later served as president of the county council of PTAs from 1989 to 1992. She also served on the state PTA's board of directors from 1989 to 1994, resigning the position after her election to the School Board.

In May 1998, she took a full-time job as assistant director of Williamsport Retirement Village. It changed some of her views on schools. Previously she believed character education was entirely the job of parents.

Now she feels its the school system's responsibility to help instill values. Working has also given her an employer's perspective on schools.

The chamber of commerce and business community often complained that graduates had shortcomings, she said. As someone who must hire skilled, responsible workers, Nipps agrees. "I'm thinking, you know, there are some things that need to change," she said.

As a two-term board member, she has experience with the school system and knows how it works. But Nipps said she also brings a broad-minded approach to issues. "I think I've grown in this position," she said. "I bring a lot of different perspectives to the job."

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