This week’s Portage Life in the Spotlight is Dr. Debra Dudek, the Director of Title and Special Student Services for Portage Township Schools. She has been a Portage girl all her adult life but has since moved to Porter where she refuses to put the Maroon and Gold in her yard.
Dudek was born in England to American parents, her father served in the US Air Force. She is a graduate of Highland High School. She attended Valparaiso University for her Undergraduate degree, Indiana Wesleyan University for her masters and she received her Doctorate from Loyola University. She is the proud mother of five children, grandmother of nine and according to Deb, she has not gone a weekend without grandchildren in her home for over ten years. Deb also tutors on the weekends.
“I will be here in Portage because this is the place where I love the students and people,” Dudek said.
Deb taught at Central Elementary for 23 years as a third grade teacher. Prior to being a teacher, she served as the Executive Director of the Portage Township YMCA.
“I tell people I was in preparation for this job before I even knew it,” Dudek said. “I had to design publications and write articles for the YMCA and now that is also included in my job as I publish the Connect magazine for the district.”
As Director of Title and Special Student Services, Deb is responsible for running the Title One program as well as maintaining the grants for the High Ability Program in the district.
“Exceptional kids are important at both ends of the scale,” she added. “We have exceptional kids who need remediation and exceptional children that need enrichment. So my job is to ensure that happens, that teachers don’t teach down the middle.”
Deb is also the Title One Director for the district. The purpose of this title is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.
“Our grant was just approved for $1.3 million and we have a Title One staff of 55 people throughout the district,” she added. “We use to be in just six elementary schools but now we will be in all eight elementary schools.”
Deb also serves as the test coordinator for the district. All the state standardized tests and scores pass through her office and she is the first to see how well Portage student’s performed on the mandated state tests.
“Any test that anyone is taking, all of those documents pass through this office and are monitored by myself,” she said. “I have to make sure that all kids have completed the test and have performed well on it.”
Being a long time resident of Portage and watching her children grow up here has left a lasting impact on Dr. Dudek.
“I think Portage is making a huge difference, not just in schools, but in the community,” she said. “The whole community is on the move and I can’t think of a better place to be. Portage has opportunity and it accepts and embraces different people. Portage is what life is. This is what all people should be able to experience.”
Dr. Dudek never planned on moving to the Administration Building. It was her former Principal that recommended that she apply for the position.
“Sometimes in life that path you meant to take, you didn’t plan on being there,” she said.
Leaving the classroom for an administrative role was a hard decision for Dr. Dudek.
“It was hard to leave the kids in the classroom,” she added. “My grandkids and the kids I tutor help with that.”
Dr. Dudek now looks at it this way, she had the opportunity as a teacher to impact 23 kids in one year, in her job now, she impacts 8,000 students a year. In her time at Central Office, Portage has grown to become one of the school districts in the state.
“It is so overwhelmingly emotional to see that happen because you see a community receiving and benefiting from all along,” she said. “Our students have not changed, we changed the way we worked with them. The entire community came together to say let’s raise up Portage.”
Because of her commitment to students on both ends of the spectrum, Dr. Debra Dudek is most definitely a Portage Life in the Spotlight.