By JOHN McBRYDE
Tennessee Gov.-elect Bill Lee announced today that he has picked an education leader and former teacher from Texas to lead the Tennessee Department of Education.
Penny Schwinn, who currently serves as the chief deputy commissioner of education at the Texas Education Agency, brings vast experience to the position, according to Lee.
“Penny leads with students at the forefront and I believe her experience is exactly what we need to continue improving on the gains we have made in the past few years,” Lee said in a news release from his transition team. “As a former teacher and seasoned administrator, she will help make Tennessee a leader in the nation on education.”
Neither of the superintendents for the two school districts in Williamson County are familiar with Schwinn, but both Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney and Franklin Special School District Director of Schools David Snowden told the Franklin Home Page they are optimistic she’ll be a good choice.
“It looks like she has a great background and I’m looking forward to meeting her,” Looney said. “Based on her bio, it said she turned around the assessment system in Texas, which is exactly what we need here in Tennessee.”
The state has had issues the past few years with the TNReady system of high-stakes testing.
Snowden said he hasn’t had time yet to learn much about Schwinn, but he isn’t surprised at her selection.
“We anticipated (the next commissioner) might be somebody from out of state, so that became factual,” he said. “We hope she is the right person to lead the state in education.”
In her current role, Schwinn pursued a series of reforms including the transformation of a failing state assessment program. She also implemented the expansion of statewide externships and pathway development for improving students’ career readiness upon graduation.
Additionally, Schwinn oversaw the development of open-source instructional materials to empower teachers with high-quality resources for teaching. Prior to serving in the Texas Education Agency, Schwinn was the chief accountability and performance officer for the Delaware Department of Education where she led efforts to conduct a testing audit, which led to nearly a 20 percent decrease in student testing time.
A former teacher, Schwinn taught with Teach for America (TFA) from 2004-07 with work in Baltimore City Public Schools and Los Angeles. She is also the founder of Capitol Collegiate Academy, a charter school that serves low-income students in South Sacramento.