by Danny Wade
Humboldt City Schools had a surprise guest last Wednesday, Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. Governor Bill Lee recently appointed Schwinn to the position in January. The school was notified late Tuesday afternoon that Commissioner Schwinn would be coming to East Elementary School the next day at 10:15 a.m.
“The tour is about getting into West Tennessee schools and hear what they (school staff) say they need, what contribution we can do to improve education,”
Commissioner Schwinn said. “What is the biggest need? That’s why I’m here. I want to know what they think is going well and what can be improved upon.”
Schwinn said her plan is to visit school systems in each of the state’s regions in her first month on the job. Then she plans to continue and visit every school district in Tennessee.
Last Wednesday, Schwinn visited McKenzie, East Elementary in Humboldt and West Carroll.
Schwinn asked Humboldt school officials what their top needs are. More help with mental health and social workers, all the way down to pre-k was one of the answers. Others suggested a need for assistant principals and support staff.
Schwinn noted others had also stated the need for help with mental health and social workers. This was a big issue.
While at East Elementary, the commissioner visited a few classrooms, all of various age students.
“She was very complimentary with our curriculum,” Principal Brittanie Doaks said of commissioner Schwinn. “She was impressed with the students’ work.”
One thing Schwinn saw while visiting East was the dedication of the teachers. She liked the fact that the teachers have high expectations for all students and the teachers know all students are capable of learning.
“She spoke to children and teachers—mostly student-to-student interaction,” Doaks said of the commissioner’s visit in the classrooms. “She was very personable. You can tell she has a background in education.”
Schwinn has a profound background in education. Her mother was an educator and instilled a passion for education in her as a child.
Schwinn was the Texas Education Agency’s chief deputy commissioner of academics prior to accepting the Tennessee Commissioner of Education position. She has also helped educational positions in Delaware and California.
“I’m here to show my support, from elementary, to middle school, to high school,” the commissioner said of her visits to all the school districts. “We focus on the kids.”