Delaware DOE’s latest TFA debutante.
Major gap closing BS rhetoric.
Bio: Penny Schwinn is the Head of School for Capitol Collegiate Academy, a college-prep K-8 school in Sacramento.
With a decade of experience in K-12 education, Penny has worked to increase parent choice and involvement, fiscal accountability, and student achievement in public schools. Building on her early teaching career as a Teach For America corps member in inner-city Baltimore, Penny continued to dedicate her career to education. She later worked as a manager at a multi-billion company in Los Angeles, where she worked to forge partnerships between business and schools.
Penny believes that there is nothing more important than ensuring that all students, regardless of socio-economic status, have access to an excellent education and that it is the responsibility of educators to ensure we provide that access.
In addition to her work in public schools and in the private sector, Penny is working towards her PhD in Education Finance and her Doctorate in Administration, with a focus on resource allocation in K-12 schools. She has her Masters in Teaching from Johns Hopkins and her BA in History from UC Berkeley. She is committed to ensuring that every child in Sacramento County receives the resources they need to achieve at their personal bests. She would be honored to receive your support.
KCRA 3 raw interview: Penny Schwinn
Profession: Principal and Teacher
Education Degrees: MA in Teaching, PhD and EdD (abd)
Number of years living in Sacramento County: 24 years (4 years recently)
Why do you wish to serve on the County Board of Education?
I believe in the power of an excellent education. I’m running for the County Board of Education because I have the experience in schools, the understanding of business, and the lifelong commitment to education that will be necessary to fight for our kids and ensure that schools have what they need to be successful. As a teacher and principal, I see the impact that policy has on classrooms. As a parent, I have a vested interest in making our schools as strong as possible. As a community member and former business manager, I understand the importance of fiscal responsibility and the impact that education can have on the economy. I am running for the County Board of Education because this diversity of perspective and experience has the potential to positively impact our schools, something that I have made my life’s work and to which I am fully committed.
What makes you the most qualified candidate?
My qualifications are a direct result of my experience in the classroom. As a teacher, I understand the incredible responsibility and privilege of educating children. As a principal, I recognize the fundamental requirements and challenges of running a good school. As a business manager, I have the financial sense to make smart decisions with public dollars and ensure that they go to classrooms. As a parent, I have a strong commitment to ensuring that schools provide the best possible education for our children. Finally, my academic background gives me the research and policy knowhow to be able to make smart, common sense decisions. I understand the importance of asking questions, getting answers, and involving families in this important work. I am honored by the endorsements of the Folsom and Rancho Cordova Chambers of Commerce, the Sacramento Bee, Mayor Kevin Johnson, Rancho Cordova Mayor David Sanders, many County Board members and other members of our community. I have strong support of leaders in business, government, non-profits, and education. Having such a diverse and strong support network reflects the type of candidate I am: committed to including as many people and interests as possible to come to the best answers for our children.
What is the most important issue facing county education?
The most important issue facing county education is the incredibly high drop-out rate in our county. As a board member, it will be critical to look closely at the over 20% countywide dropout rate and find strong solutions to support those students in our county schools. Harvard University did a study that showed if only half of the 2008 dropouts in Sacramento had graduated, the city would have an increase of $8 million in tax revenue and incredible cost savings in social services. This makes the need to support this group of students not only a moral and educational imperative, but an economic one as well. We need to support each and every child in our county and I promise to be a champion for our children.
How can the County Office of Education best assist school districts to maintain fiscal stability?
The County Office of Education is responsible for fiscal oversight of local districts. I believe that the most important way they can assist local districts is in the development of a support system that trains and builds capacity within district leadership. With such dramatic cuts being proposed at the local district level, the County Office has the difficult job of both holding the local districts accountable while also supporting them to continue to work in the best interest of students. The County Office needs to ensure that all students have the resources necessary to provide a strong public education, while providing strategies and opportunities for districts to find cost-savings, either through targeted and responsible cuts or creating scale and efficiencies in their programs.
Should all students be directed to a college education?
All students should have the choice. Too often, students complete high school without meeting basic college eligibility or without the knowledge and skills necessary to be able to go to college. Our responsibility as educators is to ensure that our students have mastered the material required to graduate from high school: reading at a 12th grade level, higher level math, science and social studies, enrichment, and a foreign language. With a strong education, students are able to choose for themselves whether or not college is right for them. Without a strong education, they are left with few options; my life’s work is to ensure that all students have access to an excellent education that provides them with options.
What can be done for students who are not interested in college?
Children who are not interested in college must still have a strong public education. In today’s economy, it is even more critical that all students, not just those attending college, are able to read, write, and do math at a twelfth grade level. In addition to providing a strong education, students not interested in college should be given the resources to explore other opportunities in the workforce. This may be in the form of summer internships, part-time jobs through business partners, or application-based classes that provide hands-on skills that link the academic to the practical.
What can be done about bullying in schools? As a teacher, I recognize the importance of teaching character, as well as academics. I fully support many of the programs being developed to boost student understanding of citizenship, empathy, and positive character traits. I have worked with local educators and education leaders to look at some of the strongest programs to combat bullying. The biggest solution, however, is positive and strong school culture. By creating high expectations for student conduct and character at the school level, students and staff will better hold each other accountable for ensuring a respectful, safe, and positive environment.
What do you think of the current trustees decision to grant the only countywide charter to the Fortune School? I support good schools. I believe that those schools can be traditional public schools, or charter schools. While I recognize the traditional pathway for a charter is through the local school district, the Fortune Schools made a strong case for why the achievement gap is, in fact, a countywide problem. The responsibility of the board is to address the merits of that argument and determine whether or not the program is capable of fulfilling its promise of raised outcomes for children. I believe that the current trustees did that.
Should the board grant more countywide school charters or leave charter decisions to local districts?
I believe that the board has a responsibility to review the proposals that come before them – a countywide proposal must show a clear need to create a countywide school that could not otherwise be addressed at the local level. There are certainly some cases that warrant this consideration and should be reviewed by local districts; all other cases must go through the local district channels.
What sets you apart from the other candidates in the race?
I am a candidate with the widest breadth of experiences in and out public schools. I have been a classroom teacher in grades ranging from kindergarten through high school. I have been a teacher coach in districts across the country. I have founded, run, and operated a California public school as principal and served as a sports coach for inner city youth. These school-based experiences combined with my experience in business management in the private sector as well as my interest in the success of our communities as a parent provides me a unique vantage point. I am able to see the perspective of our classroom teachers, of our parents, and of our business leaders. Having experiences in all three sectors is unique and necessary in ord