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Gov-elect Bill Lee names Penny Schwinn education commissioner

Staff Report • Jan 18, 2019 at 8:02 PM

NASHVILLE — Texas Deputy Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn will be the new Tennessee commissioner of education and head the Department of Education, Gov.-elect Bill Lee announced Thursday.

“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. “As a former teacher and seasoned administrator, she will help make Tennessee a leader in the nation on education.”

Schwinn serves as the chief deputy commissioner of education at the Texas Education Agency. In this role, she 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. The interim Tennessee commissioner is former Kingpsort Superintendent Lyle Ailshie, a deputy commissioner elevated by Gov. Bill Haslam after Candice McQueen left the position at the end of 2018.

In addition, 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 to 2007 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.

On Nov. 7, the transition unveiled a new website - transition.billlee.com. The site includes detailed information about the Governor-elect’s policy priorities, a section where Tennesseans can submit their resumes to potentially join his team, and most importantly, a section where Tennesseans can share their ideas with the Governor-elect and his team.

Since launching the site, the Lee Transition Team has received information from over 1,600 applicants who are interested in serving in the administration and more than 2,500 ideas for bettering state government. More information can be found online at transition.billlee.com.

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