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Blogger T.C.Weber, aka “Dad Gone Wild,” thinks there is something amiss in Tennessee. The State Commissioner of education Penny Schwinn is holding down two full-time jobs. He thinks that is odd. Does anyone else? She founded a charter school in California, where she is still listed as executive director. Interesting. Superwoman?
Capital Collegiate Academy was founded back in 2011 by one Penny Schwinn. In the past, I’ve talked about Schwinn’s tenure with the St. Hope Foundation, the charter network founded by Michelle Rhee’s husband and former Mayor of Sacramento Kevin Johnson. I think it’s a safe assumption that in opening her own school, Schwinn benefited from her relationship with Johnson. It worth noting that Penny’s husband Paul, also worked for the St. Hope Foundation. Stick around, you’ll notice a pattern here.
Returning to Sacramento and opening a charter school was a self-professed dream of Schwinn’s. Per an article in a journal produced by the California Charter School Association, “Her goal was to return to her home town and start a charter school in an under-served community. Her vision was to provide strong standards and high expectations for all students.” Schwinn would assume the role of principal of the school that first year, before 9 months later she would assume a seat on the local school board followed 14 months later by becoming Assistant Superintendent of Sacramento City Unified School District, overseeing the very school she founded.
You may remember back in the Spring when Schwinn tweeted out for principal day how much she loved being a principal. Well, who wouldn’t love to be a principal for a school that only housed 60 Kindergarten students? Per their website, “Capitol Collegiate follows a slow growth model, which means we add an additional grade level each year. Our founding scholars started Kindergarten in 2011 and will graduate from 8th grade in 2020. CCA currently serves students in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) through 8th Grade.”
If you look at state achievement scores, that initial class of 2011 seems to be doing quite well. Last year, as 7th graders, 58.2% performed at or above expectations in ELA and 47.06% did the same in Math. I’d say that qualifies for celebration.
The only caveat that I would add is to point out that a class that started out having 60 students held 22 students last year and is now down to 15. So a little math will tell you that out those 22 students, 13 are on grade level or above and 9 are underperforming. That’s not quite as much cause for celebration. With such a small class, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect higher achievement levels.
Right now, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking, “This all very interesting, but Penny lit out of there on a fast train nearly a decade ago. What’s all of this have to do with today?”
Ah, but the question is, did Ms. Schwinn truly depart Capital Collegiate Academy? You might be surprised to find out that the Commissioner is still an active board member of the charter school, a seat she has held since inception.
“How does she do it”, you might ask, “Surely there are expectations about attending board meetings.”
Rest assured that when Ms. Schwinn can’t make it in person, she participates via teleconference from 710 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, Tennessee. In case you don’t recognize that address, it’s where her office, supplied by Tennessee taxpayers, is located.
Here’s where things get even more interesting. You see Penny wasn’t just a board member, she was also the Executive Director of the school from 2015 – 2019. Currently, the organization doesn’t appear to have an executive director. Though I hear Paul’s doing nothing…never mind, I’m sure they’ve already thought of that.
While serving as CCA’s executive director, Penny was serving as an associate superintendent in both Delaware and Texas, and in 2019 she became the Commissioner of Education for Tennessee. You wouldn’t be remiss in thinking, “There is no way she could have done both jobs simultaneously”. But she did, and was paid a pretty penny – pun intended – for it.
Lotta ching, huh?
So now you might be thinking that Ms. Schwinn cut some kind of deal, and arranged a ceremonial position due to her status as a “founder” in order to receive payment long after she split to explore greener pastures. A fair assumption, unfortunately not an assumption not backed up by documentation from the Capitol Collegiate Academy charter application where the duties of the Executive Director are extensive and clearly spelled out.
That seems like a lot of work to be doing from the East Coast while also serving as Delaware’s Chief accountability officer. I know the irony, right?
If this has you scratching your head in puzzlement, don’t consider yourself alone. In 2015, CCA was up for renewal and the SCUSD School Board had some questions themselves. They list a number of promises the school made that they’d failed to keep. Also noting that “the current Executive director fills her role as a part-time position. She is employed as an education official, in another capacity, on the East Coast of the United States. Clearly, they were as perplexed as we are.
Somebody should have pointed out to board members that the school’s IRS filings have Schwinn down as working a 40-hour week. Quite the go-getter this one is. And Mr. Schwinn, what was he up to in Delaware. He was hired as the Director of Leadership Development for the Delaware Leadership Project, which is funded by the Delaware DOE, Rodel, and Vision. Seeing the pattern yet?
Ms. Schwinn works for a pro-voucher chum of Betsy DeVos. Curiously Republican legislators wonder about her multiple jobs but Democratic legislators don’t. Read on to understand this puzzling situation.