UF President Dr. Ben Sasse announced Monday that Dr. Penny Schwinn will join the university in a newly created position as Vice President for PK-12 and Pre-Bachelors Programs.
Schwinn, with more than two decades of bipartisan experience, recently served as the State Commissioner of Education in Tennessee, according to the UF press release. She has served in various leadership roles in public education during her career.
“I’m thrilled that Dr. Schwinn is joining Gator Nation,” said Sasse in the release. “The University of Florida already does incredible working helping K-12 students across our state. Gators have done some amazingly innovative things, like the UFLI Foundation, our computer science education initiatives, and Math Nation. We’re passionate about giving Florida’s kids opportunities to succeed, and Penny brings decades of bipartisan experience to our team as we think about programs that can take more of UF’s amazing and life-changing work into K-12 classrooms. The University of Florida has Ivy-like admissions, but we’re not sitting in ivory towers. As the state’s flagship university, we’re committed to expanding opportunity across our state.”
According to the release, “Dr. Schwinn was not only the youngest education commissioner in modern Tennessee history but was also the first person of color and the first woman of color to serve in the role. As Commissioner of Education, Dr. Schwinn worked to restructure the state’s $9 billion school finance system and implement statewide training and professional support structures for teachers in the science of reading, leading to historic growth in student achievement. After working with both Republican and Democratic administrations in Washington, D.C., Dr. Schwinn earned praise from First Lady Jill Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona for her work to make it free for candidates to become a teacher while they are paid to do so.”
Schwinn started her career with Teach For America in Baltimore. She holds an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, a master’s from Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD from Claremont Graduate University. She also obtained certificates from Harvard Business School and the University of Southern California, along with her teaching credential, administrative credential and SHRM.
“The University of Florida is a special place with an incredible team,” said Schwinn in the press release. “I am excited to join a team that is passionate about education, focused on students, and dedicated to supporting teachers. I want to help put UF’s incredible knowledge, data, and expertise into more classrooms in each of Florida’s 67 counties so we can help make sure every student has the opportunity to succeed. UF wants to make the world a better place, and that starts in K-12 classrooms across the state. I am excited to get to work.”
According to the release, “Schwinn worked to restructure the $75 million plus student assessment and accountability systems in both Texas and Tennessee to maximize performance. As commissioner, she led the design of policy, budget, strategy, and performance management structures to secure the largest recurring and one-time investments in K-12 education in the history of the state of Tennessee. Further, she led one of the most extensive and successful state initiatives for learning recovery after COVID, launching the largest state tutoring effort in the country, permanent summer programming for PK-9th grade students, and universal access to Advanced Placement courses for any high school student in the state.”
Schwinn served as the Tennessee Education Commissioner from Feb. 1, 2019, through June 1, 2023, and also served as the Chief Deputy Commissioner of Education in Texas, the Assistant Secretary of Education in Delaware and the Assistant Superintendent of Performance Management for the Sacramento City Unified School District in California.