Education Commissioner Visits Union City School

 Education Commissioner Visits Union City School

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn (center) speaks with Union City Director of Schools Wes Kennedy (r) and Elementary Principal David Byars (l). Commissioner Schwinn visited Union City Elementary School on Monday….(photo: Mike Hutchens – UC Schools Communications Director)

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn visits with an elementary school student during her visit on Monday….

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn paid a visit to Union City Elementary School Monday.

She insisted she liked everything she saw.

“This represents everything we’re trying to do as a state, all packaged into one beautiful school system,” claimed Schwinn, who toured UCES before a scheduled Town Hall meeting at Gibson County High School in the evening.

“I saw teachers who were incredibly engaged, even toward the very last minute of instruction time. I saw students we were engaged in learning. There were high-quality instructional materials, and I saw teachers going above and beyond – across the board – from having daycare programs for staff though having incredible sessions from bell to bell.”

Elementary School Principal David Byars led Schwinn and her team on a tour through his building, visiting rooms in Tiny Tornado Academy and several others in various grades.

Byars went into great detail with the governor’s top policy official in K-12 schools about the many programs offered at UCES. Union City Director of Schools Wes Kennedy, Assistant Director Michael Paul Miller, Director of Teachers and Learning Rene Flood and Director of Special Populations Laney Rogers also offered insights to Schwinn and her team members.

The visit to Union City marked the last stop on Schwinn’s tour to visit every school system in the state – a pledge she made after her appointment in February of 2019.

“It looks like I saved the best for last,” she smiled. “I wanted to get to Union City because I’d heard so many great things about the system and its people. It was everything I heard it was.”

Kennedy welcomed Schwinn’s presence, saying: “We were thrilled to have the commissioner come to one of our campuses. We are proud of so many things we have going on at Union City Schools, and I was happy that our people were able to show her in person many of those programs and she was able to engage with them as well as our students.”

Schwinn said she reports her findings and has regular discussions with Governor Bill Lee. She, too, often speaks to the General Assembly as well as the state education committee. She also shares extensively with her team members, which include Pennye Thurmond, a former assistant principal at UC Elementary School.

“I talk quite a bit with my team. I always try to bring one or two of them with me to witness things. When we see so many of the things that we saw here today, I tell them ‘We want this, and we want it everywhere,'” she insisted.

The commissioner said she foresaw continuing to push high-quality materials with more innovation and restructuring of what high school looks like. She predicted more work-based learning and more apprenticeships with a large focus on continuing literacy, especially early literacy.

Charles Choate