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Science Hill gets surprise visit from education commissioner

W. Kenneth Medley II • May 16, 2019 at 10:04 PM

Science Hill High School was surprised Thursday with a visit from Dr. Penny Schwinn, education commissioner for Tennessee, who toured the campus and spoke briefly with the Johnson City Press.

“This has been an incredible visit,” Schwinn said. “There are a number of things that popped out. First and foremost, when we talk about excellent CTE in this state, we are talking about things that are happening in this high school.”

Schwinn was speaking of the Career, Technical and Education center at Science Hill. Apart from sitting down at lunch with some students, she spoke with many and toured the schools CTE center.

Childcare classes and a student who used his welding class to build a trailer for his family were highlights for Schwinn.

The power of the CTE center is giving students a vision for the future, even if that is one that doesn’t involve college. The CTE center can give the student the ability to explore different career possibilities and enter the workforce immediately after graduating, according to Schwinn.

“We want to make sure that our students understand that they have lots of different opportunities,” Schwinn said, “and high school is a place that they can start to do that and share.”

The line of questioning moved to the voucher program during a brief press conference. There is not a timetable for when Washington County could see money from the program, according to Schwinn. She said that her department is in the process of cycling through the legislation that has passed.

“Part of our job is to seeing what did our elected officials choose to put into law,” Schwinn said, “and then how we can best use our public dollars to ensure that they get to all children as possible.”

Guidance should be disseminated in a month or two, Schwinn said, about the program. Moving forward, Schwinn says her department needs to take a look at the diversity of needs within each community, and the amount of flexibility it will take to serve each community’s needs.

Teachers want what are best for their students, according to Schwinn. Her responsibility, she says, is to serve almost 1 million students in the state.

“I want to be able to look a parent in the eye,” Schwinn said, “and say we are working for you, for your family and your child, to make sure that he or she has the best possible education.”

What she is worried about now are those 1 million children, Schwinn went on to say. She plans to work closely with educators and families to help students statewide. Working with teachers and being a teacher before, she said that it is all about the smiling faces that come through the door.

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