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Schwinn, Penny

Osceola County Public Schools Superintendent Search: Written Responses

1. How do you empower instructional leaders and staff to increase student achievement in all students?
Distinguish the actions you have personally taken from those taken by others.
When reviewing progress to goal, I regularly bring together my leadership team to discuss increasing student
performance and take the following steps to empower my team:
Clear Goals and Expectations: People feel stability and clarity when they know exactly what they are
expected to achieve. I provide my leadership team with specific goals for student achievement over a
three-year period, plus examples of where comparable schools have achieved similar growth. This
makes the goals both ambitious and feasible, empowering the team with the belief in what is possible.
True Authority and Responsibility: People feel more empowered when they believe they have the
authority to act. I facilitate conversations with each team lead to review their strategic plans for
accomplishing department-level goals and discuss what resources would be available to support the
execution of these plans. Teams are given the authority to make decisions that they believe will best
support student learning, and are further provided the necessary resources to act on their plans.
Earned Trust: Empowerment requires trust on all parts. I trust my team to best utilize their talents
towards increasing achievement and my team trusts that I will give them the space to execute on
proven tactics as well as new ideas, changing course when needed.

2. How do you measure the performance of students using metrics outside of the formal accountability
system?
A statewide formal accountability system provides a starting point to have a standardized conversations around
school performance across many contexts, but districts should have local metrics that reflect their priorities and
values related to the performance of students. On two separate occasions, I have developed holistic sets of
metrics for local stakeholders. These sets reflect three primary guidelines: (1) they must align with the strategic
plan of the district/organization, (2) they must be measurable, and (3) they should be limited in quantity so as to
focus the energy and work of the district. Academically, outside of standardized test scores and college entrance
exams, it is important to measure student literacy and growth to proficiency (elementary); and AP participation
and passing rates, career and technical education pathway completion, and 9th grade on-track to graduate
measures. In looking at non-academic indicators, it is important to measure school culture and climate through
staff and student surveys, social-emotional learning progress, suspension and expulsion rates, and chronic
absenteeism. These measures, in combination with state assessments and post-secondary outcomes, should
provide schools and the district with information about the holistic performance of students, with information
provided through outcome data, input data, and end-user perception data.

Schwinn, Penny
3. Please describe your experience working with a diverse student population. Specify what you have
personally done to address the varied needs of a diverse population.
I have been privileged to serve diverse student communities at every stage of my career. As a Principal, I led a
school with over 90% low-income, 25% English Learner, 11% special education, and no majority racial group. I
addressed their needs through targeted interventions in an inclusion model, comprehensive curriculum, and
character education. Academically, I strategically utilized teaching staff to provide for small group instruction.
This provided for differentiated groups that rotated between two instructors in the classroom, giving teachers
the opportunity to include specific strategies matched with targeted learning needs. Socially, I included
curricular choices that valued all students in the learning community. For example, in first grade, we taught a
unit on perspective by reading multiple countries version of Cinderella. Further, we included a schoolwide block
of character education, built on the schools core values that explicitly respected individual contributions and
diversity. At the county and state levels, we served dozens of languages, a growing special education population,
a large number of foster and homeless youth, and rural communities. I was able to address these needs by
creating systems and structures that allowed for schools to identify the performance of individual subgroups
and any gaps that existed. It also catalogued the most effective practices supporting each subgroup.

4. Describe how you would work with the School Board to insure that the vision, mission and goals of the
Strategic Plan are accomplished?
I believe strongly that the relationship between a School Board and its superintendent should be one of
partnership, collaboration, transparency and trust. In order to work with the Board in partnership towards
achieving the significant work outlined in the Strategic Plan, I would first create a regular report on the districts
progress towards the stated goals in the Plan. I would then transparently provide that data for the Board to hold
me accountable, to share with their constituent groups, and to post for district stakeholders. Second, I believe
that ongoing informal dialogue is an important component of a superintendents relationship with individual
Board Members, to learn more about each Members local district area, individual interests and priorities within
the Plan, as well as to solicit feedback and ideas related to the Plans progress towards implementation. Third, I
believe that there are ongoing and regular communication strategies that create a culture of transparency and
collaboration including a weekly superintendents report, scheduled presentations by district staff on key pieces
of the Plan, and regular community meetings to request ongoing feedback from the greater school community.
Finally, the superintendent should highlight every opportunity possible to include the Board in activities,
classrooms, and events that recognize and celebrate accomplishments as the district reaches Plan milestones.

Schwinn, Penny
5. Please identify what your immediate and future vision is for Osceola County Public Schools, and identify
what proactive and systematic strategies will be taken to accomplish this vision while maintaining the
school districts commitment to excellence, equity, and high academic expectations.
I strongly support the vision to make Osceola Public Schools the highest performing district in Florida. In the
immediate future, my vision would be to provide students with opportunities to demonstrate success by
providing quality execution on the major tenets of the Strategic Plan: increasing student achievement, effective
use of technology, implementing quality professional development, cultivating a safe and positive learning
environment, and effectively allocating resources towards these priority areas. In order to accomplish these
goals, I would implement a strong, formal performance management process within the district that would
create a clear structure to regularly measure progress to goal, quality of implementation, and necessary course
corrections. Excellent performance management would allow for the organization to (a) clearly understand the
priorities, (b) identify each members responsibility in achieving those priorities, (c) identifying the ways in which
success will be measured, (d) outlining a process by which all members will be held accountable, and (e)
clarifying the process whereby needed supports will be provided. Further, I would implement the same
processes that I currently manage on a statewide scale which recently received commendation from USDOE and
the RSN: deliberate, purposeful and disciplined alignment between all resources (financial and capacity) towards
the stated goals and priorities of the organization.

6. Explain your experience with growth management.


I have experienced and handled growth management in several roles, focusing on four critical components: (1)
Create a scalable model. As a founder, I recognized our long-term target and charted a structure to that likely
point. I then backwards-mapped the organizational chart to determine the management and staffing needs at
each iteration. By doing this, growth was always well-matched with staffing and allowed for the organization to
develop in alignment with its size. (2) Define a quality control system. In managing district performance and
growth, it was important to not only identify what the quality metrics would be, but the system for
measurement. At the district, I consistently set the metrics, and tasked the management to a member of my
leadership team for accountability. (3) Stability and consistency in execution. In growing a state branch, I would
measure what the implementation of each workgroup would look like during execution and compare that to the
stated goals or peak performance levels, to ensure that students were receiving a consistently strong education.
(4) Performance management matters. Growth should not impact achievement and creating a strong
performance management culture, where team members regularly track performance metrics and adjust course
as necessary, ensures that the organization remained on track towards meeting its goals.

7. In two sentences, describe your most significant professional achievement and why.
Developing a statewide accountability and performance system is my most significant professional achievement
because it contributed to the significant overhaul and realignment of how every district will look at student
achievement and how to allocate resources to best support our most under-served student groups. I am proud
that my work in developing this system solicited the largest representative population of state stakeholders in
the Departments recent history, further providing for a product that held local ownership, recognizes and
highlights the performance of each subgroup within the state from an absolute as well a growth mindset, and
empowers parents and schools to best address each students needs.