Dr. Penny Schwinn Joins UF as Vice President for PK-12 and Pre-Bachelors Programs

Newly created role will extend UF’s impact to classrooms across Florida

Today, University of Florida President Dr. Ben Sasse announced that Dr. Penny Schwinn will join UF in a new position as Vice President for PK-12 and Pre-Bachelors Programs. With over two decades of bipartisan experience, Dr. Schwinn has served as a State Commissioner of Education, a national education leader, and in a variety of leadership roles in public education. 

“I’m thrilled that Dr. Schwinn is joining Gator Nation,” said President Sasse. “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 were not sitting in ivory towers. As the state’s flagship university, we’re committed to expanding opportunity across our state.”   

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. 

“The University of Florida is a special place with an incredible team,” said Dr. Schwinn. “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.” 

Dr. Schwinn, a life-long educator who started her career with Teach For America in Baltimore, holds an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, a Masters from Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD from Claremont. She also holds certificates from Harvard Business School and the University of Southern California, as well as her teaching credential, administrative credential, and SHRM.  
Dr. 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.  

In addition to her role as TN Education Commissioner, Schwinn served as the Chief Deputy Commissioner of Education for the state of Texas, where she was responsible for the oversight of over $1 billion in federal and state programmatic funding; increased family access and viewership of student achievement outcomes by over 1,000%; directed a 300% expansion in statewide externships and pathway development; and oversaw an increase in the number of low-income 4-year-olds with access to high-quality Pre-K programming.  
As the Assistant Secretary of Education in Delaware, she oversaw a redesign of the state’s accountability system, as well a statewide performance management system that focused on student outcomes. Her work as a large district assistant superintendent, charter school founder and executive director, and teacher have also all contributed to her detailed knowledge of school systems serving a diverse range of learners.  
Dr. Schwinn has three children. 

UF News September 11, 2023