published Friday, September 30th, 2011

Swoffard retiring from Hamilton County schools post

Ray Swoffard, an administrator with nearly 40 years of experience in Hamilton County Schools, will retire later this year.

Swoffard, currently the deputy superintendent of elementary education, said he will leave the school system on Nov. 25 after 38 years. He has worked as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent of urban education and an associate superintendent.

"I've done just about all there is to do. And I've enjoyed it," Swoffard said. "It's been a good ride."

Swoffard said he originally planned to retire over the summer, but then-Superintendent Jim Scales asked him to stay on a little longer. Scales left the position after his contract was bought out by the school board and Assistant Superintendent Rick Smith was hired as superintendent.

"Now that we've gotten schools started and we're off to a smooth start, I just thought it was a good time to submit my plans for retirement," Swoffard said. "I just felt this was the right time."

Swoffard said he has most cherished his work on urban schools with the Benwood Initiative, a project funded by the Public Education Foundation and the Benwood Foundation that aims at improving literacy and teacher and principal effectiveness in 16 of the county's high-poverty elementary schools.

Clara Sale-Davis, director of the Benwood Initiative, described Swoffard as a local "legacy" for public education.

"The moment I met Ray I knew that I was going to be working with someone who had a heart for kids, especially those in urban education," she said.

Sale-Davis said Swoffard has been an advocate for all children.

"He's been so instrumental in ensuring the equity piece that we so often lack in urban schools," she said.

Smith said Swoffard's leadership on improving low-performing schools has been commendable. Smith said he's worked with Swoffard for more than a decade.

"When I think of Ray Swoffard, I think of a person whose contribution to Hamilton County Schools has few equals," he said.

Smith said he hasn't had time to think about who will fill Swoffard's position. But he said Swoffard's work on improving inner-city and low-performing schools won't stop with his retirement.

"I think we have people in this district that will always champion urban schools," Smith said. "I know we'll have people to continue that work."

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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