published Thursday, June 21st, 2012

New Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy chief seeks to inspire

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For Chattanooga's newest school administrator, many important educational moments don't happen in a classroom.

Elaine Swafford, the newly appointed director of the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, said she wants to expose her students to a range of opportunities by helping them visit college campuses and workplaces to inspire them to succeed in school.

"To be well-rounded citizens, you have to do other things [beside school work]," Swafford said. "You have to take them out ... to expose them to things outside the building."

She said that one of her first tasks as director at the all-girls public charter school will be finding what her students are passionate about. Then she can know what post-secondary opportunities to direct them toward.

"I need to hear what the interests of the students are in a student voice," she said.

Swafford formerly served as principal at the Howard School of Academics and Technology and vice president of Chattanooga State Community College. At CGLA, she will replace interim director Carolyn Towns and interim principal LaMar Wilson.

Towns will now serve as a liaison between the charter school and its sponsoring foundation. Swafford will also help select CGLA's new dean of students.

Swafford's experience working at Chattanooga State will be invaluable to the school, Towns said.

"She is aware of all the resources out there to get our girls into college," she continued.

Towns noted that most of her students come from low-income backgrounds and nearly all get reduced-price lunches. It falls to the school to educate the girls, not only about math and English, but about opportunities after graduation, she said.

"These are girls who are smart and talented, but they don't always get the resources to prove that," Towns said.

Swafford said her approach to education will include tailoring instruction and benchmarks to individual students.

"Children do not come in nice tidy boxes. They're unique," she said.

"We are confident in Dr. Swafford's leadership. Her experience, expertise and knowledge will undoubtedly strengthen and transform the lives of girls and young women in Hamilton County. She understands how educational opportunity can change the life of a child for the better," wrote CGLA co-founder Sue Anne Wells in a news release.

For Towns, the issue is even simpler.

"I think she'll be a great role model for the girls and what you can do with your life," she said.

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