Who is Dr. Kenneth Swanson? Meet GDOE's new superintendent
50 years of education experience is what the Guam Department of Education's superintendent-elect is bringing with him in his quest to improve the island's public education system. But he won't be starting the new gig until after the school year ends.
From leading and working in multiple schools in the U.S., Asia and parts of Europe, Guam DOE’s superintendent-elect, Dr. Kenneth Swanson, brings years of leadership and experience. "I was the first principal of Andersen Middle School and I was the DODEA boots-on-the-ground person to design and build the whole Andersen complex. So that was a four year labor of love," he said.
Swanson is the Guam Education Board's top choice. Last month, board members deciding he would be the candidate to take up the mantle of superintendent following months of an intense search.
Though he has formally accepted the job, he won’t officially be in office until just before the new school year, in early July.
This is because his contract, which includes how much he would be getting paid along with other benefits, is still being finalized. Still, Dr. Swanson vowed to do everything he can to follow the GDOE strategic plan left by past superintendent Jon Fernandez.
"One of the first things that I want to do is get it on the ground, survey that and see what progress is being made," he stated. "We need to build on the work that’s already been done and I know there’s been quite a bit of really high quality work that’s been done and what we want to do is to stay in that support and expand it. I am aware that there’s some facilities that are in pretty sad shape."
"One of the first things I need to do is get a firsthand look at every facility with our maintenance and budget folks and say, 'OK, where are we?' and 'What are our options?'," he shared.
Swanson says he’ll look into making a detailed facilities, maintenance and replacement priority list in his first 90 days in office. While he is aware the position comes with political ties to both the administration and the legislature, Swanson is adamant that the priority is the students, along with the education employees he will soon lead.
He also shared a simple message to the teachers and staff, saying, "I personally believe in every person that works in the system has a role and an impact with kids. Whether they’re a custodian or bus driver or a math teacher or a curriculum specialist in the district office. It all comes back to 'What’s the benefit for kids?', 'Where’s the payoff?', 'What’s the return on investment?' because we’re investing in people to help people grow. That’s the whole nature of the business."
Dr. Swanson will spend these next few months packing up his home and bringing his family to include his pets along for the journey here to the Pacific.
For the time being, Franklin Cooper-Nurse is currently filling the role as acting superintendent. There's no word if he will remain in the position for the remaining months, as the GEB only approved his acting appointment for a 30-day period.
For now, Education Board chair Dr. Mary Okada shared her excitement, saying the board looks forward to seeing what Swanson will do to better Guam's public school system.