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Superintendent Dr. Pamela Swanson Named 2020 Colorado Superintendent of the Year

Dr. Pamela Swanson, a one-time principal in Westminster Public Schools (WPS), has been named the 2020 Colorado Superintendent of the Year by the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE)

The announcement was made Thursday, October 24. Dr. Swanson joined Westminster Public Schools, then Adams County School District 50, in 1995 as Principal at Westminster Hills Elementary.

“This is a truly humbling honor and it would not have been possible without the incredible support I have had from our students, families, community, staff and the Board of Education,” said Swanson. “I have always viewed WPS as a family, so this is really a celebration for all of us.”

Dr. Pamela Swanson Superintendent of the Year During her tenure, which began in 2011 as interim Superintendent, WPS has made significant academic progress while becoming the largest school district in the country to be entirely competency based. Competency based education does away with traditional grades and grade levels by requiring students to show mastery of learning topics before moving to the next level. This approach allows some students to progress quickly while others may take more time to fully learn a topic or fill in gaps in their learning.

Swanson and her team are recognized nationwide as leaders in competency based education and have become forceful advocates for reforming how schools and districts are evaluated. 

“I believe this recognition validates our Competency Based System (CBS) and our willingness to take on the status quo in public education,” said Swanson. “CBS is about equity in education and working to ensure that all students reach their full potential regardless of their background and circumstances.”

The announcement from CASE included comments from Brenda Krage, president of the Colorado Association of Superintendents and Senior School Administrators. “What’s especially unique and impressive about Pam is the unwavering commitment she demonstrated in transforming an entire district education system that impacts around 9,300 students,” she said.

She really had to effectively lead this transformation at every single level of the organization, knowing that the CBS model is a major departure from our current system that emphasizes once a year, high stakes testing.”

In addition to the implementation of CBS, in 2018, WPS passed its first mill levy override in 16 years. Under Swanson’s leadership WPS also successfully rebranded the district, changing the name from Adams County School District 50 to Westminster Public Schools and adopting the tagline, “Where Education is Personal”.

Dr. Swanson will be given her award at the November 12 Board of Education meeting.

Dr. Swanson received her undergraduate degree in music from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Her teaching credential was awarded from Cameron University in Oklahoma and she received her M.A. in Educational Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver. Dr. Swanson earned her doctorate in educational leadership and organizational development from NOVA Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

She also holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) industry designation.

You can view the CASE press release here.