After close to a decade and a half of leadership service to the Garden Grove Unified School District, Laura Schwalm experienced her last school board meeting Tuesday as the district’s superintendent.
Schwalm was honored by the Board of Education members and community members for her dedication to the district. She will retire at the end of this month.
Gabriela Mafi, currently the assistant superintendent of secondary education, will be GGUSD’s new superintendent effective July 1.
Emotions ran high during the two-hour meeting as Schwalm and others tried to hold back tears while Schwalm received outpourings of love and support from staff, colleagues and board members.
At the end of the meeting, Schwalm expressed gratitude for the board and her staff that served under her during her time as superintendent.
“Thank you for the honor of letting me served as your superintendent,” she said, during the meeting. “Thank you to our teachers who have been phenomenal job with our students and to the classified staff and the administrators who have helped making the bet you placed on me a good one.”
Schwalm entered the GGUSD in 1973 and entered into administrative duties in 1979. She became superintendent in 1999 after services as the associate superintendent for business and personnel.
During Schwalm’s tenure, the school district experience increase text scores and academic success for the students.
The district was also a national winner for the Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2004 and was effective in passing Measure A bond initiative and kick start the school’s modernization project, under her leadership.
During the meeting, each board member individually thanked Schwalm for her more than 40 years of service to the district.
Bao Nguyen said he experienced the effect of Schwalm’s presence as a student of the district before he became a board member.
“Hearing the little things that you do for students that go unnoticed, you do so much and you have the personal touch on everything,” Nguyen said.”
“It’s inspiring to me as a public servant to see that we had a good guide for our teachers and our community,” he added.
Bob Harden said that selecting Schawlm as superintendent was the best decision he voted to make so far during his more than 18 years as a board member.
“We made a good decision 14 years ago,” Harden said. “We’ve been very lucky these past 14 years” legacy is going to be here for a few years.”
“Thanks for being a friend and sticking around,” he added.
Many in attendance also voiced accolades for Schwalm.
Tina Gurney, the president of the Garden Grove Education Association, said that Schwalm made the teacher environment safe for the District’s teachers and inspired them to be better teachers.
“You have inspired all of us to achieve greatness,” she said.
Garden Grove Police Department Chief Kevin Raney said that Schwalm’s tenure began when we was also moving up the ranks in GGPD. Rainey said he appreciated the relationship he built with Schwalm and considered her a partner to the police force and community.
“Enjoy your retirement, you earned it,” Raney said. “You made a difference in this community and not a lot of people can say that.”
Four current and former students of the school district also spoke about Schwalm’s impact on the district
Stephanie Nguyen, a former student at La Quinta High School, spoke during the meeting about her personal challenges growing up and how her education at GGUSD’s schools helped her.
The inspiring science teacher said that Schwalm also helped her find a path in community servant. Nguyen is currently an Avid tutor at one of the school sites.
Former student Adan Juarez shared similar sentiments for the superintendent. He said Schwalm reached out to him at he scored a perfect score on the National Latin Exam as a freshman in 2007. Juarez said that experience motivated him to strive for more.
“What really made Dr. Schwalm a phenomenal superintendent is her ability to build personal relationships with other administrators, teachers, community leaders and more importantly, students,” he said.
Juarez also said that Schwalm’s legacy will continue to live in the student lives she touched.
“You’re legacy will continue to thrive though students such as myself because in truth our successes are your successes.”
The board was also was presented a glimpse preview of some of the new redesigned Web pages for the school district and school sites.
Rick Nakano, assistant superintendent of business services, said that the process is continuing and they hope to finish web migration and training during the summer. The Web site will be “live” on Sept. 1, Nakano said.
The new web site will address some of the concerns related to user friendliness. Also the Web site will feature social media links for Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools.
Board President George West said he hopes the site will have more informational content that makes it easy for parents and students to find the particular staff members and their phone numbers and e-mail.
The Board also got a crack at the first proposed budget during one of the two public hearings held Tuesday night. A finalized budget proposal will be presented towards the end of the summer.
The next school board meeting will be July 16.