At the meeting of the Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday, June 4, two visiting school district superintendents paid personal tribute to GGUSD Supt. Laura Schwalm on the eve of her retirement later this month.
Representing school superintendents throughout California, Christopher Steinhauser, superintendent of Long Beach Unified School District, and Michael Hanson, superintendent of Fresno Unified School District, stepped to the podium to express gratitude to Dr. Schwalm for her statewide leadership and contributions to students and professional colleagues during her career in education, including the past 14 as superintendent.
“On behalf of all the superintendents in California, we want to thank Laura for the work that she has done,” said Steinhauser. “You have been blessed to have her for all these years and we have been blessed to have her because she has not only touched your lives and the lives of your students … but she has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of students. I would not be the superintendent today if it was not for this fine person. She has made our district a much better one.”
Adding to the compliments, Hanson said: “Our district and our city would not be moving as it is now if it would not have been for Laura’s friendship, leadership, guidance, and mentorship.
“Our cities, our students, our economies, and our society are better off for that,” he went on to say. “We want to thank you for the leadership you have allowed her to share with us and all that she will continue to share in the next stage of her life.”
In January Dr. Schwalm announced she would be stepping down from her position as GGUSD superintendent. Her retirement is effective June 30.
A native of Orange County, Dr. Schwalm began her career with the district 41 years ago as a student teacher. She taught in a number of schools and subsequently held school and district office administrative positions before her appointment as superintendent. While serving as superintendent, Dr. Schwalm volunteered as an advisor, confidant, and mentor to education leaders from districts in California and in other states.
Under her stewardship the GGUSD earned national recognition for academic excellence, maintained fiscal stability during challenging economic times, implemented rigorous programs to prepare students for college and skilled careers, expanded technology systems, and passed a $250-million bond measure (Measure A) in 2010 for infrastructure modernization at all district schools.
In 2004, the district was selected as the winner of the Broad Prize for Urban Education and was one of five finalists in both 2002 and 2003 for the coveted award honoring the most outstanding urban school system in America.
On February 19, the Board of Education announced the appointment of Gabriela Mafi, Ed.D., assistant superintendent of secondary education, as her successor.
The GGUSD, with more than 47,900 students, serves most of Garden Grove and portions of Santa Ana, Westminster, Fountain Valley, Cypress, Stanton, and Anaheim.