For some, it is not easy leaving a career you love, and that is the case for former Region 7 Superintendent Dr. Rodney Swanson. Last January, he officially retired from the DeKalb County School District (DCSD); however, he hasn’t entirely left the district.
“My last day in the district was Jan. 3, but I intend to continue to work as an administrative substitute for the district to support in any way that I can,” Swanson said. “So hopefully, I won’t ever have a final day in the district.”
Swanson started his education career at DCSD in 1992 after working in corporate America for three years. While working at his corporate job, he tutored students at a local church. That experience inspired him to transition to teaching.
“I really enjoyed sharing knowledge and seeing the students understand what I was teaching them. I felt that teaching was my calling and that I would teach for free if given the opportunity,” Swanson said. “I was also inspired by my parents and extended family, who were also educators, and I thrive in a structured environment.”
Swanson said he decided to work for DCSD after hearing so many great things about the school district. His wife is also a graduate of Lakeside High School.
“I knew that I wanted to grow my family in DeKalb so my two sons could attend these amazing schools,” he said. “I figured this would be a perfect place to work, and it has been.”
Swanson received his Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Georgia in 1989, his Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Jacksonville State University in 2001, and his Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership from Mercer University in 2015.
He started as a paraprofessional at Chapel Hill Elementary School. He worked his way to a teaching position at Stone Mountain Middle School, assistant principal at DeKalb School of the Arts and then Redan High School, principal at Dunwoody High School and then Arabia Mountain High School, and regional superintendent.
He is now a retired part-time substitute as director of Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE).
“Being an educator is amazing because I have gotten an opportunity to positively impact students, families, and communities in DeKalb County,” he said. “I have learned so much about myself from the students and families, which has helped me to have a positive impact on my immediate and extended family.”
Swanson was named Outstanding Administrator of the Year for the Technology Student Association of Georgia for the 2018–2019 school year, Region 4 Principal of the Year for the 2015–2016 school year, Atlanta Urban Debate League Principal of the Year for the 2014–2015 school year, and the 2002 Teacher of the Year for Stone Mountain Middle School.
He has also had a positive impact on coworkers. Interim Region 7 Superintendent Atesha Lester served as one of his coordinators for Region 7. She said working with Swanson was a great experience, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He exhibited leadership skills of responsibility and connectedness. You could see how he leveraged those traits to build capacity and relationships with his leaders and the Region 7 community,” Lester said.
Lester also said Swanson was passionate about growing leaders.
“He recommended me for participation in the Academy of Creative Coaching Class to be able to coach leaders in the building to be self-reflective, identify solutions, and be accountable. Also, I was given autonomy and freedom to do my job, which displayed his trust and confidence in my ability,” she said. “Most importantly, Dr. Swanson showed us how much more people can do when they feel supported and appreciated.”
During the January DeKalb County Board of Education meeting, Board Chair Vickie B. Turner called Swanson a servant-leader and a quiet giant who “has co-labored with us in the cause of educating children.”
“I had the privilege of working with him at Arabia Mountain High School, where he was an exemplary leader there. I’m very proud of the legacy that was left there,” Turner said. “I think he has left an indelible footprint in this district, and we’re all the better because he was here. Thank you so much for your service to this district.”
Swanson said he would miss many things about working in DCSD.
“I will miss the students the most. I will miss the parents. I will miss the strategic planning that goes on to ensure that all students are successful and have fun in school,” he said. “I will miss the challenge of being an educator. I will also miss the relationships that I have built with the many employees in the district.”
Although Swanson plans to continue supporting the district when needed, he will spend most of his retirement with his family, working in the community, and traveling the world.