PIEDMONT -- New Piedmont Unified School District board President Andrea Swenson is known for being highly organized and a multitasker.

As she speaks to a reporter on the telephone -- she's also watering plants, rattling dishes and making herself a sandwich for lunch.

With that tendency to multitask, it's no wonder that Swenson has achieved so much as a volunteer since the family moved to Piedmont 23 years ago.

Her list of accomplishments is staggering: the 2011 Art Hecht Volunteer of the Year award; serving on the board of directors of the Piedmont Education Foundation; president of Associated Parent Clubs of Piedmont; serving on the Piedmont High parent board; president of the CHIME board of directors; board member of Skyline Lacrosse; as well as volunteering for the site council for Piedmont High, Piedmont Middle School and Wildwood Elementary School.

Andrea Swenson is a candidate for the Piedmont Unified School District board in the February 2012 election.
Andrea Swenson is a candidate for the Piedmont Unified School District board in the February 2012 election.

The Barnard College graduate also worked for Lehman Brothers in New York City and San Francisco, Bank of America and Republic National Bank of New York in foreign exchange trading.

Once her family moved to Piedmont, Swenson's full-time job became volunteering and raising her son and daughter through the Piedmont schools. Daughter Lucy, a Wellesley College graduate, now works in Las Vegas for Teach for America, teaching first-graders in underserved schools. Her son, Sam, is attending Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn.

With the new school year underway, Swenson and her fellow board members are ready for the challenges.

"There are financial challenges," Swenson said. "We still don't get enough money from the state. We need to spend wisely."


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She added: "Student stress is a big issue (and) how to alleviate it. We need ongoing discussion, parent nights, see how the curriculum feeds into it."

The school board at times has been criticized for a lack of transparency and communication.

"We can do a better job in communicating," she said. "We can err on the side of overcommunicating. We try hard with such things as the Piedmont Portal (the school information website)."

Swenson spends 10 to 15 hours a week outside the board room reading reports, answering telephone calls and emails and attending meetings. But she's happy to do it.

"This is such an amazing place to live, with amazing parents," she said. "(They volunteer) for the Scrip program, hot lunches, fundraisers. I love the schools and the administration. It is an honor to work with all these people."

This school year, the board will turn its focus to the state-mandated Common Core teaching standards, the pending pilot project to put Chromebooks in several grades to enhance the learning experience, ongoing financial challenges and a new group of teachers. New board member Doug Ireland has every confidence in Swenson's abilities.

"No one has had more thorough involvement in district issues over the last decade than Andrea," Ireland said. "She is known across a wide swath of community members from her past volunteer and leadership positions. She is a good listener, a good communicator and a strong leader. She has exercised sound and level judgment on all types of issues in her many roles. I know she is looking forward to a closer collaboration between the school board and the City Council."

Swenson noted that the city and the school district's relationship has greatly improved.

"The City Council and the new City Administrator (Paul Benoit) are extremely supportive. There is a positive energy. We all want to do things for the right reasons, collaborating."

She said the two new board members -- Doug Ireland and Amal Smith -- elected in February "are fabulous. They have lived in Piedmont a long time and there isn't too much of a learning curve. Their presence is refreshing."

Outgoing board president Rick Raushenbush said of Swenson, "Andrea is smart, thoughtful, hardworking and focused on what is best for our students. As president, she will set the agenda as the board works to implement Common Core, advance professional education and evaluation process and manage budgetary issues."

It's all about a culture of continuous improvement, according to Swenson.

"Provide good growth opportunities for teachers and meet the needs of each and every student," she said. "I'm just one of five people making thoughtful decisions."

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