Marvin Swann, a 1973 Danville High School graduate, is a substitute teacher for DHS. Prior to that he was a Board of Education member for about 18 years, serving as Chair for many of those years. After that he served on the School Based Decision Making Council at Mary G. Hogsett Primary School for several years. He started subbing about eight or nine years ago after he retired and wanted to keep working.
“I think being around young people helps you stay young,” he said.
He enjoys helping students, talking to them about things like what to expect after high school, and he subs a lot because he knows a lot of people in the district and at DHS. He answered some questions about his Danville Schools journey.
Tell us about your Danville Schools journey. What school(s) did you attend, and what’s a highlight that stands out to you?
I was fortunate to start out, before integration, in the old Black Bate school. And then integration took place and I spent one year in Jennie Rogers, then I went back to Bate for middle school, then the high school. I graduated from high school in 1973, went off to college, graduated from Eastern Kentucky University. Later I got a job with Whirlpool and stayed out there for almost 23 years. I did a lot of things, clubs and stuff outside in the state, but I like Danville and what’s going on here. I think the thing that always stood out to me was — going back to I reckon when Bob Rowland was superintendent — talking about what Danville has to offer our kids. We have some of the brightest kids. We’ve had kids go to Yale, Harvard, the military academies — and all of them have been very successful, and that’s something to be proud of.
What aspects of your Danville Schools education helped mold you into the person you are today?
I can remember as a student, even in high school, often one of my best friends, or one of the people I most looked up to — they were in education, and they thought I was going to be a teacher, so they helped me get on that path. I got to help them in the classes and stuff, and that sort of molded me. I think education is something that we all have the opportunity to do, and what we do with it is left entirely up to us. I’ve seen — my niece for example — she got a scholarship to Spelman College, which is a very historical Black women’s college in Atlanta. She was very successful there, came back, went to law school at the University of Kentucky, and I’ve just seen so many of our Black alumni succeed, and that can filter back into the school today. A lot of times, our kids, they’ve got a good opportunity to do things but don’t really have a good vision set for them, but we’ve had very successful Black graduates. When I was on the board, we did a renovation of our auditorium, and we got to bring Larnelle Harris, who is a Grammy winner and so forth. But he’s not the only one. We’ve got many Black graduates who are lawyers, judges, doctors, and much else. It’s good to see them come back home every now and then.
When you think back on your Danville Schools experience, are there specific instances or relationships that stand out to you as having had a significant impact on your success since graduating?
I had the opportunity to serve under three superintendents, and that’s usually quite unusual for a person. I enjoyed all three of them. I think all three were interested in what I was saying and my views on education in Danville. They picked out early that I had leadership qualities they thought would benefit the system. I love Danville Schools. I think anything a child needs or wants, they can get here in Danville. We’ve had some great teachers, and we still get some of the top teachers. I just wish all the children would take advantage of it. I believe education is meant for all, not some. That was my biggest thing when I served on the board was making sure all our children got reached.
As a product of Danville Schools, what advice would you give to a parent who was choosing an education path for their child?
I’d like to see more parents get involved in the school system. Those who said it takes a village to raise a child — I believe that. School has changed drastically, and school systems need the parents, and the parents need the school systems. So I think merging that relationship is important.
As a product of Danville Schools, what drives you to give back to your local school and/or district?
I spent a lot of time on the board, and now, recruiting Black people to come back to Danville. I think it’s very important that your school balance should be equal to your student-teacher ratio. The time I spent on the board, I helped recruit a lot of Blacks. I think we need to somehow establish some way to get some more young people wanting to be teachers and so forth involved before they even get out of high school, where they would have the opportunity to come back and serve in this community. My daughter — I’ve got two daughters in college now, one at the University of Louisville and one at Bluegrass Community and Technical College getting ready to go to EKU — and fortunately the one at BCTC, she’s in early childhood, and she’s had the opportunity this year to work at Mary G. Hogsett Primary School as a teacher aide. I’m quite sure in the next year and a half or two years that she’ll want to come back to Danville because she enjoys what she’s experienced so far.
I’m proud of what Danville’s done. When I was on the school board I also served in capacities in the state. I was on the governor’s advisory board for a number of years. I was on the board of directors for the Kentucky School Board Association. And I’ve had opportunity to meet and talk to many of my counterparts across the state. I think Danville has a unique opportunity for its students. The manufacturing economy is growing, jobs are coming to Kentucky, and opportunities at the technical school — there’s skills and stuff there that you can learn and pick up and make just as much money as you would teaching.
Education is a terrible thing to waste, I’ve always said, and I do believe that.
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