By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
After 38 years of service in public education, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services for Oxford Community Schools, Denise Sweat, is retiring. Her last day working in the district will be January 31, 2021.
“My greatest memories will be all of the wonderful staff, mentors and families that I have met throughout my career,” Sweat said. “I will always be thankful for the opportunity to work as a public educator.”
Sweat worked for Oxford’s school district from 1995-2001 as a teacher consultant and child find coordinator and since 2008 as the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services.
She has focused her career in special education. While growing up in Detroit, her love for people with special needs began when she was a lifeguard in high school teaching swimming to adults with disabilities.
Her career began in 1983 as a special needs preschool teacher for Cypress-Fairbanks School District near Houston, Texas. She moved to Oxford in 1990.
“I spent my first 18 years in education as a special education teacher,” she explained, “moving from teaching in the classroom to providing consultative services to teachers and district regarding educational strategies for students with special needs. Working with teachers and coordinating services and developing new programs became my passion. This led me to administration as a director of special education and eventually an Assistant Superintendent.”
Between her jobs in Oxford, she was the Director of Special Education for Lake Orion Community Schools from 2001 to 2007.
During her time in Oxford, Sweat designed and implemented programs focusing on inclusion and servicing students. She is most proud of developing LOOK First (Lake Orion and Oxford Kids First), a collaborative “Birth to Three” program for Oxford and Lake Orion special needs children age three and under.
“Prior to this program both Oxford and Lake Orion sent all of their birth to three students to a Center Program in Pontiac for services, as neither district had enough students to develop their own programming,” she said. “In collaboration with both directors of special education, I designed and implemented the first cooperative program for special needs infants in Oakland County.”
In 2008, Sweat was the first person to fill the assistant superintendent of student services position, which was created by combining the previous Director of Special Education role in addition to the administrative duties of overseeing central enrollment and pupil accounting for the entire district.
In that role, she provided leadership to 125 special education staff and 650 special education students throughout the district. On top of that, she supervised the enrollment of all students into the district including schools of choice, center programs and the Oxford Virtual Academy. She also made sure the office of pupil accounting maintained compliance reporting state and federal student membership counts.
Oxford Community Schools thanked her for her years of service, writing, “During her tenure in Oxford, Denise has managed a department that has grown exponentially while always focusing on the needs of her students. We are grateful for Denise’s service to the Oxford Community and wish her the best in her retirement!”
Sweat does not have a specific plan for her retirement, but she has some good ideas. “My husband and I hope to spend more time traveling, visiting our daughters who live in Manhattan and Marquette, enjoy the upcoming summer sailing, and continue my passion for fitness and nutrition,” she said.
By James Hanlon