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Ralf Swenson


Title: Superintendent, Grossmont Union High School District

Inductee Year: 2019-2020

Years of Service as 1st Principle at GVHS: 1993-2007


Leadership Profile

Ralf Swenson is the Superintendent of the Grossmont Union High School District, where he has served since 2010.

A 39-year veteran of public education, Mr. Swenson began his career in education as a teacher, head football coach, and athletic director in his native North Dakota. Since coming to California in 1989, he has served as a Vice Principal for 3 years at Merced High School, as Principal of Golden Valley High School in Merced for 14 years, three years as Superintendent of the Nevada Union High School District in Grass Valley, CA, and is now in his 6th year as the Superintendent of the Grossmont Union High School District.

While serving as Principal, Golden Valley High School was twice named to Newsweek magazine’s Top 1,000 High Schools in America list. In 2007 Golden Valley was also honored by U.S. News and World Report magazine as one of the Top 500 High Schools in America.

As Superintendent of the Nevada Joint Union High School District in Grass Valley, California, from 2007 to 2010, Mr. Swenson spearheaded improvement efforts that led to three of its high schools being recognized as California Distinguished Schools. In addition, he initiated a partnership involving Sierra College, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Ghidotti Early College High School in his district. This partnership continues to serve as a highly successful model of secondary and post-secondary collaboration. He also developed new models for effective articulation with client school districts around the issues of curriculum alignment and student performance data, with special emphasis on mathematics.

As Superintendent in Grossmont, Mr. Swenson has led efforts to elevate student academic performance, improve student attendance, and provide a broad range of opportunities to help students become college and career ready upon graduation. The Grossmont District has eleven high schools serving approximately 23,000 students, and also provides a number of alternative education programs as well as an extensive adult education program. High schools in the Grossmont District have shown steady academic improvement over the past several years and four campuses have achieved API scores over the State goal of 800. In 2013 the growth in API at El Cajon Valley High School was greater than any high school in California, and two other schools were identified as California Distinguished Schools – Grossmont High and Granite Hills. Identified by the California Department of Education as a model for expanding Career Technical Education, the Grossmont District is collaborating with four other districts in San Diego County as part of a Linked Learning Collaborative, and is actively pursuing Career Pathway Grant funding to support that effort. In 2015, two GUHSD high schools – Monte Vista and El Cajon Valley were honored as California Gold Ribbon Schools; while El Capitan and El Cajon Valley were chosen by CSBA as Golden Bell Award winners. Mr. Swenson has led his district into the 21st Century as a Future Ready District, and this past November, the Grossmont District was selected as one of ten districts in the nation to be a pilot district in the development of Open Educational Resources, and online curriculum project that will replace conventional textbooks.

Superintendent Swenson and his Leadership Team oversee the execution of two building bond programs, Propositions H and U, supported by the voters of the East County region. These bonds have supported the modernization of over 800 classrooms, infrastructure and access improvements and physical education facility improvements at the district campuses while significantly reducing the deferred maintenance backlog district-wide. The instructional environments incorporate state of the art technology, energy efficiency and flexibility.