Swofford building legacy promoting school safety

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Longtime school crossing guard Loretta Swofford of Stockbridge said she appreciates being able to make connections with students and parents through her work.

“I love having my parents out there waving at me and telling me ‘thank you,’” she says. “I love my job. I love what I’m doing.”

Loretta Swofford has enjoyed watching students grow up into adults during her 25 years as a crossing guard. Special photo

Each day, Swofford can be seen directing traffic in the mornings at Cotton Indian Elementary School in Stockbridge. She has been there since 2004, part of her 25 years’ experience as a crossing guard.

Swofford says she wasn’t expecting to be doing what she does at local schools for a quarter-century, but she wouldn’t change a thing about the path she’s chosen.

“When you start a job, you think you won’t be there long, but I’m still doing it now,” says Swofford, 67. “The only way I’m going to quit is when the Lord takes me home.”

Swofford was working for McDonald’s more than 25 years ago, when a friend suggested she apply for a job as a crossing guard in Clayton County. She worked in Clayton for 10 years, then at Eagle’s Landing High School from 2000-2004.

These days, in addition to her morning duties at Cotton Indian Elementary, she is an afternoon crossing guard at Stockbridge High School.

“Wherever they needed me, that’s where they put me,” says Swofford.

Swofford’s line of work hasn’t been without its share of dangers. She was hit by a car in 2007, while directing traffic at Stockbridge High.

“Thank God I’m still here,” says Swofford. “I’ve still got some work to do to take care of my kids, my parents and my traffic.”

Swofford has four children, as well as 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, and her connection to Cotton Indian Elementary involves more than just her job. Her granddaughters Laurie, Heidi and Tiffany attended the school when they were kids, and her great-granddaughter Autumn goes there now.

She says her emphasis on safety has, at times, raised the ire of some parents along the way.

“They get aggravated if they have to sit there,” she says. “I do my best to get them in and get them out, and make sure they’re safe.”

Swofford’s supervisor, Frank Murphy, commends Swofford for her constant efforts to keep students and parents safe.

“She’s very conscientious,” says Murphy. “She does her darnedest to expedite the travel as much as she can.”

Murphy oversees 27 crossing guards at 42 stations throughout Henry County’s north and south precincts. He says some guards, like Swofford, work at multiple stations every day during the school year.

“The staggering of the school hours allows utilization of our guards to the maximum efficiency,” says Murphy.

Traffic volume at local schools has increased in recent years due to population growth. Murphy says Swofford and her colleagues play a vital role in the community’s overall safety.

“I love my guards, and they do a big job for Henry County,” says Murphy. If they weren’t out there, there’d be a lot more accidents.”

Lisa Travis has been the principal at Cotton Indian Elementary for nearly a year and a half. She calls Swofford an integral part of the school and appreciates Swofford’s desire to keep students safe every day with a smile on her face.

“She’s out there in the rain or in the hot, beating-down sun,” says Travis. “She takes her job very seriously. There hasn’t been a day that she’s not there. She’s just always very pleasant and so kind.”

Swofford says she has enjoyed watching students grow up into adults at the schools where she has worked over the years.

“They remember me,” she says. “That’s what’s important. I love when they recognize who I am.”