In her first interview since the Highline school district voted to hire her as its superintendent, Susan Enfield expressed excitement about working with a School Board that she knows agrees with her vision.
When Susan Enfield, the interim chief of Seattle schools, unexpectedly announced in December she would not seek the job on a permanent basis, many in the community wondered why.
That curiosity intensified earlier this week, when Enfield announced her intent to take the superintendent job in neighboring Highline Public Schools — a smaller and lower performing district.
On Thursday afternoon, she offered a few clues as to her thinking. In Enfield’s first interview since the Highline School Board voted Wednesday to hire her, she expressed excitement about the ability to work with a School Board that she knows agrees with her vision and will give her the space to make it a reality.
“I think it’s important for the superintendent and the board to be aligned in what they want for kids,” Enfield said.
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Asked whether that means she didn’t feel the alignment exists in Seattle, she responded: “I don’t know. But I feel confident that it exists in Highline.”
Enfield, who expects to finalize her Highline contract in the next few days, added she believes its smaller size will allow her to “get more deeply immersed in the work,” especially because that district’s current strategic plan is about to expire.
Her statements offer some evidence for a common theory — that despite Enfield’s popularity with community members and union leaders, she felt her ability to set her own agenda would be stunted by the November election of two School Board members who had campaigned on changing the direction of the district.
Enfield has declined to talk about that speculation or offer an explicit reason for her decision. She spent most of Thursday’s half-hour interview focusing on how much she will miss Seattle and how excited she is for Highline.
“It just all felt so right,” she said, explaining how she decided to take the Highline job after visiting a district high school as part of the interview process.
Enfield, whose one-year anniversary leading Seattle schools is Friday, said she also looked seriously at the Bellevue School District superintendency, but not at any other districts. The Highline district, which includes Burien, Des Moines and White Center among other communities, is much more diverse than either Seattle or Bellevue, and its students score significantly lower on standardized tests. It’s unclear how much Enfield will be paid at Highline, but former Highline Superintendent John Welch received an annual salary of $186,000 — much less than the $225,000 that Seattle and Bellevue pay.
But Highline does have one thing that neither Seattle nor Bellevue does — a procedure governing specifically how School Board members are supposed to communicate and interact with the superintendent.
A high-profile effort by some Seattle School Board members to establish a similar procedure was sent back to committee in January after a 4-3 vote — with two votes against the procedure coming from the new board members.
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.