The Superintendent Search: Meet Dr. Susan Enfield

Dr. Susan Enfield currently serves as Superintendent of Highline Schools, a diverse district of nearly 20,000 students, 75% of whom qualify for free or reduced lunches. Before joining Highland in 2012, Dr. Enfield served as Chief Academic Officer and then Interim Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, a district of 47,000 students. She did her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley, earned Masters degrees from Stanford and Harvard, and holds a Ed.D. from Harvard.

As Buffalo’s Board of Education prepares its search for an Interim Superintendent to manage major restructuring initiatives over the next year or two, the Board will simultaneously search for a permanent Superintendent. We should be sure to recruit the most dynamic leader that we can find.

Several members of the Board’s “new majority” have indicated that they plan on hiring a Buffalo-based career educator to implement the majority’s most ambitious reforms. Rumors are a foot that they are planning to hire recently retired BOCES Superintendent Don Ogilvie.

After Michelle Rhee’s aggressive but short tenure as Chancellor of DC Public Schools, many young administrators shy away from the hard charging restructuring that is necessary for Buffalo Public Schools over the next two year period. Given Ogilvie’s background in vocational education, his retirement status, and his relationships in Buffalo have some saying that he’s the right guy for the one or two year job.

Board members have indicated that a national search will be conducted for a “rock star Superintendent” who will be tasked with leading the district after its planned restructuring period. It is therefore important that we highlight the nation’s most impressive leaders in education so that our community will demand the highest caliber of leadership — and recruit the right person to transform our schools over the long haul.

Meet Dr. Susan Enfield, who is currently the Superintendent of Highline Public Schools, a district of 20,000 students at 39 campuses near Seattle, WA. She holds her doctorate from Harvard; masters degrees from Stanford and Harvard; and an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley. She also completed Harvard’s urban superintendent’s program.

Dr. Enfeild also served as the Chief Academic Officer and then Interim Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, a district of 47,000 students. She led that district impressively, during a challenging time for an urban school district and under the guise of intense media scrutiny.

When she was appointed Interim Superintendent of Seattle’s public schools, she held this press conference where she seemed tepid, but laid out a firm message:

A few months later, she skillfully handles media questioning during board meetings:

When she was appointed to lead Highline Public Schools, she immediately initiated a broadly participatory process to design the district’s turnaround plan, and released this video encouraging public engagement.

Enfield appears to be politically savvy, architecting partnerships with corporations like Comcast and fielding interviews in the Governor’s mansion:

She is obviously passionate about STEM and education reform. Check out her performance on this education policy panel:

The Buffalo Chronicle will spotlight leaders in education reform during the Board’s year long search for a permanent Superintendent, who will be tasked with transforming the troubled district. Our city’s comeback hinges on that success.

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