BURIEN - Dr. Susan Enfield is not one to shy away from the camera.
“I am an extrovert,” Enfield said.
Enfield has been the superintendent of Highline Public Schools in South King County since 2012.
“The beauty of being in my seventh year is that I have a wonderful team,” Enfield said.
She says those years allowed her to build some deep relationships within the community.
The National School Foundation Association says that deep relationship with her community is the reason why they named Enfield the Superintendent of the Year.
“We had applicants from all across the country, Dr. Enfield is exceptional in the sense that she is a visionary,” Executive Director of National School Foundation Association Robin Callahan said.
Enfield beat out nearly 30 superintendents from across the country and the national recognition is given to leaders who can sell their vision to raise grants and donations from the community.
“I think when I was first hired at Highline I said the superintendent needs to be the chief cheerleader for the system,” Enfield said.
Her district has strong partnerships with companies like Boeing and Alaska Airlines.
“They want to hear the good things, they want me to be able to go out and here is why our district and our children is a worthy investment,” Dr. Enfield.
She was pivotal in expanding internships at Boeing for her students and working with Alaska to provide resources and unique opportunities for students.
Enfield joked that it helps when the CEO of Alaska graduated from the district, but more than that it is about going after those hard to get grants and donations.
“I think we are upfront as well on where we need to improve. We have achievement gaps between groups of students that are unacceptable. We have made tremendous gains in our discipline practices and discipline rates but we still see unacceptable differences,” Enfield said.
The job of a superintendent overseeing 19,000 students is no easy feat.
Q13 News asked Enfield if all the criticism and challenges bother her.
“Of course,” said Enfield.
But it’s an aspect that comes with her title.
“I think the challenge then is how do we keep the work deeply personal without taking the criticism personally and I will be honest some days I do a better job than others,” Enfield said.
The former journalism teacher expected those challenges, but what she did not expect is all the political rhetoric in the country now affecting her students.
“Reminding them and ourselves that you can disagree with someone and still like them. I think unfortunately we’ve gotten to a place that 'I disagree with you, I just dislike you.' And I think that’s what they see I think that’s sad and damaging,” Enfield said.
But she is not one to shy from those conversations as well.
Enfield says one of the things she is most proud of is the rise in the graduation rate. Before Enfield, in 2012, the rate was around 62 percent. By 2018 it went up to 81 percent.
The Highline Schools Foundation, a non profit that works to raise money for the district, nominated Enfield for the award.