Reimagining the Role of the Superintendent… Dr. Susan Enfield

By Jill Siler, Gunter ISD Superintendent and #NCE20 Conference Blogger

Enfield This month’s blog series have focused on women in the superintendency. Inspired by the March edition of AASA’s School Administrator magazine, our first two blogs this month featured two women who were nominated for the Women in School Leadership Superintendent of the Year: Dr. LaTonya Goffney and Dr. Candace Singh. We shift our last blog to the 2020 Women in School Leadership Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Susan Enfield.

Many educators start teaching early in their career… Dr. Susan Enfield began at the age of 7 as she transformed her play area into a makeshift school and structured meaningful lessons for her dolls and stuffed animals. That training served her well as she became a high school English and Journalism teacher and later a school improvement coach. Susan had not aspired to become a superintendent until she came across an advertisement for the Harvard Urban Superintendency Program. Susan visited Harvard and met her future mentor (Dr. Vicki Phillips) who just happened to be a guest speaking that day and knew that it was the program and the people for her.

During Susan’s doctoral program she had to serve a six-week internship with a sitting superintendent and there was no question that Susan wanted to learn under Dr. Phillips (Superintendent of Lancaster Schools, PA at the time). This internship was like no other, and Susan spent virtually every moment of those six weeks with her. She had an up close and personal seat to see the incredible impact that a superintendent can have. And when Susan graduated from Harvard, she went to work for her mentor – at first in Lancaster, and then for the state as Dr. Phillips rose to the position of Secretary of Education for Pennsylvania. Susan noted that the reason Vicki Phillips was such a prominent influence on her life was that she saw further in her than she saw in herself – and Susan is so thankful that she believed her.

Dr. Enfield would share that “you endure the job for the sake of the work,” meaning that every day she LOVES her work as it is a GIFT to serve children, but that the job also brings challenges. Susan noted that she has less and less tolerance of hypocrisy, especially when it comes to kids and equity and leaders who settle for mediocrity and the status quo.

Her advice for aspiring leaders is simple.

1)    Surround yourself with great mentors and colleagues and allow those connections to build the kind of confidence needed to take risks;

2)    Never turn down a job you haven’t yet been offered. Take a chance and be open to possibilities; and

3)    Always put health and family first. Don’t let others convince you to sacrifice for the work. Because in the end, it is not just we who suffer, but our families too! We need to sustain ourselves in the work in order to sustain the work of public education!

Dr. Enfield co-wrote one of the featured articles in the March School Administrator magazine, “Women on a Plateau in the Superintendency” and she and Dr. Kristine Gilmore close on this very topic.

“Perhaps it is time to reimagine the role of the superintendency in a way that makes it more manageable and appealing for everyone, but women in particular. For this to happen, those of us in the role today need not only to remain in our positions beyond a couple of years but also to model realistic job expectations by setting the stage for work hours, work-life balance and a family-friendly workplace.”

If there is anyone who can reimagine the role of the superintendency to set the stage for women to come, it is Dr. Enfield! A special congratulations to Dr. Susan Enfield, for being named the AASA Women in School Leadership Superintendent of the Year.

 

Dr. Susan Enfield is the superintendent of Highline Public Schools (18,000 students), south of Seattle, Washington. Susan serves as the lead superintendent for the AASA National Superintendent Certification Academy