Giving Compass' Take:
- Superintendent of Highline Public Schools in Burien, Washington, Susan Enfield, discusses the need for educational equity in schools and how students can help guide decision-making.
- What can education donors do to ensure educational equity?
- Read more about impact investing for equity.
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Almost a decade into her tenure as superintendent of Highline Public Schools in Burien, Washington, Susan Enfield guides her district's work not with a mission or vision statement, but with a promise. The Highline Promise, she recently told Education Dive, is to know every student by name, strength and need so they graduate prepared for the future they choose.
For Enfield — who began her career as a high school journalism, ELL and English teacher — the Highline Promise has become part of the district's DNA since it was first introduced in 2012.
"It is very clearly representative of our commitment to equity," she said, "because if we could say we knew every child in our public schools by name, by strengths and by need, and that they graduated prepared for whatever path they chose, that would be equity at scale."
Meeting that promise, however, is easier said than done even in the best of times. The district, which surrounds the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, serves a diverse population of just over 19,000 students. Close to 70% are on free and reduced-price lunch, and around half speak a first language other than English, she said. Despite these circumstances, Highline still boasts a graduation rate of 83%.
We caught up with Enfield in late October to learn more about how the district delivers on its promise amid pandemic disruption, its efforts to build strong relationships with students, how it's bracing for potential budget cuts and more.
EDUCATION DIVE: This has been a year unlike any other before it, to say the least. When it comes to the Highline Promise, how do you still make sure you're delivering on that with the school model disrupted the way it is?
ENFIELD: That's a great question, and I think it speaks to one of the greatest leadership challenges that exists: Amid crisis, how do you identify and enact opportunities for change? Which is something we know we need to do, but is hard to do.
[We were] bearing that in mind in the spring, as we were preparing to engage in distance learning through the end of the last school year, knowing that we'd likely have to prepare for a hybrid or a distance learning model this year. We are currently in full distance learning. We may be bringing back some of our students with special needs in small groups in two weeks, and then potentially after that, elementary. But that decision has yet to be made.
Read the full article about student decision-making by Roger Riddell at Education Dive.