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Highline Superintendent Susan Enfield:  Energizer-in-Chief Extraordinaire

May 13, 2020 0 Comments

Our readers will recall that the March 31 post at this blog, “Crises Demand Energizers-in-Chief at All Levels” (https://extraordinaryceo.com/crises-demand-energizers-in-chief-at-all-levels/), describes chief executives who wear the Energizer-in-Chief hat in tackling the twin challenges of education and inspiration during crises such as Covid 19.  “On the one hand,” the March 31 post explains, “people naturally hunger for explanation and explication.  They crave understanding: of the forces at work in the crisis, and of the extent of the danger they are in.  On the other, they crave hope – that resolute, capable leadership will bring the ordeal to an end.”  Dr. Susan Enfield, Superintendent of the Highline Public Schools in Washington State, is definitely one of those energizing chief executives,  as the video interview I recorded with her indicates.

You’ll find a number of golden nuggets in the video of my interview with Susan that you can put to good use in dealing with Covid 19 and future crises you must grapple with in your organization.  Indeed, Susan’s responses to my questions add up to a veritable Energizer-in-Chief primer. To take three of examples that particularly struck me:

  • In playing the Energizer-in-Chief role at the helm of the Highline Schools during the Covid 19 crisis, Susan has been guided by a powerful philosophical statement – a kind of district vision – that is known as the Highline “Promise:” “Every student in Highline Public Schools is known by name, strength and need, and graduates prepared for the future they choose.” As Susan explains in the video, the Highline Promise is embedded in the DNA of the whole Highline Schools family.
  • Wearing her educational leader hat, Susan has modeled responsible leadership at the top by both self-isolating at home with her family most of the time while also making frequent in-person appearances in the district, joining faculty and staff, for example, in distributing meals to students. Rather than merely lecturing about responsible behavior, Susan has actually taken the far more powerful step of, as they say, walking the talk.
  • And wearing her inspirational leader hat, Susan has followed a tripartite strategy: encouraging students, their parents, faculty and staff in a tremendously stressful time, instilling hope and optimism;  speaking honestly about the situation the Highline community is facing, in no way minimizing the challenges of Covid 19; and frequently expressing appreciation for contributions to the welfare of students and their families during Covid 19 in simple but meaningful ways – for example, presenting volunteers distributing meals to students at the district office with a tulip apiece.

Susan is, indeed, an Energizer-in-Chief Extraordinaire in the Highline Schools who, as our video demonstrates, leads from both the head and the heart.  And as Susan points out more than once in our video interview, she has played this role in close partnership with the other member of the Highline Strategic Governing Team, the district’s Board of Directors.

Doug Eadie
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