Susan Enfield Receives 2019 Crystal Apple Award

Susan Enfield Families and staff in Highline Public Schools expect high standards for school communications. Superintendent Susan Enfield shares those high expectations and has invested in a strong communications program for engaging the district's diverse community.

Under Dr. Enfield's leadership, Highline has upgraded communications tools and products, completed a full communications audit and developed an online annual report that allows users to examine strategic plan results using data visualization software.

Highline's social media presence has exploded exponentially and has a national following. Dr. Enield herself has more than 4,000 Twitter followers and has racked up 22,400 tweets.

We are proud to present Dr. Enfield with the 2019 Crystal Apple Award. Here is her nomination letter, submitted by Catherine Carbone Rogers, Chief Communications Officer. 

When Susan Enfield came to Highline Public Schools as superintendent, one of the first things he said to me was, “You need another staff person. You decide the position you want.” After I recovered from my initial shock and thanked her, I went to work creating a job description for a social media manager. It was 2012, and Highline was the first in our region to have a dedicated social media position.

This was the first of many investments in communications Dr. Enield made early in her tenure. Since then, Dr. Enield has continued to encourage expansion and innovation in our communications program. We have added and upgraded our communication tools and products and added an additional position dedicated to capital projects communication.

Under Dr. Enield’s leadership, our communication program has grown to meet her high expectations for engaging the community in multiple ways.

  • Our social media presence has exploded exponentially and has a national following. Dr. Enield herself has more than 3,700 Twitter followers and has racked up 20,600 tweets. 
  • With Dr. Enield’s encouragement, we have completed a full communications audit and a SCoPE survey, which have resulted in many improvements to our communications strategies and products.
  • Responding to Dr. Enield’s directive to fully communicate our achievement data, we developed an online annual report that allows users to examine our results using data visualization software.

Our most effective communications tool has been the strategic plan developed under Dr. Enfield’s leadership. The clarity and simplicity of the plan, with its bold goals for students, has made it a rallying point for all staff. Across the district and community, staff, parents and students often quote the Highline Promise that is at the center of the plan: Every student is known by name, strength and need and graduates prepared for the future they choose.

The strategic plan sparked a grassroots movement, Graduate! Highline, targeting community and business resources toward our central goal of a 95 percent graduation rate. And Highline is making impressive progress toward that goal. Since 2013, Highline’s graduation rate has climbed from 62 percent to over 81 percent in 2018, with students of color seeing the greatest gains. For example, the graduation rate for American Indian/Alaska Native students, which was at 39 percent in 2013, soared to 87.5 percent in 2018.

More examples of Dr. Enfield’s leadership in communications:

On making communications a priority: Dr. Enfield says the most valuable part of her doctoral program at Harvard was the communications component. Discussions of new initiatives or significant changes begin and end with her statement, “I want to see a communications strategy on this.”

On school leadership: Our principal evaluation includes a communications component, in which principals are held accountable for strong relationships with families. The communications team conducts quarterly audits of schools’ use of the notifications system and content on school web pages. Reports are given to each principal and their supervisor to be used as a quarterly check-up and tool for improvement.

On transparency: Dr. Enfield insists that we include disaggregated student achievement data in annual school performance reports. Though this data is not flattering, she sees this as our commitment to holding ourselves accountable for achievement gaps.

On advocacy: Prompted by the negative impact of current political rhetoric on our students, Dr. Enfield sent a message to staff and families reaffirming our support for our culturally diverse students in the face of divisive and demeaning political speech. Her letter was published in The Seattle Times as a guest essay.

On media accessibility: Because of Dr. Enfield’s open approach to the news media, Highline has become the go-to district in the region when reporters want to localize national or regional education-related news stories.

On professional growth and development: Dr. Enfield encourages the communications team to take advantage of as many professional development opportunities as possible, and she budgets for it. Highline staff attends all WSPRA workshops as well as the annual NSPRA seminar.

Dr. Enfield won the 2016 NSPRA Communications Technology Award, which recognizes superintendents for “leadership in redefining, upgrading, and integrating cutting-edge communication technology to improve and expand outreach and engagement with education stakeholders—internal and external.” She currently serves as the superintendent representative on the NSPRA Board of Directors.

It is my privilege to serve a leader who understands, values, and practices excellent communications. She sets high standards for me and my team and ensures that we have the support we need to deliver on those high expectations.