2016 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents Recipient

The Communication Technology Award for Superintendents recognizes a superintendent of a K-12 school system, intermediate unit, BOCES, or County Education Office for leadership in redefining, upgrading, and integrating cutting-edge communication technology to improve and expand outreach and engagement with education stakeholders — both internal and external.

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2016 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents Recipient

Dr. Susan Enfield

Susan Enfield, Ed.D.
Highline Public Schools
Burien, WA 98166

One of Dr. Susan Enfield’s goals as a new superintendent at Highline Public Schools, a culturally diverse urban district in the Seattle metropolitan area, was to greatly improve its communication program with communication technology. This was quite an undertaking for a school district that serves nearly 20,000 students and a large immigrant population representing close to 100 languages. Being a skilled and active communicator who understands the importance of authentic engagement with parents, students, teachers, principals, and staff, Dr. Enfield was up to the challenge.

Throughout her career, Dr. Enfield has viewed communication as key to realizing student achievement and school goals.  She stands out as a public education leader who values strategic communication and understands its critical function to her administration duties. Her colleagues note that she is known to say the most valuable part of her Harvard University Urban Superintendents Doctoral Program was the communication component. This mindset is reflected in her leadership and effective use of both traditional and social media.

Dr. Enfield’s initial improvements at Highline Public Schools included switching to newer platforms that better serve her diverse and multi-lingual community. Under her direction, the team moved from a SharePoint-based website to a Schoolwires/Blackboard platform with interactive features and multiple language translation capabilities. Knowing that many district families in the high-poverty community lacked desktop internet access but had smart-phone connectivity, Dr. Enfield’s team of early adopters developed of a Parentlink/Blackboard mobile app for parents.

On top of that, this communication leader invested in a survey tool that allows her team to better assess its audiences, drive greater participation in data collection, and produce robust analytics for staff, parents, and students. The team then added an interactive feedback tool that allows community members to share thoughts and ideas through online posts and comments, creating a robust dialog that provides insight on shared values and concerns. To date, her communication team regularly uses various means to gather feedback from district stakeholders.

Leading the way, Dr. Enfield encouraged program expansion and innovation, invested in resources needed for success (e.g., staffing, tools), and significantly increased the communication budget. She created a budget for communication team members to try innovative methods that reach the district’s diverse audiences and included a dedicated social media staff position. She also contracted an agency to conduct a communication audit to review the team’s efforts and help identify existing strengths, weak points, and opportunities for growth.

Dr. Enfield’s sophisticated methods persist through her embrace of new technology and use of traditional media. She uses video messages to move staff and community members to action plus tweets daily from her own account. A district Twitter page and monthly Twitter chats also keep families engaged and attract educators from across the region, and an active Facebook page shares good news about Highline Public Schools.

Further, interactive district annual reports now allow users to drill down for details and link to video messages, while a monthly e-magazine shares compelling stories and uses less text, more visuals, and embedded videos.  A switch from “backpack mail” delivered paper flyers to e-flyers now allows better delivery and 24/7 access from multiple devices.

This active communicator integrates digital efforts with traditional media and leads in her execution of regional media strategies. Dr. Enfield participates in editorial board meetings, authors opinion pieces, conducts interviews with the press, and frequently joins Seattle TV affiliate anchors during evening newscasts. She successfully engages local media on regional and statewide education matters and is known in the greater Seattle community for her transparency on student achievement data, graduation rates, and district challenges.

Not surprisingly, her plans for the district do not end there. Plans for the coming year include an interactive, web-based staff hub and e-newsletter; new media monitoring services that capture broadcast video clips and allow easy sharing; and increased use of Periscope to livestream events and meetings for greater participation.

Dr. Enfield’s commitment to developing strategic communication programs and identifying digital tools that successfully address challenges, build trust, and foster genuine two-way communication between diverse families and schools distinguish her as an innovative national leader. Daily, this superintendent models how to effectively support district goals with new technology. NSPRA and Blackboard are truly proud to recognize Dr. Susan Enfield as the first Communication Technology Award for Superintendents recipient.