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New WCSD superintendent shares goals, notes challenges facing district

A headshot of superintendent Susan Enfield. She is looking toward the camera and smiling.
Courtesy of Highline Public Schools
Susan Enfield’s first school year as WCSD superintendent starts on August 15, 2022.

With the first day of the 2022-23 school year just over two weeks away, the Washoe County School District is facing staffing shortages across multiple departments and students still recovering from the pandemic.

KUNR’s Jose Davila IV sat down with Susan Enfield, the district’s new superintendent, to discuss her goals and the challenges facing local students. Enfield joined the district after serving 10 years as the superintendent of Highline Public Schools, a school district in the Seattle suburbs.

Jose Davila IV: What are your goals for the Washoe County School District during your term as superintendent?

Susan Enfield: So I am in the process right now of developing my entry plan, which we’ll be sharing with the Board of Trustees, staff and community in just a few weeks, but there are, initially, and obviously, I still have a lot to learn, but there are three main areas where I want to concentrate my focus early on in my tenure.

The first one is on ensuring that all students have access to the highest quality education possible, so they graduate prepared for whatever path they choose for themselves. You know, first and foremost, we are a school system. Our job is educating children, and we need to keep our focus on that job of educating children no matter what.

Secondly is building relationships with family and community. So it is, I believe, a huge part of my job as the superintendent to build relationships that we can build trust. I want our families and community to see Washoe County School District as a trusted organization, one they can count on and partner with in the education of our children and, frankly, the betterment of our community because a strong school system makes strong communities. And so, I plan to be very visible, out and about, meeting with folks, building those relationships, and, in turn, building trust with the school district, which I think is important.

And finally, number three: We have extraordinary professionals across this school district, and as their superintendent, my job is to make sure that they feel valued and seen and supported and have the tools that they need in order to do the work they are here to do to ensure the education of our children. And so, in essence, you could say I really want to focus on people, the little ones and the big ones, and build those relationships, build that trust and credibility and keep our focus on educating our children.

Davila: What is, in your view, the biggest challenge or set of challenges facing the school district itself?

Enfield: Well, again, I’m really in information gathering mode right now, so I will start with this: I think it is incredibly important for us to own those areas where we need to improve and be very specific in what we are going to do about them, and in the same breath, we need to celebrate the extraordinary work that’s happening across this district. And so, striking that balance is going to be incredibly important for me.

Clearly, as we are about to launch the start of a brand-new school year, staffing is first and foremost in my mind. We still have teacher vacancies, bus driver vacancies. We have some vacancies in housekeeping and nutrition services, and so really making sure we are doing everything we can to recruit and retain the staff that our schools need in order to serve our children is top of mind right now for me.

Davila: When we think about children in the school district, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing the children in Washoe County School District at the moment?

Enfield: Well, I think the biggest challenge facing children in Washoe County School District is one frankly that is facing most children across this country. We are in the beginnings of a multi-year recovery from the pandemic. This is not something where we can flip a switch and everyone will be back to where they were before, moving forward. We know that children, and frankly some adults, have suffered over the past couple of years and that some of our children have sort of lost ground, and it’s not just academic. Academics obviously is incredibly important, and we are really focusing intensively on how we ensure our students are thriving academically.

We also, though, need to make sure that they have the mental health supports that they need because we know that a lack of socialization, a lack of just being out in a community with peers, has impacted some of our children. So caring for our children first and foremost as human beings, but not letting off the gas when it comes to, you know, accelerating academic learning.

Jose Davila IV is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Jose Davila IV is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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