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Originally published March 3, 2011 at 8:48 PM | Page modified March 3, 2011 at 9:53 PM

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Interim Seattle schools chief says she's here 'as long as I'm needed'

Susan Enfield's contract as interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools runs through June 2012, but it was clear from her first day on the job that she hopes to stay longer.

Seattle Times education reporter

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Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson's contract (PDF)

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Ron English's statement in response to Silas Potter (PDF)

Audit documents

Washington State Auditor's report (PDF)

Audit supporting documents (PDF)

Eakes' report (PDF)

Videos, photos

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Susan Enfield's contract as interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools runs through June 2012, but it was clear from her first day on the job that she hopes to stay longer.

"I want to do the very, very best job I can for as long as I'm needed," she said, when asked if she wants the job permanently. "I'm committed to this community for as long as I can be there and help them."

The Seattle School Board appointed Enfield to the interim post Wednesday night, minutes after voting to dismiss Maria Goodloe-Johnson for failing to adequately oversee the district's small-business contracting program, which the state auditor found had $1.8 million in questionable expenses.

Don Kennedy, the district's chief finance and operations officer, was dismissed as well.

Enfield, who had been the district's chief academic officer, spent the first day at her new post holding a staff meeting at district headquarters, touring district departments and speaking with journalists.

Her first order of business, she said, is to restore the public's trust in the 47,000-student district.

Along with the board, Enfield is working to hire a new chief financial officer and a new chief operations officer — splitting the job that Kennedy held.

An interim operations officer already is in place, she said.

Enfield didn't indicate that she's out to make big changes. While she's committed to making the district's central office as lean as possible, for example, she didn't say she would cut more than Goodloe-Johnson already proposed for the 2011-12 school year.

"We have an opportunity right now to sit down together and make sure that we haven't missed anything ... or that we wouldn't want to propose anything differently," she said.

Enfield also stressed her plans to reach out to the public — and to teachers, who had a rocky relationship with Goodloe-Johnson. Last summer, the teachers voted no confidence in Goodloe-Johnson's leadership.

Some teachers are skeptical about Enfield, too. She said Thursday that's because "they don't know me."

"I think it's a matter of me taking the time to get to know them and them getting to know me," she said.

Enfield will have about a year to show the board whether she should keep the job for good. Under her contract, the board can start a search for a permanent superintendent in January 2012.

School Board President Steve Sundquist said he and his colleagues chose that date in part because it is after this fall's elections, so that any new board members would have a say in whether they want to look for someone new.

Enfield said Thursday she agrees with those who say the current crisis in the school district also offers opportunities.

She said she wants to bring together critics and supporters of the district to work together to solve problems.

"It's time for us to change the conversation that we're having around schools and what we want for our children," she said.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com

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