News Flash: Susan Enfield Is NOT Closing Rainier Beach High School (But Is Shaking Things Up)

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We get press releases all the time that trumpet news big and small, but rarely do they announce news that is not happening. Yesterday, however, Seattle Public Schools sent a release with this startling declaration: Rainier Beach High School is not closing. At least not next year.

Why would it do such a thing? The district wanted to put to rest rumors that had been circulating, according to SPS spokesperson Teresa Wippel. It had recently received inquiries about a possible closure from a couple of press outlets that had been contacted by worried parents.

That's no surprise, really. Talk of Rainier Beach's possible demise has been around for years, fed by the school's small enrollment numbers and struggling academic performance. Despite that, a band of loyal parents and teachers have been fighting to keep the school alive, continually coming to school board meetings to broadcast positive developments, like the increasing (but still small) numbers of students who are going to college.

And Interim Seattle Schools Superintendent Susan Enfield, installed only a couple of months ago after a contracting scandal led to Maria Goodloe-Johnson's ouster, is proving surprisingly willing to shake things up. At the tension-filled board meeting where she was suddenly elevated to the district's top job, she responded to parents' anger over the scandal and the perceived haughtiness of the district by promising a collaborative approach.

This week, however, she fired Ingraham High Principal Martin Floe, a move that shocked the school's parents and teachers. She also got rid of a couple of administrators.

So the Rainier Beach community might understandably be wondering what's next. In fact, there are changes afoot, even though the high school is staying open. Enfield is reassigning the school's two co-principals, according to Wippel. (Goodloe-Johnson had added a second principal as one of many efforts to improve the school.) Lisa Escobar will become principal of Viewlands Elementary, a school that the district had closed but is reopening in the fall. Gary Robert is taking over the Interagency Academy, an alternative school.

The district is now looking for a new principal, one who can transform the school according to the district's latest plan. It has decided to create an International Baccalaureate program there. The program, offered around the world and providing academically advanced classes, is a big draw at other schools. West Seattle's Chief Sealth High, which has an IB program, attracts many students from across the bridge--including quite a few living in Rainier Beach High's catchment area.

Ingraham, too, has an IB that many people considered successful. Enfield, apparently, thought otherwise. "Looking at the data, we knew it [Ingraham] could be better," she told The Seattle Times, indicating that she shares her predecessor's obsession with test scores and other statistics. Her assessment also suggests that even as she brings the IB program to Rainier Beach, she doesn't consider it a magic bullet.

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