School & District Management

Superintendent Who Led During COVID-19 School Shutdowns Gets Top Honors

By Stephen Sawchuk — February 18, 2021 3 min read
Michelle Reid, superintendent of the Northshore district in Washington

This is an exciting week for recognizing hardworking school district leaders. A Washington State superintendent has won the coveted National Superintendent of the Year award from the main organization representing district leaders.

That honor came on the heels of Education Week’s announcement of our 2021 Leaders to Learn From, a project that recognizes excellent district leaders of all stripes.

Michelle Reid, the superintendent of the Northshore district, headquartered in Bothell, Wash., won the top prize of National Superintendent of the Year. The program is run by AASA, the School Superintendents Association.

Finalists for the award are chosen from among the winners of the state superintendent of the year contests. Their accomplishments are considered against four criteria: their ability to meet students’ needs creatively, communication skills, professionalism, and community involvement.

Reid became superintendent of the 22,000-student district in 2016. She had previously been superintendent of the South Kitsap district in Port Orchard, Wash., and was a deputy superintendent, deputy athletic director, and principal in the Port Angeles district, also in Washington state.

In a sense, Reid’s win is symbolically appropriate. Her district was among the first to close all of its schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which it did about a week and half before most other school systems. At the time, Education Week interviewed her for early insights on remote learning as it became clear the rest of the nation would have to follow suit.

Recently, she reflected on that sudden, massive change: “In terms of needing to learn things really quickly, it felt a little like we took our swim lessons that were planned for three months and had about three hours and got thrown in with just our water wings.

“It was a pretty nimble move for a profession and body of work that often doesn’t get characterized as nimble,” she said.

Reid also highlighted the shared nature of learning and the importance of relationships among students, bus drivers, office professionals, teachers, and the community.

“Learning happens best in a community, and together we are such a strong community,” she said in remarks following her award win. And she looked forward to a hopeful year.

“We have more days of remote learning behind us than we have ahead of us. We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we must remember, as leaders, to be the light in the tunnel.

“I just want to encourage each of us as we work to reopen the schools of the future, and not reopen the schools of the past” Reid added.

EdWeek’s annual project honors superintendents, other leaders

The other finalists for AASA honor were Bryan Johnson, the superintendent of the Hamilton County Schools, in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Khalid Mumin, who leads the Reading School District in Reading, Pa.; and Christy Perry of the Salem-Keizer Public Schools, Salem, Ore. Johnson was named an EdWeek Leader to Learn From in 2020 for his work on career exploration opportunities for students.

EdWeek’s Leaders to Learn From Project, begun nearly a decade ago, celebrates excellence throughout a school district. We recognize that leadership can take many forms, from the superintendency down through budget officers, athletic coaches, and food-service professionals.

This year’s crop recognizes four superintendents for their work, on parent and family engagement; setting up a remote learning infrastructure across thousands of square miles, nurturing talent, and creating a culture of excellence for Black male educators.

Congratulations to Reid, and to all of EdWeek’s honorees.

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