Mike Nelson, an Enumclaw High School graduate who has guided the Enumclaw School District for more than a decade, has been named the 2019 Superintendent of the Year.
The honor was announced Friday from Spokane as part of a gathering of the Washington Association of School Administrators. The award is designed to recognize the outstanding leadership of active, front-line superintendents and pay tribute to those who lead the state’s public schools.
“During the past 11 years as superintendent, Mike has provided a clear vision for equity, excellence, and respect,” WASA Executive Director Joel Aune said. “He has fostered the creation of systems that ensure all students are learning and achieving.
“Mike’s unwavering commitment to a student-centered culture has yielded impressive results. He believes that relationships, high expectations, and a relentless pursuit of equity are the foundation for school and school district success.”
In making the announcement, WASA noted that during Nelson’s tenure, the Enumclaw School District closed the gaps for its Native students; that included redesigning and expanding the role of a Cultural Support Program, building relationships with Native students and their families and creating a foundation to build greater understanding of Native culture and history.
The effort paid off, according to WASA. In 2017 and 2018, 100 percent of Native students in the Cultural Program graduated from Enumclaw High. Fifty percent of the students in the Native American Cultural Program went on to college in 2018; that figure is 33 percent above the national average.
Nelson said it is “pure joy” to serve the families and the 4,000 students that make up the district. The WASA award, he added, was part of a team effort that represents “a collective, collaborative and unified effort by so many and demonstrates the value for public education championed by our entire school district community.”
Nelson holds a master of arts in education administration and a bachelor of arts in elementary education degrees, both from Pacific Lutheran University. He earned his superintendent certification from Seattle Pacific University. Early in his career he was an assistant principal in the Sumner School District; he then moved to the Federal Way School District where he was both a building principal and director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. He returned to his home town in 1999, joining the school district as assistant superintendent.
He now shepherds a district that spans 456 square miles, includes both Enumclaw and Black Diamond, counts a roster of eight schools and employs more than 564 certificated and classified staff.
Nelson’s impact in the community extends beyond the school district administration building: Nelson serves on the boards for Books for Babies Program at St. Elizabeth Hospital (founder) and Enumclaw Schools Foundation (founding board member), has also served as the Enumclaw Rotary Foundation president, Enumclaw Rotary Club president, and on the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
As the state’s Superintendent of the Year, Nelson is now a candidate for the 2019 American Association of School Administrators’ National Superintendent of the Year Award. The national award will be announced in February at the AASA National Conference on Education in Los Angeles.