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The Kellogg fellow is in her third term representing North Carolina 12th Congressional District

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Kellogg Fellows Examining Equity through Food

How can issues of societal and racial equity be better understood through the lens of food?

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I am a map maker … a facilitator … a figurer outer.  I bring people together around central ideas that they can embrace with passion.  I will never retire—God created me to do this work.

 I am a map maker … a facilitator … a figurer outer. I bring people together around central ideas that they can embrace with passion. I will never retire—God created me to do this work.

As a young overly eager school administrator, I found compelling the idea that even if only one school figured out how to make every student a success, we all could … and should. Nearly all of my jobs have been in districts with too little money and too many children being left behind. Following that passion has been costly. Serving the neediest of students is not always popular if it comes at the expense of those who have enjoyed advantages in the past. I was forced out of one district for caring too much about making every student—including minority students—successful.

After that, I left K-12 education work for a time to do policy work, consulting, and to create a superintendent preparation program. I missed the opportunity to be in the trenches, building teams, figuring out better ways to make students successful. Every few years, when I work through the latest self help book, I rediscover and recommit to the same consistent mission: building teams of people doing whatever it takes to make every student a success.

Now in my seventh year as superintendent in Marysville Schools, I was hired to bring healing after a bitter 49-day strike. We are coming together around literacy and new school construction. We are building partnerships with Tulalip Tribes and the Chamber of Commerce. More and more partners are joining our team. We are, little by little, figuring out how to close the opportunity gap. And I continue to fight against an unfair state funding system that provides less money to schools with the greatest needs.

God has given me a passion to heal, to build teams, to do whatever it takes to make every student a success. I will continue to put promising ideas on the table and to rally local and state leaders around making that happen.

This essay and portrait is part of a community-art and leadership project called “wdydwyd?” Tony Deifell (KNLP-16) invited his colleagues in the Kellogg Fellowship to reflect on what motivates them to follow their personal and professional paths by answering the question, “Why do you do what you do?”


“wdydwyd?” has reached over 1.5 million people worldwide and it has been used for team-building at Google, Twitter, many colleges and universities, nonprofits and K-12 classrooms. And, according to Wired Magazine, “In Silicon Valley, that question has been the hottest team-building meme since Outward Bound – and it’s spreading.” For more information: http://wdydwyd.com/leadership.


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