Phyllis Washington believes students should be challenged. Whether it's through exposure to diverse perspectives or to academic rigor, her career has provided that challenging environment.
She began as an educator in 1968 in Kansas City. After just a few short years as a teacher, she attained a role that would change the city: She was named principal of E.F. Swinney Applied Learning Magnet.
These magnet schools were part of an effort to reintegrate Kansas City schools. The schools attracted students from all backgrounds – pulling students from the city and surrounding suburbs – and provided unique learning opportunities. The school tantalized families away from suburban private schools in order to enrich the lives of students from all walks of life.
Washington designed programming, built a focused team of teachers and made herself accessible to the community so that all families felt safe placing their children in her school.
"What we tried to create at Swinney is what should be at every school," said Washington.
She served as the principal until 1999, when an opportunity arose at the Allen Village Charter School. She now serves as the superintendent for the college-preparatory school system. Here, students receive a prestigious private school education for free.
"Allen Village is my heart and soul," said Washington. "In 1999, I told my board that I would give them five years, and I am still here. My vision is not finished."