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Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Juneau says stepping down after school year

(Image: SPS)

For the second day in a row, a trailblazing woman leader has announced she won’t be seeking to keep her job in Seattle.

Like Mayor Jenny Durkan, schools Superintendent Denise Juneau probably thought things would end up differently when she took the job. Like Durkan, criticism and controversy along with the massive challenges of the COVID-19 crisis have overshadowed Juneau’s time. Tuesday, Juneau announced she will not seek to renew her contract with Seattle Public Schools when it runs out at the end of the school year in June 2021.

“As the district’s first Native superintendent, advancing racial equity and social justice has been deeply personal to me,” Juneau wrote in a letter to district families. “I came here with a dream to drive a powerful anti-racist agenda for Seattle’s school leaders, educators, parents, students, and broader community, and I worked aggressively with staff and the community to build a bold strategic plan focused on a better, fairer system for students of color furthest from educational justice.”

Juneau’s decision comes in advance of a Seattle School Board vote on the renewal slated for next week.

KUOW reports board members have been critical of how Juneau “has addressed the needs of vulnerable student groups during Covid-19” and that Juneau has “repeatedly clashed with the teachers union over her reported failure to involve them in key decisions, especially regarding health and safety issues during the pandemic.”

An aggressive schedule for returning most students to school by March 1st may have also been a factor in any issues with the board.

Juneau, an education and Democratic leader from Montana, a lesbian, and a member of the Mandan Hidatsa Tribes, was selected as the next leader of Seattle’s public schools in 2018.

“I am ready to work with the school board to help them achieve their goals of educational equity in outcomes, closing the opportunity gaps, robust engagement with community and parents, and providing a quality education for all students,” Juneau said at the time.

But accomplishments in addressing that inequity have been challenged by the ongoing pandemic as the already stretched public system strained to catch up on remote learning.

Meanwhile, Juneau also faced criticism over the district’s handling of an “excessive force” incident at Capitol Hill’s Stevens Elementary School.

In her letter, Juneau discusses the impact of COVID-19 and reveals that she recently lost her father to the virus.

“I hope that the next leader of SPS is able to lay down roots in this beautiful, resilient city,” Juneau writes, “and build on the vision of a more just and equitable school system for our great community.”

On the school board, meanwhile, Capitol Hill’s representative to the body also will not be continuing in the role. In October, CHS reported Zachary DeWolf, recent District 3 city council candidate, and former head of the Capitol Hill Community Council, will not seek a second term on the school board. DeWolf was elected to the board in 2017.


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Jilfe
Jilfe
4 months ago

> “I came here with a dream to drive a powerful anti-racist agenda for Seattle’s school leaders…

I mean, so every job has to really be a social justice job now? Who’s going to do the actual job then?

Rich
Rich
4 months ago
Reply to  Jilfe

Shush, racist.

Carmen
Carmen
4 months ago
Reply to  Rich

Moderators, why do you approve ad hominin drivel like this? What does this even add to any conversation?

caphiller
caphiller
4 months ago
Reply to  Jilfe

Bingo. Hopefully our next superintendent has a dream to educate children effectively, not just spout the leftist flavor-of-the-week. Too much to ask in Seattle though; no wonder we have close to the highest percent of children in private school in the country (I believe we’re behind NYC and SF).

Steve
Steve
4 months ago
Reply to  caphiller

Caphiller: do you have a source for this statement or is it just hearsay? It certainly doesn’t match my experience living in multiple major cities, so I’m genuinely curious.

Sahsa
Sahsa
4 months ago
Reply to  caphiller

And this parent sums it up the short sided hypocrisy nicely:

> One parent wrote in who switched her kids from public to private school and blamed it on the Seattle school district: “The real question hasn’t changed at all — why Seattle has such a high rate of private school enrollment,” she wrote. “Things got so bad in SPS that I finally pulled my kids out, not being willing to sacrifice the quality of their education for a moral principle.”

Crow
Crow
4 months ago
Reply to  caphiller

High % of students in private schools has been the case in Seattle for a long time, at least from the 1970s busing days.
But, by the way, Seattle Public Schools standardized testing results have greatly improved over the last 10 years, and are significantly above averages for State of Washington, i.e. 69.8% SPS student meeting ELA standards vs. 59.6% statewide, and 61.6% SPS meeting Math standards vs. 48.9% statewide. These are actually very good results for a large urban district. Report Card – Washington State Report Card (ospi.k12.wa.us)