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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