Skip To ContentSkip To Content
    A Year in Review: Message from Superintendent Juneau
    Posted on 07/01/2019
    Superintendent poses for a photo with teachers and students

    A Year in Review: Message from Superintendent Juneau

    Last Thursday we closed out the 2018-19 school year. And today marks my one-year anniversary since taking the top job at Seattle Public Schools. I am so proud of the work we have accomplished together this year.

    I want to thank the School Board for the opportunity to serve Seattle Public Schools and for their support throughout the year. They taught me the ropes and helped move critical work forward. I also want to thank our students, educators, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) families, and staff for making this year remarkable — a year of learning all about Seattle while also taking bold action.

    My work leading K-12 education in Montana prepared me well for Seattle. As Montana's state superintendent, I learned that great things can happen in public education, but solutions must be steeped in community. My goal in Seattle was to build a longer table and bring different voices into the conversation.

    Superintendent with community group Last fall, I met with thousands of SPS stakeholders during my Listen and Learn Tour. It was important for me to learn about the district's challenges and successes directly from those most affected. From a Pan-African gathering, to businesses, to educators and community partners, to families and students at El Centro De La Raza and the Chinese Information and Service Center; I engaged with over 4,000 people to learn about their hopes and dreams. For some communities, I was the sixth or seventh superintendent they had met with, and for others the first. These conversations helped shape my understanding of Seattle and plans for the district's future. Thank you to the community for welcoming me and sharing your wisdom and perspective.

    Superintedent Juneau and students talk in a classroomOne of the most significant accomplishments this last year was approval of a new, five-year strategic plan. Our new strategic plan reflects what I heard during my Listen and Learn tour and a shared commitment to racial equity and justice. Thank you to the family, partner, school board, and staff representatives who helped shape the plan. Unlike prior plans, this one embodies the word strategic. While our ongoing work to provide excellence to all of our students will continue, this plan has clarity about what we're going to accomplish for underserved students and families. It is laser focused on students of color furthest from educational justice, beginning with African American males.

    Superintent poses for a photo with Native American Round Table attendeesAnd in February, thanks to the voters, we passed two important district levies - the Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) and BEX V Capital Levies. Both levies passed with overwhelming voter approval. This community support allowed us to address some of next year's budget shortfall and will help us build great learning spaces for students. Thank you for working with us to bring these needed resources to students and classrooms.

    Other significant 2018-19 accomplishments:

    • We started this school year strong by adding 126 new classrooms in 55 schools and opening two new elementary schools — Roxhill at E.C. Hughes and Loyal Heights. Thank you to our voters who supported these projects and to the hundreds of staff who made sure classrooms and new schools were ready on the first day of school.
    • While we still had to make budget reductions for next year, cuts were minimized because of the good work of the School Board, staff, and community advocates. In the 2019 legislative session, the state approved an additional $500 per student from our EP&O levy, increasing our collection to $3,000 per student. While it is still a much lower levy collection than previous years, this new funding helped us return teachers, librarians, and counselors to schools for next year.
    • The district adopted new K-12 science curricula. This adoption will replace decades-old materials and textbooks and make sure every student has access to high-quality learning materials.
    • Last summer, working closely with our Seattle Education Association partners, we negotiated a 10.5 percent raise for all SEA members. I am proud of this commitment to a fair, living wage and keeping Seattle competitive with neighboring districts. Our educators are the heart of this organization and why so many of our students are thriving.
    • The district also launched the first Superintendent's Student Advisory Board, centering our work on those who know best — our high school youth. This group of young leaders is helping me tackle big issues like building a culturally responsive workforce, dress code policy, and revisions to health education. They will stay on for another year, and I can't wait to see the progress they make.
    • Another huge win for our students was the board's approval of technology enhancements. Bridging the digital divide is a social justice issue. Seattle Public Schools was one of a few districts not providing one-to-one laptop access for high school students. Starting next year, and funded through the BEX IV levy, students at four high schools — Rainier Beach, Franklin, Chief Sealth, and Seattle World School — will receive laptops that they can keep until graduation. Rollout will begin in the other high schools at ninth grade.
    • The Department of Racial Equity Advancement in partnership with the SEA Center for Racial Equity trained, coached, and supported 55 racial equity teams representing 54 schools and school psychologists. They also partnered with the NAACP, SPS educators, and eight community-based organizations to host the first Youth and Family Racial Justice Summit, which will become an annual event.
    • In June, we launched Seattle Super Readers. In alignment with the new strategic plan, our goal is for 100 percent of students to read well by third grade. We got a jump start by providing all K-3 students at 13 priority schools a summer book bag and the opportunity to take home 10 high-interest books. Over 30,000 books and 4,000 bookmarks, stickers, and informational flyers were distributed over the course of two days. I want to thank the school librarians, school leaders, and central office staff for making this happen. It was an incredible team effort. We know that reading just 20 minutes a day makes a huge difference - our students are now set up for a great summer of reading. Learn more about Seattle Super Readers.
    • Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State was formally adopted by the School Board. This action has been a long time in the making. Due to a long history of institutional racism in education, the accomplishments, affairs, and contemporary experience of the First Peoples of Washington State has been consistently omitted from public school curricula. The adoption of Since Time Immemorial will provide all Seattle Public Schools students with an education on the background and current affairs of the 29 sovereign nations within the boundaries of Washington state.
    • Every time a student leaves the classroom, for any reason, they lose out on precious instructional time. I am pleased to share that overall suspension or expulsion rates have gone down for students in the last four years, most significantly for African American male students. Our 2018-19 data shows a decline in the percent of students with at least one suspension or expulsion from 12 percent in 2015-16 to 7.5 percent in 2018-19. This is the largest reduction across subgroups of students. While there is still a lot of work to do, this steady decline gives me hope that the changes our students and families need are underway.
    • Daily, staff are working hard to provide supports and services that students need. Here are some highlights from 2018-19:
      • 2.7 million lunches and 1 million breakfasts were served;
      • Seattle World School lunch participation increased by 20 percent after implementing a new soup bar designed in response to student feedback;
      • Over 12,000 school registrations were processed by the enrollment team, and staff hosted eight in-person registration events across the city;
      • 400 community partners engaged in district professional development aligning the expertise of partners to key district initiatives;
      • Operations and maintenance staff cared for 9.8 million square feet of building space and maintained 779 acres of land across the district. Finally, this year we celebrated the accomplishments of over 3,500 graduates of Seattle Public Schools. Our students are well prepared, they are fierce, and they are brave. Our future is in good hands. Read more about our incredible graduates and their stories.

    Students and Superintendent smile for a photoWe have many reasons to be proud of our district. Last school year great work took place in classrooms, schools, central office, and in our community. The list above is just a small sample of the accomplishments. What is clear to me is that when we work together, listen to our students and families, and focus on what is best for young people, amazing things happen.

    Thank you for making my first year as Seattle Public Schools' superintendent so transformational for students. I look forward to taking what I have learned this year and working with the School Board, staff, families, students, partners, and community to do even greater things for PreK-12 education next year and our incredible Seattle scholars.

    In partnership,
    Superintendent Denise Juneau