Thursday, April 26, 2018

Superintendent-Select Juneau Speaks (and other SPS stories)

It wasn't the most exciting press conference this morning with Denise Juneau, the newly-signed superintendent-select.  But she did do one thing that I think even some of the jaded cameramen were surprised at - she shook hands with everyone in the room.

My takeaway from her comments:
- She wants to listen - to the Board, to the Mayor, to JSCEE staff, to teachers, to parents, to students and to communities.  Because she said this so often, I also think that it may be her way to be able to say - once decisions have to be made - that she did consultations on each issue.  How issues get addressed may not be to everyone's liking but she will have done due diligence.

I do believe her to be sincere in wanting to get a real lay of the land from as many sources as possible.  But she seems to indicate that her real collaboration is to be with the Board. 

- She seems to believe that there is good work going on in this district and that it can be a great district and that she is excited about the work to come.

- She said the number one item that she has heard across the board - and she's excited about that interest and work being done already  - is the need for equity.  She even said she heard it from students.

When she was asked to define equity, she demurred, saying she needed to have a conversation with others.  I opined that it would be good to have a definition as it has never been defined to this date.

?I asked her how she thought having been an elected official previous to this AND having to work with a legislature might influence her work as a superintendent.  (I'd have to check but I'm not sure the district has had a superintendent who had been an elected official previously.)

She said she had been thru four different legislative sessions in Montana.  She said that she is hearing that McCleary is still not quite there.  She said, "I have generally learned that people want access to people in power and have their voices heard."  She said that she had gone out into communities in Montana to understand what the needs and concerns are from many different people and groups.

She said she had previously stated that she "wants to build a longer table, not a higher wall" in terms of access.

? On how to help more kids achieve academic excellence she said that they always need to be looking at data and have "a nimble system" that can adjust to data outcomes.

She said every segment of student population is important and it's important to look at segments that may be growing.

?Parallels to work in Montana
She referenced equity issues and talked about the "Schools of Promise" - schools that were underserved and how a community-based effort turned them around.  She said it was important to listen to parents about their hopes and dreams for their children.

She said, "Believe in your public and who you are serving."

?What is the budget priority
She said that she would be meeting with key staff about the budget and that she was aware of district and city levies that are rolling out. She said she wanted to meet with the Mayor about those priorities.

She said there needed to be "a seamless system from Pre-K to college and issues of housing, education and transportation for both the city/district overlap.  She said leaders can't stay in silos and when resources are slim.

?Stability in the district
She mostly answered by saying that she wanted to work with the Board for a strategic plan that works with parents and communities.

?Advanced Learning
She said she needed to get more up-to-speed on the issue but she had heard there are issues about it.  She said that within Sped and AL there are racial inequities.

But she said gifted programming doesn't always come with many dollars so it's always an issue. She mentioned Montana having free SATs and providing more access to AP classes.

?What about your experience with ethnic studies

She said that in Montana, they had rolled out - thru her office - Indian Education for All - which was authentic and truthful history as well as teaching about contemporary lives of Native Americans.   She said schools did receive funding for this work.

?There's a large number of homeless students in our state and in our district
She said that was part of the conversation she wanted to have with the Mayor.  She said schools are being asked to do more especially with wrap-around services and that supporting students needs to be done in partnership with other groups.

?Getting up to speed with SPS
She said she was meeting with key staff as well as individually with each Board member.  She wants to know why they stepped up to serve and where they want the district to go.

? Longevity of superintendents
She said that it's important to create a good plan and be in a place long enough to stick with it.  She said, "In leadership, longevity matters."  She said staying means knowing a place well.

?The City's HALA report repeatedly called schools "amenities."  Do you think schools are amenities?

She said she didn't know the context of that but that "schools are the fabric of our democracy."

? You played basketball in college; will you be going to see the Seattle Storm?

She answered, "Sure, do you have tickets?"


Anonymous said...

Maria Goodloe-Johnson:
"Goodloe-Johnson sees her first priority as closing the achievement gap, something she plans to do by developing a district-wide common curriculum." 2007 ParentMap

Jose Banda:
"My biggest challenge is closing the achievement/opportunity gap..." 2013 ParentMap

Denise Juneau:
"She said the number one item that she has heard across the board - and she's excited about that interest and work being done already - is the need for equity." 2017 This Blog


Melissa Westbrook said...

Equity probably includes the achievement gap but isn’t solely about it.

Anonymous said...

Well, most of those individuals who complain about equity point to the achievement gap as evidence for lack of equity. However, as you cogently point out - it is essential to define equity and outline some quantifiable goals for it. I suspect that "equity" has been coined as a poorly defined term that is NOT quantifiable so that the district can claim to be working on it - ultimately they can even claim success because without metrics - no one will be accountable. The district loves these sorts of smoke screens in my observation. The achievement gap is quantifiable so it is not safe to refer to it anymore as a lack of success on that front will be obvious.


Anonymous said...

@Cynic, I agree that the district has been unclear about their definition of equity--I would add that they've also applied it inconsistently--but I don't think that's intended to serve as a smokescreen to avoid measuring the achievement gap. On the contrary, I think the vague concept of equity gives them "cover" for decisions that are intended to reduce the achieve that gap by lowering the ceiling rather than raising the floor.