My Interview with Superintendent Denise Juneau

I was granted a 30-minute interview with new superintendent, Denise Juneau, on July 16th.  She seemed in very good spirits.  Juneau has a winning way where she neither comes off as know-it-all or gladhander.  I see a quiet strength but we'll have to see if she uses it. I hope my first impression holds true.

To note, at the time of the interview, she had been on the job less than three weeks.  I asked her some questions that she rightly said she needed to wait until she is thoroughly up-to-speed on the district.  It is quite a complicated district and the first one that she has ever overseen.

I am hoping that she decides to have a clear vision of communication.  I recall a meeting where the DAD principle was discussed for use by principals and/or superintendents.  Decide, Announce, Defend.  I'm not sure "defend" is exactly the right word but being able to show the data/rationale used for the decision including engagement with parents/community.

Her main message that day was serving all students and meeting students "were they are."  I followed up at the end of the meeting to ask her if she really meant all students, no matter where they are in learning.  She said it is about equity and said, "Equity is all boats rising with kids getting a quality education and supports they need. Equity is not equal." 

Clearly, her first challenge will be able to negotiate the teachers contract.  Can she help the district avoid a strike?   The McCleary money was definitely to pay teachers as the Legislature did not want money from levies used to pay teachers.  But should all the money go to teachers' contract? 

I laid out issues that I have heard raised by parents:
  • no policy how principals are selected nor whether parents will be involved.  
  • changing principals every couple of years at a small number of schools
  • principal autonomy and if parents have any real recourse to the district if, as it seems, principals have the final say on school-based decisions.
She didn't have a lot to say except that every school deserves a great principal.   She also did agree that changing principals frequently at a single school could be hard on community.

She made a statement that I wish would be said over and over to parents (and maybe JSCEE staff) - the primary work of the principal is to be the instructional leader for the school's teaching corp.  Yup.  Not manager or disciplinarian.  I wish the Executive Directors could be used to take some of the school management duties from principals so that they could better focus on teaching and learning.  (She did mention she had no experience with EDs and needed to better understand their role.  I told her good luck because most people have no idea.)

Wish I had mentioned to her how the use of the Racial Equity Tool and consulting communities in decisions sometimes seems more random than it should for items that are mentioned in every BAR on the Board agenda. 

Special Education/Advanced Learning
Juneau said these two issues are the number one issues that she has heard about (and I believe she meant parents).

Again, she needs to get up-to-speed on both services.  We talked about the costs for Special Education and how the State is putting too much of the financial burden on districts.

I did tell her that I did not believe HCC was the basis for all inequity in the district and she nodded along.  (I also asked her if she thought Asians were a minority group.  She said that she would need to consult OSPI but yes, she believes so.)

Personalized Learning
She seemed enthused about the idea but didn't define what it might look like nor how much time - on technology - that it might entail.

Mayor Durkan
She said she has a standing, once-a-month meeting with the Mayor.  She said they had not yet discussed homelessness.  I asked her about Montana and their homeless issues and she stated that it is on the rise but not to the level of Seattle.  I told her that former Mayor Murray had promised to end homelessness for children in Seattle and  suggested that if Durkan could do that, it might be the biggest help of all to SPS.

She also mentioned a good partnership with the Seattle Housing Authority.

She also stated that she has not discussed a downtown school with the Mayor but expects to do so.

SEA Contract
She had no news on this front except that every student needs a quality teacher. 


NNE Mom said…
Thanks for interviewing her and sharing your thoughts on it!
Anonymous said…
Just to clarify --- not only is this the first district Supt. Juneau has overseen, this is also the first district administration she has ever worked in. She essentially went straight from the classroom to the state superintendent's office to overseeing a large urban district.

So when she first stumbles, which she will inevitably do (like everyone does), let's keep that in mind. Her learning curve is steep.

To note, I did tell Superintendent Juneau that it would be helpful for she and the Board to define "equity." It's not a trick question but yes, it's one that needs the nuance of both the Superintendent and the Board. But it does need to be answered if the entire community of schools, district, students, staff and parents are to work together. Everyone on the same page, so to speak.

As reader Samar recently asked," why doesn't the Equity policy include disability?"

Does it? No one has any way of knowing because the district uses the word a lot without that very necessary definition.
Anonymous said…
Looks like she will be relying heavily on the existing superintendents for direction.

Anonymous said…
Technically, SPS Policy 0030 ( Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity) DOES include disability.

The policy is a couple pages, but it includes this language in the 2nd paragraph: "The concept of educational equity goes beyond formal equality—where all students are treated the same—to fostering a barrier-free environment where all students, regardless of their race, class or other personal characteristics such as creed, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, economic status, gender, sexual orientation including gender expression or identity, pregnancy status, marital status, physical appearance, the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability, have the opportunity to benefit equally."

My question is: what does it mean to "have the opportunity to benefit equally"? Does it mean everyone has the opportunity to demonstrate one year's worth of growth over the course of the year? If so, that's not really equitable, since the intent is to NOT treat everyone the same but rather distribute resources unequally so that those most in need get greater supports so they can improve more and thus close the gap. Given that students start the year with a wide range of abilities/skills/knowledge, doesn't "closing the gap" inherently mean NOT benefitting equally? The key, to me, lies in making sure that everyone--whether entering at the high or low end of the performance scale--has the opportunity for at least a year's worth of growth each year, with (ideally) additional focus/supports/resources provided to help lower performers make even greater jumps. We need to be sure we don't stifle growth within in our highest performers, but f everyone "benefits equally" we don't close the gap, do we? The policy language seems contradictory to me.

Maybe in trying to nail down SPS language Supt. Juneau can help explain this, too.

all types
Anonymous said…
Let's hope she stands up to the HCC lobby.

Anonymous said…
The HCC lobby? My kids were never in HCC but even I understand the need for it. All kids means all kids. All kids should be challenged and have a chance to learn. For some, this means grouping kids together who are two or more years ahead.

Anonymous said…
You must be new to the blog if you don't know there is a strong lobbying effort to maintain the HCC program as it is currently operated.

Anonymous said…
@Tike, stands up and does what, exactly? Finds ways to limit learning opportunities for HC students?

The only real lobby I've seen is the very vocal ANTI-HCC lobby. Is that who you want her to stand up to?

all types
Anonymous said…
And if you unaware of the problems, abuses and disservice to students that the HCC propagates on the gifted and non-gifted in SPS, you should go back and read the thousands of comments on the "service".

Anonymous said…
Hilarious, all types!

You forgot to yell, "Fake News"!

Anonymous said…
@ Bernie, I'm not sure what you find so funny about for "fake newsy" about that. So tell me, then, who are these vocal pro-HCC lobbyists and where can I find them? Is there a group I can join? Is there a district-wide HCC parent group? Nope. Heck, there isn't even a district HCC advisory group anymore--it's "advanced learning" in general, meaning HC, "Spectrum", and anyone else who wants to take advanced classes.

Are they people posting in defense of HCC in the comments section on a blog--which isn't lobbying anybody? As far as I can tell, the parents who post here are simply trying to get those who are biased against HCC to understand that HC students have real needs. I haven't heard about pro-HCC parents clogging up the speakers list at board meetings, either.

Are you perhaps referring to parents who individually email JSCEE staff and/or board members in support of HCC, just as those who opposed HCC apparently do? I'm sure parents of all types reach out to their representatives and key decision makers on all sorts of issues, so if you want to call that lobbying, fine--we are all lobbyists then. If a parent attends a parent-teacher conference and speaks out on behalf of their child's needs...lobbying! If a parent attends an SPS community engagement meeting, or responds to a district survey...lobbying!

All parents should lobby for appropriate services for their children, and many parents will also lobby for appropriate services for other children, too. The two are not mutually exclusive, as much as you seem to think they are.

all types
Anonymous said…
Cynic has it right - the number one thing we need from Juneau is to clean house at the JSCEE and get rid of the senior staff, including the assistant superintendents.

That is also essential to getting a good solution on HCC.

Anonymous said…
I've been posting on this blog for more than 5 years. There is no HCC lobby. There are only parents lobbying for their kids needs to be met. Most people do not leave their neighborhood schools for HCC until their neighborhood school lets them down and doesn't challenge their child. Some of them are pushed out the door to HCC.

Anonymous said…
Thanks HP. It's a disgrace that HCC parents are maligned for simply wanting the best for their kids.

HCC is open to all students who are gifted and work hard enough to meet the achievement requirements. I think it works great for my children and others we know.

The grouping of like-ability students is imperative for academic success. Mine struggled for K at their local school, and we have strong schools in Queen Anne, we had them reading already and they knew numbers, it was agony for them to sit and learn to count again and do word boards.

HCC moves at a fast pace and most of the kids can keep up just fine. Going back to our local school would be tantamount to child neglect and we would resist mightily.

I hope Ms. Juneau keeps the program strong and resists the calls to eliminate or scale it back.

QA parent
Anonymous said…
@ QA parent, I generally agree, but not on a couple points.

1. When you say "HCC is open to all students who are gifted and work hard enough to meet the achievement requirements" I think you overlook some of the larger issues that prevent some gifted students--especially those who are impacted by poverty, learning disabilities, and/or who are non-native English speakers--from being identified for HCC. The additional challenges they face may impact their ability to meet the cognitive cut-offs, the achievement cut-offs, or both. This is something we need to to do better at, and the district is apparently working on it to some extent. But you comment seems to suggest that all who need HCC are identified, and those who are missed simply don't need or deserve the program, and I strongly disagree.

2. You said you hope "Ms. Juneau keeps the program strong and resists the calls to eliminate or scale it back." On the latter part I agree, but on the former--the strength of the program--I'm not so convinced. I hope she STRENGTHENS the program, rather than sticks with the status quo. The strength of the program hasn't really be demonstrated. The past evaluation--done quite a while ago--did not suggest a particularly strong program, although the evaluation itself was flawed and incomplete. What I hope is that Supt Juneau makes efforts to strengthen the program by undertaking a more comprehensive program evaluation (note: community input early in the evaluation planning process would be important to avoid repeating past mistakes); by fulfilling past promises re: HCC (e.g., delivery of a curriculum); and by not making huge changes until there is a much deeper understanding of what's working, what's not, etc.

all types
Anonymous said…
That Advanced Learning is one of the main topics Juneau has heard about speaks to a puzzling disconnect between the data and perception. AL is not the causal agent. The challenges underprivileged students face were present from the moment they walked in the door, and don’t improve, as one would hope, as their exposure to SPS teaching increases. In fact, some group’s achievements decrease.

The elephant in the room is how little impact SPS schooling has on a student’s achievement, measured by assessments or standardized test scores, whether that student is 5 or 14 (granted the figures below don’t follow the same student as they progress thru our school system).

The White child who earned 78% as a kindergartner on WA Kids achieves a 76% in 7th grade math proficiency.

The Black child who earned 47% in kindergarten WA Kids, 35% and 38% in 3rd and 7th grade ELA respectively and 43% and 30% in 3rd and 7th grade Math has diminishing returns over time in math leaving them much less likely to complete Algebra 1 by 8th grade.

Advanced Learning has little bearing on the main impediment of children entering kindergarten less “school ready” and having intense difficulty closing the gap from the critical birth to 5 years period.

While the district may point to improving graduation rates, this obscures the fact that SPS has high levels of remediation for students who do attend college particularly Black students with a rate near 50%.

And, honestly, I have to wonder how we go from such low achievement rates, magically rise to higher graduation rates, but then have high remediation rates.

While the district is not responsible for kindergarten ready, SPS is certainly responsible for college readiness and is failing at it for less privileged students.


White: 78% (K), 76% (3rd ELA), 77% (3rd Math), 83% (7th ELA), 76% (7th Math)
Asian: 60% (K), 59% (3rd ELA), 70% (3rd Math), 77% (7th ELA), 74% (7th Math)
Hispanic: 49% (K), 41% (3rd ELA), 49% (3rd Math), 53% (7th ELA), 43% (7th Math)
Black: 47% (K), 35% (3rd ELA), 43% (3rd Math), 38% (7th ELA), 30% (7th Math)
Black (East African): 40% (K), 34% (3rd ELA), 45% (3rd Math), 32% (7th ELA), 29% (7th Math)
Native American: 28% (K), 37% (3rd ELA), 32% (3rd Math), 38% (7th ELA), 27% (7th Math)
Pacific Islander: 25% (K), 37% (3rd ELA), 45% (3rd Math), 36% (7th ELA), 36% (7th Math)

Source: Kindergartner Readiness (WA Kids), 2016/17 3rd Grade ELA, 3rd Grade Math, 7th Grade ELA, 7TH Grade Math

Anonymous said…
@Data, you're spot on. The disparities exist prior to kindergarten, and persist throughout. They are seen in state tests throughout K-12, as well as graduation rates. HCC doesn't create the disparities, nor does it perpetuate them. This is a completely separate issue.

As to the district's responsibility for K readiness, they seem to be taking this on more and more. I seem to recall K readiness and collaboration with the City re: Pre-K are even in the strategic plan. Whether or not they are doing enough or collaborating effectively or even doing what's in the strategic plan, I don't know.

If SPS really wants to eliminate the gaps, it would seem they need to direct more resources to effective strategies for increasing the K readiness of students. They need to figure out what these kids--and their families--need in those 0-5 years (which will also help them figure out what ongoing supports they need in K and beyond). Creating Honors for All programs in high school, when disparities have had 15+ years to set in, is not an effective way to deal with the issue (unless you're only interested in how things look on the surface, and not actual learning). It's like the issue you noted re: graduation rates, which is similar to the issue of Shoreline's reported "success" in getting more students to take and do well in AP classes, even if they can't pass the corresponding AP exams. Sounds good at first, but doesn't pass the

Sniff Test
Anonymous said…
So Interesting that the only group that seems to be doing well are Asian kids who rose 14-17%%
by 7th grade.
Asian: 60% (K), 59% (3rd ELA), 70% (3rd Math), 77% (7th ELA), 74% (7th Math)

Pacific islander kids also make gains over time as well, but the overall rates are still so low
Pacific Islander: 25% (K), 37% (3rd ELA), 45% (3rd Math), 36% (7th ELA), 36% (7th Math)

I like they broke out majority immigrant African American kids (such as East African which would include Ethiopian, Somali etc) in the data from native born African American.
Anonymous said…
Agreed KJ. Now overlay SES and ELL and you probably could map out HCC acceptance rates.

Two Feathers

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

Weirdness in Seattle Public Schools Abounds and Astounds