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Seattle Public Schools superintendent ‘really surprised’ by NAACP allegations

Oct 30, 2020, 8:53 AM | Updated: Mar 12, 2022, 7:34 am
Denise Juneau, seattle Superintendent...
SPS superintendent Denise Juneau with a student. (Photo: AP)
(Photo: AP)

Seattle Public Schools’ superintendent made her first comments Thursday in response to allegations by the NAACP that she is not doing enough to increase racial equity in staffing and curriculum.

NAACP calls on Seattle Public Schools to terminate superintendent’s contract

Superintendent Denise Juneau says she is surprised by the charge because she has been meeting with the group twice a month.

“I was actually really surprised when I read their press release and heard their press conference. I continue to remain committed to meet with them and work through these issues,” Juneau said. “I just know that we all have the same goals at the end of the day.”

Members of the NAACP and local community members had called on Seattle Public Schools to terminate the contract for Juneau, accusing her of encouraging racist and sexist policies, and “purging” Black employees from leadership positions.

“She lacks vision, she lacks leadership, she does not want to be held accountable, and we have gone backwards,” NAACP Education Chair for Alaska, Oregon and Washington Rita Green said. “It’s just been a more racist environment in our district.”

In her comments Thursday, Juneau also addressed the claim that numerous Black administrators had been let go from the district. She says some left for better jobs, while a few others were asked to leave for performance reasons.

“Several of the men they listed chose to leave Seattle Public Schools for bigger and better roles in other districts and organizations,” she explained. “A couple were asked to leave because of performance issues.”

The superintendent says she has made great effort to recruit staff of color and feels she has done a good job.

Juneau added that she is a minority herself.

“Being a native person and a tribal member myself, I have learned about, and I have experienced firsthand individual, institutional, and systemic racism,” she said.

After the allegations from NAACP on Oct. 20, Seattle Public Schools sent out a press release emphasizing what it says is an “unwavering commitment to racial justice in public education.” That includes bi-monthly meetings with NAACP Seattle-King County leadership, an increase in hiring of BIPOC teachers over the last three school years, and plans to launch a Black Studies course next semester.

Juneau will be entering into the final year of her contract with Seattle Public Schools in 2021. Negotiations for a new contract will begin in December 2020.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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Seattle Public Schools superintendent ‘really surprised’ by NAACP allegations