Remove Denise Juneau; An open letter to the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors

By Rita Green, NAACP Education Chair for Washington, Oregon, and Alaska

Recently, the King County NAACP, in support of the Washington State NAACP Youth Council, called for the removal of Superintendent Denise Juneau. Below is a detailed rationale for their actions written by Rita Green.

To support the efforts of the NAACP, please sign the petition at the end of this open letter.

Denise Juneau continues to fail our students and our community as outlined below. Chandra Hampson is one board member that is trying to hold the district accountable and as a result an erroneous complaint has been filed against her.  SPS has a historical issue of running amuck and does not like the fact that there is finally a board member who is astute enough to ask challenging questions and demand results for all students, particularly students that the District continues to fail. The board’s push for serious performance audits of programs at the District, with the audit firm reporting directly to the board, is long overdue.  We need to hold the district accountable and this is one mechanism to assure they are. We believe that Director Hampson should continue to push for racial equity within SPS and that Denise Juneau’s contracted needs to be ended immediately.

The organizations and people in support of Juneau have adult relationships and skin in the game via programs they are receiving payment from the District for or hope to receive payment for. They are not thinking about ALL SPS students, just their personal benefits. This role is not about someone’s personal gains, this is about students’ lives. The fact that Juneau has failed to collaborate with anyone that she does not see can be a benefit to her is an issue.  This job is not about individuals; it is about the systemic issues that need to be addressed.

Juneau has failed the community, school system, teachers, leadership, families, and students by poor:

1. Communication

2. Recording, figuring out recording systems

3. Reset of expectations and human resources

4. Providing support services particularly to students when unfortunate things happen in the classroom 

At $250,000 plus a year we expect for a Superintendent to come in and hit the ground running. We believe Superintendent Juneau has failed to move Seattle Public Schools in the right direction for the long term, and students, families, and our community are suffering because of her poor leadership. We do not have time to wait for her to get up to speed as our students’ lives are being negatively impacted.

Juneau does not prepare or share concrete details as she is incapable because she lacks the understanding of the issues at hand. Much like Trump, Juneau does not seek authentic engagement. She only seeks input from those that will agree with what she wants to hear.

She lacks vision and takes credit for work that was already done without giving credit where credit is due. The African American Male program was implemented before Juneau’s arrival and the design was a collaboration of the community and SPS.  The work that is being done is a result of relationships that tenured SPS employees have in the community.

She claims to be a person of color, yet she has done more harm to students, staff, and families of color than previous SPS Superintendents. She does not even have strong ties to the Native community. Juneau displays a pattern of discriminatory behaviors towards people she deems to be powerless.

In order to move the strategic plan and the district forward, it is imperative that we remove Juneau and hire an interim Superintendent that is willing to collaborate with all and not a select few.  Collaborate means to work jointly on an activity to produce or create something. Merely stating that you meet with groups is not collaboration. Never having the answers for or following through with commitments that she makes to community partners is not collaboration either.  

COVID-19 Crisis 

We’re here for families. It is great for Juneau to say 30k laptops were delivered (We have 53K students). Were they working? SPS was – and is – far behind other districts due to Juneau’s firing of the Chief Information Officer and demoting the IT position.  This caused our response to be slow as we did not have a person with the experience needed to handle the IT needs that were thrust upon the District. Currently students are using the professional version of Teams, not the one designed for schools. The group chat for classes can be accessed by students who are not in the class.  All they need is to have the teacher for another class period. If they do, they can see the chat for all the teachers’ classes. This is because the wrong version was used and operationalized. 

Reasons NOT to reinstate Denise Juneau:

I have compiled a list of reasons why Denise Juneau’s SPS contract should not be extended and/or renewed. This list includes input from more than 30 Community Organizations, SPS Staff, Educators, and Family members. Some organizations are requesting an immediate end to Denise Juneau’s contract.

We are calling for an overhaul of the SPS Strategic Plan. We want to see Black and Brown professionals represented on all levels of district staffing and regular and ongoing open meetings with Black and Brown CBO’s, families, youth and elders. We want accountability, transparency, and systemic change.

Please note that there are many issues that have not been included below and there are many issues that those who provided input below are unaware of, so this is not an exhaustive list, but is a list with enough issues that support not continuing a relationship with the current Superintendent.

1.    Staffing Issues:

a.    ­ Purging nearly all administrators of Color from her small cabinet while appointing and promoting more than a dozen white women.

–        While some African American men have been recently hired, they are in lower level non decision-making positions. They have no historical knowledge to understand they are not being told the truth.

b.    Lack of support for African American Principals

c.    HR is failing to support staff experiencing issues with supervisors, pushing them back to unsafe environments.

–        A lack of exit interview process leads to the continued disproportionate discipline of staff of color.

–        Juneau has failed to hold Clover Codd, Chief of Human Resources, accountable for her failures brought to light by KUOW, ­creating a dangerous, toxic and traumatic environment for staff and leading to an increase in lawsuits brought by parents, students and staff.

–        Juneau’s personal attacks against the Ethnic Studies Program Manager (an educator of color), have created an environment of fear and intimidation for other educators of Color.

–        Juneau refuses to apologize for transgressions and offenses.

b.    Many teachers are reaching out to the NAACP for support because of experiencing racial trauma on the job.

2.    SPS continues to feed the School to Prison Pipeline by not addressing to Racist Staff and Educators:

a. ­   There has been no improvement in Black and Brown suspensions.

b.      There have been approximately 300 calls to Seattle Police Department which resulted in arrests of students.

–     ­Why are calls continuing to be made disproportionately on Black and Brown students?

–     Calls are being made on students in elementary school.  This is unacceptable and must be addressed.

3.    Minimizing/Ignoring Hate Issues targeted towards People of Color:

a.       ­­Juneau did no ot investigating Swastikas at McGilvra Elementary School.  

–     Juneau considered this normal vandalism, when it is a crime for hatred.  

–     This was done by former students and 2019-20 students that were allowed to graduate with no consequences to these racist actions.  

 b.       Juneau has not addressed Leschi racial incidents.

 c.    ­   Juneau consistently puts white educators in lead positions of strategic plan goals meant to impact students of Color, including a culturally responsive workforce and recruiting and retaining educators of Color.

d.    There has been an increase in lawsuits brought by parents of color. Recently $350K was settled and two $500K suits are pending.

4.    Attack on any group focusing on improving outcomes for Students of Color

­a.    ­ There has been a lack of collaboration with leaders in the Ethnic Studies Advisory Group (ESAG). 

 ­b.     ERAC, the Superintendent’s Equity and Race Advisory Committee to address educational equity practices in our schools and central office, has been dismantled. Prior to it being dismantled it was mainly white people making decisions and giving input for BIPOC  communities and families. 

5.    Attack on Ethnic Studies

a.     ­Personal attack on Ethnic Studies Program Manager (a Woman of Color) who has received nothing but praise from non-racist educators, students, and communities that are pushing for Ethnic Studies.

–        Juneau wrote a letter to have the Program Manager’s teaching certificate pulled. (Yet, she has not addressed racial issues impacting Students of Color)

–        These types of personal attacks are Trumpian like tactics and are unprofessional behavior for a Superintendent.

b.       Juneau has remained silent while the curriculum department continues to water down and whitewash anti-racist curriculum.

c.       The District has not paying the Ethnic Studies Advisory Group for their work on curriculum or professional development

–        This was an effort to slow the forward progress of implementing Ethnic Studies in SPS.

d.       ­Juneau ignored and dismissed input from the community about the removal of the Ethnic Studies Program Manager.

e.       Juneau placed an unqualified leader to head Ethnic Studies (Diane Debacker).

f.        ESAG was not part of a selection process for Kyle Konishita’s replacement

g.       Juneau was caught instructing groups not to work with groups focused on moving Ethnic Studies forward.

h.       Juneau told the Ethnic Studies Advisory Group that they were “wasting time” on Black Lives Matter at School curriculum and that it wasn’t their job. 

6.    IEP/Special Education

a.       Overall concerns exist that IEPs are not being taken seriously and Special Need students are not at the forefront, which plays into our lack of graduating students prepared for life.  And has a greater negative impact on students of color.

b.       The Partnership with Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA) was terminated, removing unduplicated programs serving low income, Special Education, and high need American Indian/Alaskan Native students.

c.       Proper assessment for students of color are not being conducted.

–  SPS is graduating students who have dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia without providing them the proper services, sending them into the world to face economic and employment challenges.

–  This also contributes to the pipeline to prison. 

–  These students are smart, but they do not know it because they never understand or are taught their style of learning and how their brain processes information and learning. 

7.    Placing administrators in buildings without an interview process that includes students, families, and community despite agreement to continue this process that had been working well and improving over time: 

a.      ­The discontinuance of this process has led to many bad decisions in administrators and has led to lawsuits against SPS.

b.      ­Juneau is complicit in the appointment of new principal at Licton Springs without any Licton Springs parent voice or discussions. 

c.       Juneau regularly moves poor performing principals to other schools who have little or no parent advocacy groups and often in highly populated English language learning communities. 

8.    Failure to work with school communities/ Lack of collaboration with CBOs

a.        Juneau initially refused to hold meetings with the NAACP. 

–        Previous Superintendents had recurring meetings with the NAACP.

–        Upon pointing out that Engagement was included in her evaluation, she recently began to meet with the NAACP local branch; unsatisfactory on family engagement on her evaluation is why she started meeting with NAACP.

–        She does not attend the entire meeting.

–        She is using the meeting to check a box.

–        Nothing is being resolved. Discussions are about goals on items that should already be in place.

–        Juneau is unprepared and does not follow up on questions that are being asked.

b.    ­ Failure of Superintendent to bridge Native based CBO’s with students for resources, financial support and other assistance.

–        ­  ­Juneau has canceled partnerships with Native and Black focused CBOs.

–        ­  Juneau refused to include any CBO representation of American Indian/Alaskan Native groups on the Strategic Plan.

–        ­   There has been failure under Denise Juneau leadership to engage with the community or parents in meaningful and inclusive problem solving related to COVID 19 and School closure issues.

–        ­  ­ Juneau has been unresponsive to American Indian/Alaskan Native parents, elders, and community calling for the restoration of Indian Heritage H.S.

–        ­  Juneau has been unresponsive to parent and community outrage and opposition to the removal of and transition to a remote school with no transportation plan for parents seeking a Native focused education for their students.

­9.    Youth Engagement Failures

a.       ­ Juneau is responsible for the removal of a youth group focused on empowering youth of color at Mercer Middle School.

b.       ­ Youth have left the Superintendent’s advisory group as a result of her failure to take the youth seriously. 

c.       Youth feel like they were only used as a check box and their input was not valued.

­­ 10. Failure to ‘move the needle’ for American Indian/Alaskan Native drop out, completion of high school, and disciplinary actions

­a.          Much of any change is a result of the alleged manipulation of data and push out of Native families from SPS.

This list was compiled by the NAACP with input from various organizations, students, teachers, staff, and parents.

Please remove Juneau immediately so that she will stop harming our students and so that we can get on to the business of educating students effectively.

Defend Bruce

Seattle Public Schools,

Bruce Jackson, a 17-year veteran at Aki Kurose Middle School, was unjustly fired by Seattle Public Schools on Thursday, February 9th. Bruce has had a significant impact on the special education program and hundreds of students. He was recently fired from his position because of lies, incompetence, and malpractice of an independent contractor, Behavioral Institute. I join the Seattle Caucus of Rank-and-file Educators and Washington Ethnic Studies Now in demanding Bruce be reinstated in his position at Aki Kurose Middle School. Additionally, I demand that SPS hold the non-public and unregulated agency, Behavioral Institute, accountable for their failures.

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  1. This is such a powerful letter and report on all the facts and true information. I especially appreciate the courage and just cause of the NAACP.

    So I have visited and read this post more than once with great admiration.

    One issue here, though. The number of signature does not match the current number. So, I’d really appreciate if this could be reposted more often with the updated number.

    Thank you so much!

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