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Seattle picks new superintendent; Denise Juneau hails from Montana

Denise Juneau is the former Montana superintendent of public instruction. She also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2016.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil
Denise Juneau is the former Montana superintendent of public instruction. She also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2016.

The Seattle School Board voted unanimously on Wednesday night to hire Denise Juneau as the district’s new superintendent.

Juneau comes from Montana, where she served as that state's Superintendent of Public Instruction for eight years.

If she takes the job in Seattle, she would become the first Native American to hold the position.

Last week, in a meeting with reporters here, Juneau said she focused on high-poverty schools on her state’s Native American reservations to bring in services for trauma and mental health.

Juneau: “We also had staff and teachers and school administrators go out and do home visits and not just talk about their student’s life in school, about ‘Johnny didn’t show up today,’ or ‘he has an F in math,’ but ‘what are your hopes and dreams for your child?’”

In addition to being the first Native American woman to win statewide office in Montana, Juneau also became the state's first openly gay candidate during her run for Congress in 2016.

She lost that race to Ryan Zinke, who is now the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Before the board took the vote on Juneau last night, school board President Rick Burke said he heard broad support for her from all parts of the city.

The current Superintendent, Larry Nyland, earns about $300,000 a year.

He's leaving the job in June.

Last week, in a meet-and-greet with other Superintendent candidates, Juneau said she would bring stability to Seattle's schools.

Juneau: "Leadership needs to be around for a while and longevity helps create stability. And Seattle Public Schools I think, really does need that longevity in their next leader. I'm committed to sticking around to see it through."

The Board's decision marks the end of a two-month search for the city's third superintendent in six years.

The board plans to discuss Juneau's contract on April 25.

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