Seattle Public Schools officially hires Denise Juneau as new superintendent

Denise Juneau is the new superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. She will start her job on July 1, 2018.

SEATTLE — Former Montana schools chief Denise Juneau was hired Wednesday to be Seattle’s new schools superintendent. She will start on July 1.

Juneau, 51, becomes the first Native American schools superintendent in Seattle history. She is a member of the federally recognized Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes.

Juneau served as Montana’s state superintendent of public instruction from 2009 to 2017.

During her term as Montana state schools chief, Montana’s graduation rate increased 4.7 percent, while the dropout rate decreased 1.3 percent. Juneau also oversaw the development of Montana’s “Schools of Promise Initiative”, an $11.5 million, three-year project that used federal grant money “to help teachers’ union leaders, school board officials, and administrators attempt to address students’ academic and social-emotional needs in some of the state’s most disadvantaged schools.”

In  2015, Juneau announced her candidacy for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat in the 2016 congressional election. Juneau — who is openly gay and the first such candidate to run for federal office in Montana — was defeated by then-incumbent Republican Ryan Zinke in the 2016 general election. Zinke is now Interior secretary in President Donald Trump’s administration.

“Selecting a superintendent is the most important responsibility a school board has,” Seattle School Board President Leslie Harris said in a news release earlier this month when the board agreed to enter into contract negotiations with Juneau. “Throughout this process, this board has sought feedback, listened closely and thoughtfully reflected on what characteristics we need in our next superintendent.

“We were thrilled with the quality of candidates, making this a harder decision than any of us expected. Our community and staff have high expectations for Seattle Schools. Denise Juneau is the right pick to fulfill our promise of equity and excellence.”

The Seattle Public Schools board said last fall that it wanted to have a new superintendent in place when Superintendent Larry Nyland’s contract ends in June.