Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has chosen Rainier Beach High School principal Dwane Chappelle as his pick to lead the city's education department, the mayor announced Thursday.
Chappelle will be the first permanent director of the newly-created Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning, which opened in January to oversee the city's preschool and child care initiatives and administer programs funded by the city's Families and Education Levy.
If the city council approves the mayor's selection, Chappelle would start at the city on January 1. A city statement says Holly Miller — the department's acting director and the longtime head of its forerunner, the city's Office for Education — will remain on the job "in the meantime."
A native of Oakland, Calif., Chappelle was an assistant principal at a Texas high school before coming to Seattle in 2011.
During his tenure, Rainier Beach High School's graduation rate surged more than 25 percentage points. Chappelle was principal during the implementation of the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum at the school, which many credit for the increase in graduation rates.
"Our goal is to use advanced learning as the equity driver; to make sure our students of color, especially black men that look like me, have the opportunity to participate in advanced courses and prepare themselves for college and career," Chappelle said at a press conference Thursday.
At a Thursday press conference, the mayor highlighted the gaps in test scores and graduation rates that separate poor and minority students from their more-affluent peers.
"The responsibility for addressing this disparity does not belong to the school district alone. All of us share the responsibility to make sure our schools work for all of our children. The city wants to become a stronger partner with everybody in our community, including our school district," Murray said.
Murray closed with a joke about hiring Chappelle away from Seattle Public Schools, whose Twitter account featured a congratulatory post not long after the announcement.
"Dwane does — and that's one of the reasons we hired him — have a great relationship with the school district," Murray said. "And hopefully after hiring him, I still have a good relationship with the school district."