The Seattle school board has voted to hire Brent Jones, an assistant general manager at King County Metro, to be interim superintendent for one year starting July 1.
That move comes after the current superintendent, Denise Juneau, chose not to seek a renewal of her contract. Juneau, an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa tribes, is the district’s first Native American superintendent.
When Juneau was hired in 2018 after serving as state superintendent in Montana, she pledged to address long-standing racial inequities in the Seattle school district, but over the past year, she lost support from some key community groups, including the local NAACP and the Seattle Special Education PTSA.
Jones has a deep history with Seattle Public Schools, which has about 52,000 students and is the largest district in Washington. He grew up attending Seattle schools and graduated from Franklin High School. He served as the district’s Chief Equity, Partnerships and Engagement Officer until June 2019.
The NAACP had pointed to his departure from the district, along with several other Black men, as a failure by Juneau to cultivate African-American male educational leaders at a time when the district has centered its strategic plan on improving academic outcomes for Black boys.
“I want to thank the Seattle School Board for this opportunity to serve in this capacity, and I look forward to working in deep partnership with families and staff to create the conditions for students to thrive – no matter the circumstances,” Jones said in a news release.
He’ll take the helm at a critical time for Seattle Public Schools. The district is just now trying to resume in-person instruction for students who have been learning from home for almost a year because of the pandemic.
The outlook for a full-time return to classrooms in the fall remains murky because vaccines will likely not be available for children, and Jones will have to address the academic impacts of remote learning as well as the trauma that many children may have experienced.
“This past year has been difficult for students and families," Jones said. "Tough decisions and challenges continue to face the district. I look forward to working closely with the school board and staff to implement a clear, student-focused vision for this next school year. We have an opportunity to reimagine education so that we return stronger and more student-centered than we were before the pandemic. Our students deserve a future of excellence.”
According to his LinkedIn profile, Jones earned a Ph.D. in leadership from the University of Texas at Austin after attending the University of Washington.
Jones will be the fifth superintendent for Seattle in the past decade. He will earn an annual base salary of $315,000 along with retirement benefits and $700 per month for work-related car expenses.