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Finalists For Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Will Appear At A Public Forum

Joe Wolf
The John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence is the central administration building for Seattle Public Schools.

The people vying to run Washington state’s largest school district will take questions from the public at a forum Thursday afternoon. One group anxiously looking for more information on the three candidates is the Seattle Education Association, the union that represents teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals and other school staff in the district.

The three finalists for the Seattle school district superintendent job are Denise Juneau from Montana, Andre Spencer from Colorado and Jeanice Kerr Swift from Michigan.

Juneau served as the state superintendent of public instruction in Montana, Spencer is superintendent of a school district in Colorado Springs and Swift is superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Phyllis Campano, president of the Seattle Education Association, said one thing she wants to find out from the candidates is how open they are to input from school staff.

“I think the key thing is working collaboratively with educators and how do they include educator voice in decisions they make for the district,” she said.

Seattle Education Association and the Principals’ Association of Seattle Schools had urged the school board to forgo the search and keep current superintendent Larry Nyland. But the board has moved ahead and said it will identify its top candidate next week.

One reason the Seattle Education Association had urged the board to hold off on selecting a new superintendent is because the union is negotiating a new contract with the district right now. Campano said it’s not clear how a new superintendent will affect bargaining.

“The person coming in could say, 'Hey, you guys are moving along, keep going, I just want to sit on the edge and watch what’s going on,’” she said. “Or that person could come in and say, 'Stop everything. We’re going to go in a different direction.’ It depends on the person.”

Teachers and other educators in Seattle went on strike in 2015. That resulted in six days of canceled classes for the district’s 53,000 students. Campano said negotiations with school district officials this time around have been smooth.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.