The Seattle School Board has announced three finalists for superintendent of the state’s largest school district.
The finalists are Denise Juneau, Andre Spencer and Jeanice Kerr Swift.
All three boast lengthy resumes and education accolades. Swift and Spencer have both previously won district superintendent of the year awards; Juneau was the first Native American woman in the country to be elected to statewide office.
Juneau is the former Montana superintendent of public instruction. She won her first term in 2008 and was reelected in 2012. In 2016, she ran against, and was defeated by, Republican incumbent Ryan Zinke for Montana’s seat in the U.S House of Representatives. An enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Tribes, she was was also the first openly gay candidate for federal office in Montana. Before the 2016 election, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed sources, that Juneau would have been a leading candidate for U.S. education secretary if Hillary Clinton was to win.
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Spencer is superintendent of Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs, Colo., which serves 11,000 students. He has worked as a teacher, assistant principal and area support and regional superintendent in Baltimore and Houston, and served for four years in the U.S. Army. He was named superintendent of the year by The Education Center in Denver. Last year, he was a finalist for superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools. He’s also served as a chairperson for the National Alliance of Black School Educators.
Swift is the superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools in Michigan, which serves about 16,000 students. She has been superintendent since 2013 and was named the state’s 2018 superintendent of the year by the Michigan Association of School Administrators. In 2016, the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education offered Swift an extra $90,000 over three school years if she were to stay with the district through 2020, MLive.com reported. She worked as an assistant superintendent in Colorado Springs before moving to Ann Arbor.
The district will host a public forum Thursday evening for members of the public to meet the superintendent finalists. The forum starts at 5 p.m. in the auditorium of the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence. It will also be broadcast on the district’s cable channel.
“We are looking for a superstar superintendent,” that stays with the district for years, said School Board President Leslie Harris at Monday’s meeting, when members voted on the three finalists.
The School Board voted not to renew Superintendent Larry Nyland’s contract in December 2016 but waited until October to officially open its search for a new schools chief.
The board hired Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based consultant firm Ray & Associates to conduct its superintendent search. The firm’s job listing went live in early February, with a Feb. 28 deadline for applicants to apply.
Ray & Associates, which is conducting similar searches for superintendents in Snoqualmie Valley, Las Vegas and Austin, and collect a base rate of $35,500 for its contract with Seattle, with an estimated $14,800 in reimbursable expenses.
The School Board conducted closed-door interviews last week with five semi-finalists, selected from a pool of 63 applicants, including a 15-year-old Franklin High student. Representatives from the district’s labor unions, central administration, the City of Seattle and community organizations sat in on interviews and gave board members feedback on each candidate. Those representatives signed confidentiality agreements and couldn’t discuss the interviews.
The new superintendent will be the district’s third leader in six years. Nyland was named interim superintendent in July 2014 after Jose Banda left to lead the Sacramento City Unified School District. Board members voted later that year to give Nyland the job permanently through June 2017. The School Board later voted to extend his contract by a year, with the understanding that they would then search for his replacement, then-Board President Sue Peters said last year.