The Seattle Times profiles the three finalists in the search for the next superintendent of the Seattle School District. The School Board could vote on its choice as early as Wednesday.

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The next leader of the Seattle School District faces daunting tasks, from closing a vexing achievement gap to retaining qualified teachers in the face of rising housing costs.

Below, The Seattle Times profiles the three finalists for the open superintendent position. They were chosen from a field of 63 applicants after closed-door interviews with the Seattle School Board and representatives from the district’s labor unions, central administration, the city of Seattle and community organizations.

The School Board could vote on its choice as early as Wednesday, April 4. The winner would be the 54,000-student district’s fifth superintendent in the last 10 years and would earn around $300,000.

Click on each story below to learn more about that finalist.


 

Finalist Andre Spencer touts AP class successes

The Colorado Springs superintendent used AP classes to narrow achievement gaps, but Seattle teachers and parents raise questions about the district’s charter schools and performance pay.

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Andre Spencer speaks with reporters at Seattle School District headquarters March 29, 2018. Spencer is superintendent of Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)
Andre Spencer speaks with reporters at Seattle School District headquarters March 29, 2018. Spencer is superintendent of Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)


 

Former Montana schools chief Denise Juneau says work there fits with Seattle role

Denise Juneau is the most high profile of the three finalists for Seattle Public Schools superintendent. It’s unclear, though, how she would fare in an urban school district.

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Denise Juneau speaks with reporters at Seattle School District headquarters March 29. Juneau is the former Montana superintendent of public instruction. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)
Denise Juneau speaks with reporters at Seattle School District headquarters March 29. Juneau is the former Montana superintendent of public instruction. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)


 

Ann Arbor took risk on Jeanice Kerr Swift for top job, now fears losing her to Seattle

Jeanice Kerr Swift helped draw more students to Ann Arbor schools and saw test scores rise. But Seattle is three times the size of Ann Arbor, with a budget to match. Can she rise to the challenge?

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Jeanice Kerr Swift speaks with reporters at Seattle School District headquarters March 29, 2018. Swift is the superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools in Michigan. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)
Jeanice Kerr Swift speaks with reporters at Seattle School District headquarters March 29, 2018. Swift is the superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools in Michigan. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)


 

Challenges for the new Seattle schools boss

Seattle Public Schools’ next superintendent will face several major challenges when he or she takes the helm. Here are a few of them:

Academic-achievement gaps: Seattle’s student population has one of the worst racial disparities in achievement in the nation. Outgoing Superintendent Larry Nyland calls eliminating opportunity gaps between groups of students “the issue of our time,” but the gaps continue to grow. A 2016 study from Stanford found that black students in Seattle tested 3 ½ grade levels behind their white peers, and the researchers’ 2017 update found the gap had widened to 3.7 grade levels. Last year, 39 percent of Native American/Alaska Native eighth-graders were proficient in English-language arts, compared with 83 percent of white eighth-graders.

Contract negotiations: The Seattle teachers union and school district will be negotiating the union’s contract, which goes into effect later this year. In 2015, union members went on strike after those negotiations stalled, delaying the start of school for a week.

Budget shortfall and upcoming levies: The district projects a budget shortfall in the coming years and plans to submit two school-funding levies in February 2019. The 2019 operations levy would renew an expiring operations levy, which provides about 20 percent of the district’s general fund. A capital levy would fund construction projects to modernize or replace aging buildings.

Public meeting: The School Board could decide on the superintendent when it meets Wednesday from 4:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the John Stanford Center auditorium, 2445 Third Avenue South. Watch live online: seattleschools.org/schoolboard

— Paige Cornwell