Share story

The Seattle teachers union narrowly re-elected Jonathan Knapp to a second term as president over challenger Jesse Hagopian, a Garfield High School history teacher who last year led a testing boycott that attracted national attention.

Knapp won by 45 votes, with 1,342 ballots cast in his favor.

About 54 percent of the Seattle Education Association’s (SEA) 5,000 teachers, counselors, therapists, instructional assistants, office staff and substitutes cast ballots.

“We had more than twice as many participating as ever before, and that’s a great thing for SEA.” Knapp said.

“We have to keep engaging members around the issues that are important to them and keep bringing forward their voice so that public-school educators can become the leading voice in the discussion about public education.”

Voting concluded just before midnight Wednesday, and the results were reported
Thursday evening.

Knapp, an auto-shop teacher, ran a relatively low-key campaign.

He focused on talking with teachers one-on-one about his first-term record, including the union’s success this spring in getting the district to reverse some $4 million in proposed funding cuts that would have resulted in layoffs.

Knapp’s running mate, Phyllis Campano, easily was re-elected as vice president.

Jennifer Matter, a candidate backed by Knapp and Campano, received the most votes for the vacant treasurer’s position but not enough to win outright, so she will face Hagopian’s choice for treasurer, Daniel Troccoli, in a runoff election.

Union members also elected representatives to the executive board of directors.

The union represents about 3,200 teachers.

Hagopian gained a national reputation after leading a testing boycott last year of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests in Seattle.

He became the public voice of the revolt, which ended last May when the district allowed high schools to stop using the MAP test.

The protest inspired teachers around the country to voice their concerns that students were being harmed, not helped, by excessive testing.

Hagopian’s campaign to lead the union drew unprecedented community attention that included endorsements from Seattle City Council members Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant and Seattle school-board member Sue Peters.

Hagopian is one of the founding members of Social Equality Educators, a group within the union that supports progressive values and backed his candidacy.

He topped a slate of candidates for officer and board positions on the organization’s “RESPECT” ticket.

“We got the best turnout in anyone’s memory,” Hagopian said. “The RESPECT slate energized our union and gave people a real vision for what the future could be.”

He said members of Social Equality Educators won several seats on the executive board, including all three positions representing high schools.

“Overall, it’s an incredible step forward for the Social Equality Educators and the idea of winning respect for educators and students in the city,” Hagopian said.

The union’s executive board and representative assembly will meet Monday to certify the election results.

John Higgins: 206-464-3145 or On Twitter @jhigginsST