Seattle Metro Chamber members dug into education issues at the January 15 Business Issues Forum, which featured discussions with Denise Juneau, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, Melissa Pailthorp, President of Schools First, and Maud Daudon, Project Leader of Career Connect Washington.
Superintendent Juneau spoke first, giving an update on Seattle Public Schools funding and sharing key themes from community meetings. Then, the group heard from Melissa Pailthorp, who discussed the Seattle Public Schools education levies up for renewal next month. The final speaker was Maud Daudon, who gave a thought-provoking presentation on apprenticeships and education programs that connect young adults with careers.
Highlights by speaker:
• Denise Juneau, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools
Superintendent Juneau introduced herself to Chamber members, sharing how her childhood in Montana shaped her interest in policy. Her mother was a fierce advocate for unheard and underrepresented voices. Juneau also discussed her tenure as Montana's Superintendent of Public Instruction, including her work to launch the Graduation Matters Montana initiative in 2010 after learning thousands of high-schoolers had dropped out the year before.
Juneau discussed the listening and learning tour she embarked on after her arrival in Seattle. “Education needs to be steeped in community,” she said, noting the importance of engaging with the community to further understand needs. On the tour, she gathered a cumulative vision of the district's strengths, challenges and priorities.
She spoke on matters of importance highlighted by the community: Consistency (in school staffing, school transportation, food service and safety), equity (solutions, significant conversations, transforming professed values into lived values) and student Support (counseling, social-emotional wellness, trauma treatment, homelessness, special education).
Ensuring all students succeed is “a moral imperative for me,” Juneau said.
Other work she plans to prioritize includes fixing school transportation reliability, ensuring passage of the education levies up for renewal this year, and ensuring the education students receive is relevant and aligns with employer needs, providing direct paths into careers.
• Melissa Pailthorp, Board President of Schools First
Melissa Pailthorp, with Schools First, an all-volunteer group that rallies behind school levies, spoke with urgency about the education levies up for renewal this February. She noted that renewal of the levies would not mean an increase in tax bills for residents.
The levies maintain what we have, Pailthorp said, and not even entirely. Levies fund a lot of what state funding does not, she said, highlighting expenses like custodians, counselors, textbooks and day-to-day expenses including athletic field maintenance.
The capital levy up for renewal, which funds buildings, addresses critical structural issues. The levy “helps us get closer to our goal of better schools across the city,” Pailthorp said.
If the levies are not renewed, Seattle schools would fall further behind in their massive funding gap at Seattle Public Schools, Pailthorp said. She encouraged attendees to help by voting to renew the levies and encouraging all of their friends to do the same. Ballots are due by February 12, and everyone will be receiving pre-stamped ballots.
You can also donate to the campaign.
• Maud Daudon, Project Leader, Career Connect Washington
Maud Daudon talked about her work with Career Connect Washington. This project puts Washington state on a path to expanding ways students can learn about careers earlier.
Career Connect Washington advances opportunities for students by connecting disconnected programs and working to give students hands-on experience with businesses, career tracks and specific industries.
Stakeholders from across Washington state, including business leaders, industry associations, labor, legislators, parents, students and educators, have been engaged in development. Daudon noted that Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s significant excitement about the program was vital.
Daudon was also part of Inslee’s 45-member delegation that studied the career-connected learning and apprenticeship system in Switzerland.
“We need better bridges,” said Daudon, to connect students with careers. There are heroes in both education and employment who make such connections happen, she added, but it shouldn’t require heroism.
“Let’s build something that looks much more braided,” she said.
She discussed a broad feeling in Washington that schools are not adequately preparing students for real-world work.
Getting the marketing right is also important, changing the career-only-through-college narrative, and getting the right information to counselors, parents and students.
“There is a lack of information, and people don’t understand what the opportunities are,” she said. You can visit Career Connect Washington’s website to learn more.