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    Juneau's Journal May 24
    Posted on 05/24/2019

    Seattle Super Readers!

    As we wrap up the 2018-19 school year, we are already planning for the start of school next fall. Next September we will launch our new, 5-year strategic plan. Unlike previous plans, it is in fact strategic and laser focused on supporting students furthest away from educational justice, beginning with African American males. While we remain committed to our mission - that every student receives a high-quality, world class education - for the first time we are getting real about what it will take to ensure racial and educational justice in Seattle Public Schools.

    Our first goal will be to make sure ALL students can read by 3rd grade. Reading well by 3rd grade is predictive of high school graduation and life success. It is essential. So, from the bus stop to the board room, we will all be focused on early literacy. And we must all believe it is possible. We must believe that 100% of our students can become strong, independent readers by 3rd grade. I know I do. Our young people are brilliant, wise, and ready for the challenge. It’s up to us adults to make it happen.

    So, in advance of this coming school year, we are building networks of support and aligning our reading efforts. This summer we will launch a district reading campaign and connect students to the great work of Seattle Public Libraries; we will open many of our own libraries for students throughout the summer months; we will provide resources and reading materials; and we will deeply engage communities and partners in the work. All these efforts will be aimed at building student excitement about reading, reinforcing reading strategies learned during the school year, and encouraging our youngest students to become independent readers – with the help of families and partners.

    Superintendent Juneau with attendees of the American Indian Roundtable meetingI am an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Tribes, a descendant of the Blackfeet Tribe, and the Tlingit and Haida Tribes. I recognize that any student’s success or growth must be grounded in their culture. It wasn’t until college when I really learned about Native literature. It was James Welch’s Fools Crow that hooked me. To read a Native author write about a significant event in Blackfeet history - from the Blackfeet’s perspective - was a game changer. I started to read all the books. I went to the Newberry Library in Chicago on a Native literature summer seminar. I became a teacher and had the opportunity to teach young Blackfeet students this book. It was the first book some of them read in its entirety. Those young people saw themselves, and their ancestors, as powerful, resilient, and courageous.

    Superintendent Juneau talks with group during a meetingOur commitment to address 3rd grade reading will take on this type of culturally inclusive and responsive work. This last week, I held an American Indian Roundtable. I personally invited Native American partners and leaders to help us with our 3rd grade reading goal. We talked frankly about the hard work and innovation that will be required. We also talked at length about our desire to saturate Seattle Public Schools with a strength-based narrative – one that lets our students know we believe in them and their potential. And then I asked everyone to be involved, to consider what impact they each individually and as an organization can have on improving early literacy.

    I plan to hold these affinity-type conversations throughout the summer, so as a district we are actively soliciting the best reading ideas from elders, families, partners, and youth. They know best. We can’t do this work alone, but together I know in my heart that we can get all students reading, and reading well. #SeattleSuperReaders

    Denise Juneau

    Corny joke of the week: Sometimes I tuck my knees into my chest and learn forward. That's just how I roll.