Open Letter to Denise Juneau, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools

Wouldn’t it be nice if my blog could be focused more on the good work of the educators of Color dedicated to Ethnic Studies in Seattle Public Schools? I intended for this blog to be a tool for activism and information, but with as much gatekeeping and interference our program is up against, it seems this blog is more the former than the latter. I hope that one day, soon, we won’t have to fight so hard for the Ethnic Studies program and this blog can be more for information and sharing joy. In the meantime…

Superintendent Denise Juneau,

At a school board meeting on January 8th, 2020, there was a conversation about creating ethnic studies courses students could enroll in to earn graduation credits. At approximately 2:01:30 in this video of the board meeting you make a statement that includes the words, “I hope teachers on there [Ethnic Studies Advisory Group] will really take this seriously because the only people that will lose out if this does not happen are students. And so that’s my message to the ethnic studies advisory council: Please come together, look at these courses, decide whether they can be approved for ethnic studies for cross-credit because we really want our students to be able to have access next year.”

Superintendent Juneau, there are a few things the Ethnic Studies Advisory Group (please learn our name) would like you to know. We are in our third year of “coming together” as a group of dedicated educators of Color. We have “come together” despite threats from our principals, mistreatment, gatekeeping, and exploitation by administrators in Seattle Public Schools, and threats of physical violence from the community. We have “come together” to create the very foundation upon which today’s Ethnic Studies Program currently sits. We “come together” despite the fact you have refused to staff the program to make it sustainable. We “come together” despite the fact we frequently do not get paid for the volumes of work we have created. We “come together” because we are the adult versions of our current students; radicalized by our own experiences with institutional racism in education – both our personal education and as educators in Seattle Public Schools. We are so committed to this work, despite severe lack of support, that four educators from our group are on medical leave for stress induced by racism perpetuated by our employer.

We came together in November to begin the work of writing course descriptions you mentioned in your statement, only to have that work appropriated when the Ethnic Studies Program Manager, Tracy Castro-Gill, went on medical leave for stress induced by racism perpetuated by her employer. In December, we came together and met with Dr. DeBacker and Dr. Perkins, who informed us they had tasked a separate group of educators to complete the work we had begun; educators who have not been vetted to do such sensitive and important work. However, you chose to lay blame for incomplete work at the feet of the group of educators who have built the Ethnic Studies Program. Not only did you choose to make such an ignorant and offensive statement, you also implied that the Advisory Group is purposefully working against the effort to create course descriptions for cross-crediting.

We “come together” now to demand a public apology for the disrespectful statements made by you from the dais on January 8th, 2020. Educators of Color are watching and hoping that you will deliver on all the promises you are making.


The 21 members of the Ethnic Studies Advisory Group:

Alma Ramiro Alonzo, Montlake Elementary School

Akin Alston, Mathematician, Educator, and Entrepreneur

Kaitlin Kamalei Brandon, Leschi Elementary School

Tracy Castro-Gill, John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence

Andrea Chorney, Denny International Middle School

Flordelrio Correa, Interagency High School

Jennifer Dunn, Southlake High School

Donte Felder, Orca K8

Jon Greenberg, The Center School

Heather Griffin, Chief Sealth International High School

Tara Hofmann, John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence

Amanda Hubbard, Kimball Elementary School

Bruce Jackson, Aki Kurose Middle School

Savanna Jamerson, Interagency High School

Lisa Rice, Franklin High School

Rogelio Rigor, Interagency High School (retired)

Deven Shah, Broadview Thomson K8

Shraddha Shirude, Garfield High School

Justin Vinson, Franklin High School

Tess Williams, Cleveland High School

Elisa Yzaguirre, Denny International Middle School

Published by

Tracy Castro-Gill

Seattle Public Schools Ethnic Studies Program Manager| 2019 PSESD Regional Teacher of the Year| Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board Member| PhD Student

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