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Seattle schools chief was invited to apply for role in Biden administration

Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, NC
Denise Juneau, then the Superintendent of the Montana Office of Public Instruction, at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Harry E. Walker/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Seattle schools superintendent Denise Juneau was invited to apply for a position in the Biden administration, according to emails obtained by Chalkbeat.

It’s not clear if Juneau did end up applying or is being considered for secretary of education or another role. But the emails contradict comments Juneau made to the Seattle Times last month.

On Nov. 13, she said in a statement to the paper “to date, I have not been contacted about the position.”

In fact, Juneau received an email Nov. 10 from an unnamed member of the president-elect’s appointments team. “Your name was referred to us as someone who may be interested in serving as a political appointee in the Biden-Harris Administration,” the email said. It then encourages Juneau to fill out a “candidate interest form” by the end of the week. A follow-up email Nov. 12 reminded Juneau to apply.

A spokesperson for the Seattle Public Schools indicated that it was possible Juneau had not seen the emails when she made her comments to the Times, but he could not say so definitively.

“The two emails were sent to the general superintendent email address (as opposed to her specific, ‘personal’ SPS email address),” Tim Robinson said in a statement. “Given the volume of email sent to that email address, it is not uncommon for items to stay in that in-box for some time before they are dealt with, which may or may not include the items being flagged for the [superintendent] to see.”

Robinson did not say whether Juneau was seeking a position in the administration. The emails to her said candidates must fill out an interest form by Nov. 13, the same day that Juneau told the Times she had not been contacted.

Screenshot of an excerpt from an email sent to Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau on Nov. 12.
An excerpt from an email sent to Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau on Nov. 12.
Matt Barnum / Chalkbeat

The Washington Post reported in November that Juneau was being discussed for the education secretary post.

Juneau, who started her career as a high school English teacher, has been Seattle’s superintendent since 2018. Before that she was the state schools chief in Montana, where she mounted an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2016.

NBC News recently reported that top contenders for education secretary include Baltimore schools CEO Sonja Brookins Santelises and California State Board of Education president Linda Darling-Hammond. Darling-Hammond leads the transition team’s work on the Department of Education, but she previously told EdSource that wasn’t interested in leading the department.

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten and former National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García reportedly remain on the “shortlist.” Politico reported Friday morning that García is working to garner support among Republican senators.

The Biden transition team did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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