Mayor Murray convenes citywide Education Summit

Mayor Ed Murray, along with educators, students, parents, academic experts, and community members, today convened the City’s first Education Summit since 1990. The Education Summit’s goal is to deepen partnerships between the City of Seattle, Seattle Public Schools, community organizations, businesses, philanthropies, and education advocates to address disparities in the school district that disproportionately impact students of color and those from lower-income families.

“My hope is that with this Summit we can begin to unite around a common vision,” said Murray. “Ultimately, our goal is to create an environment where our public schools are centers of excellence and equity – and where opportunities to achieve are shared by all our students.”

The Education Summit was held at Garfield High School and attended by more than 500 community members. Full text of the Mayor’s remarks can be found here.

During the summit, expert panels and participants discussed child development, the student experience, and solutions for closing the opportunity gap.  Dr. Larry Nyland, Seattle Public Schools superintendent addressed these disparities in his 2015 State of the District presentation.

In Seattle Public Schools, students of color meet 3rd grade reading standards at a rate 31 percent lower than White students. They are suspended or expelled at three times the rate of their White peers in grades 6 through 12. Students of color graduate on-time at a rate 24 percent lower than White students. And 43 percent of African American and Latino students do not graduate on-time or at all.

“Disparities in student opportunities, achievement and discipline are unacceptable. We have a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that each and every child in our district is supported to thrive and succeed in Seattle,” said Dr. Nyland. “Eliminating this gap will require positive partnerships, and we are proud to stand side by side with the City and continue to grow our partnership to learn together, lead together and co-create solutions and dissolve inequities.”

Leading up to the summit, 20 community conversations were held throughout Seattle over the months of March and April, allowing summit planners to collect input and qualitative data from community members, parents, students, teachers and administrators, foundations, and business leaders to help identify ways to improve educational opportunities for all children and youth in Seattle. Director of Seattle’s Department Education and Early Learning, Dwane Chappelle, reported out to participants what was learned from the community conversations.

“We had more than 1,300 people attend and share their stories at our community conversations,” said Chappelle. “We heard several themes about improving school climate, preparing students for what comes after high school, and finding meaningful ways to connect families to schools. We look forward to using these themes in partnership with Seattle Public Schools to support equity and excellence for each and every student.”

The summit’s co-chairs were: Ron Sims, former King County Executive and Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Sheila Edwards-Lange, interim President of Seattle Central College; Brad Tilden, President and CEO of Alaska Airlines; and Kristin Bailey-Fogarty, a teacher at Eckstein Middle School.

“The Education Summit was an incredible opportunity to address the persistent education gap that has existed for far too long in our public schools,” said Sims. “We needed to hear from the voices that have the most at stake, the students, teachers, administrators, and Seattle residents, all of whom are committed to providing a quality education in which all can thrive.”

“As the number of jobs requiring post-secondary training continues to increase, it is imperative that we address the opportunity gap, so that more low-income and underserved students graduate with the tools and skills to succeed in college and prepare for rewarding careers,” said Dr. Sheila Edwards-Lange of Seattle Central College. “Seattle Colleges are honored to work with the City of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools to develop meaningful solutions to accomplish this goal.”

“Our hometown has so much going for it but there are significant gaps in the quality of education that our children receive,” said Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines.  “Addressing these gaps will lead to better lives for our kids and greater success for our region.  It is important for the business community to be engaged on these solutions and Alaska Airlines is excited to support the effort.”

“Our goal with the community conversations and the Education Summit is to leave no stone unturned in identifying resources and strategies that will serve students,” said Kristen Bailey-Fogarty, a Seattle Public School teacher and Seattle Education Association Board Member. “It’s been exciting and inspiring to see the collaboration between community members, the school district, and the City as we all work toward ensuring every child has a safe learning environment and access to an excellent education.”

Following the Education Summit, the Mayor’s Education Advisory Group will help refine the recommendations for an action plan on how the City can best align resources and develop partnerships to make education more equitable. The group is comprised of education and community advocates, educators, and business and philanthropic leaders.

In 1990, Mayor Norm Rice held an Education Summit that established a deeper partnership between the City, Seattle Public Schools and education advocates. Residents came together to propose a new support for students and educators, the Families & Education Levy.

For more information about the Education Summit and the Education Advisory Group please visit seattle.gov/educationsummit.