Native Education Expert Denise Juneau Joins Education Northwest as Senior Fellow

May 2022
Denise Juneau joins Education Northwest

“It is an honor to have Denise Juneau join the Education Northwest team,” said Chief Executive Officer Patty Wood. “Her wealth of knowledge and practical experience at both the state and district levels, as well as her deep connection to Tribal communities, will help us focus our efforts where they can have the most impact. She has a long track record of breaking down barriers and fighting for equity and social justice within the education system, which is right in line with our mission and values.”

An enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Tribes and a descendant of the Blackfeet Tribe and the Tlingit and Haida Tribes, Denise received her master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She started her career as a teacher on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota and her hometown of Browning, Montana. Later, she worked at the state education level before earning her juris doctorate degree from the University of Montana School of Law.

I am honored to become a part of Education Northwest to support their national leadership in Native education. They have been doing deep, exciting work to create culturally informed and inclusive curricula, conduct district and school equity analyses and evaluations, and increase strength-based academic outcomes for students. I look forward to assisting their high-quality team as they continue their work to achieve educational justice for Native students. – Denise Juneau

In 2008, Denise became the first American Indian woman elected to statewide executive office in the country, ultimately serving as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for eight years.

Under her leadership, the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) established the $11.5 million Schools of Promise Initiative, which invested federal grant money in schools on Indian reservations that struggle with systemic issues of colonialism that result in poverty, violence, and unemployment. Denise also established the Graduation Matters Montana program, which used a school-community partnership approach to increase the statewide graduation rate and lower dropout rates. During her tenure, dropout rates for American Indian students decreased by 33 percent, and the statewide graduation rate reached historic highs.

Another hallmark of Denise’s tenure at OPI was her commitment to promoting student voice and involvement. She established the state’s first student advisory board, comprising 180 students from 32 high schools, which provided direct feedback to the office of the superintendent.

More recently, Denise served as the superintendent of Seattle Public Schools (SPS), leading one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest and most diverse school systems through the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Denise’s emphasis on equity, diversity, and student voice continued at SPS, where she again established a student advisory council and led an effort to increase diversity in the workforce. Under her leadership, SPS saw double-digit growth in the percentages of teachers, school leaders, and central office leaders of color.

“Denise is a brilliant, courageous, and humble leader,” said Mandy Smoker Broaddus, a Native education practice expert at Education Northwest. “She is a fearless advocate for the rights of Native students and for the right of all students to have a high-quality, equitable, and inclusive education. Throughout her career, she has always been guided by a commitment to social justice. Her leadership and insight will be a tremendous asset to Education Northwest.”