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Seattle superintendent responds to NAACP's call for firing, criticisms of systemic racism

Superintendent Denise Juneau said the Seattle King County NAACP is a "vital member of our community," and said the district is focused on diversity and equity.

SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau affirmed that in-person classes will not return until at least Jan. 28, 2021, and she's "surprised" at calls for her dismissal.

Those were just two of the subjects that came up during a rare hour-long media availability with the leader of Washington's largest school district.

Juneau said the district is looking at ways to create safer environments so students can meet in person, including experimenting with the idea of outdoor learning, as well as examining HVAC systems.

However, she claims that most students have settled into a groove with remote learning, with 96.9% of students logging on in October, and over 90% of African American boys and teens at 91.3%

The issue of race was a key part of the briefing, after the local chapter of the NAACP called for Juneau's dismissal earlier this month.

RELATED: NAACP leaders call for firing of Seattle school superintendent

"I was actually really surprised when I read their press release and heard their press conference," said Juneau, who called the organization a "vital member of our community" and that she regularly meets with members of the organization.

"I also heard the NAACP talk about the so-called 'purge of African American men from our district,' and I need to say that several of the men they listed chose to leave Seattle Public Schools for bigger and better roles in other districts and organizations, and a couple were asked to leave because of performance issues," she said. "Our district has actually surpassed its diversity hiring goal by an average of 10% in every category."

She also acknowledged what the state superintendent's office had already confirmed: the district lost hundreds of kindergarten families, a total of around 600 students overall, and about 1.2% of the overall enrollment.

That means, according to Juneau, there will be difficult discussions ahead.

"There will have to be some tough talks about people and programs and what we are going to do as a district to recover. We are working with our state legislative delegation around trying to make sure that we are held as harmless as possible going forward," Juneau said.

RELATED: Seattle Public Schools will continue remote learning through January 2021