Mayor proposes Department of Education and Early Learning

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As parents ready their kids for the first week of school, Mayor Ed Murray today unveiled his plan to reorganize of the city’s education and support programs into a new Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL), the first of several proposals the mayor will make in his first city budget.

The new structure will enable the city to better coordinate existing work and resources on behalf of students of all ages, improve collaboration with Seattle Public Schools, colleges and child-care providers, and increase performance measurement of the city’s work to support educational outcomes.

“Equity in education is the foundation of our democracy and the future of our city,” said Murray. “The City already supports programs across the continuum from birth through college, but we must do better to align resources for better outcomes for education. We will sharpen our focus on achieving great outcomes for all, so that none of Seattle’s students are left behind. We want Seattle to be the first city in America that eliminates the achievement gap.”

Economic disparities contribute to a persistent achievement gap here, as it does across the nation, between the educational attainment of students of color and white students:

  • 90 percent of white 4th graders are reading at grade level compared to 56 percent of African American students.
  • One third of African American and Latino students—and half of American Indian students—don’t graduate on time, compared to 14 percent of white students.

Research has shown that students with higher educational attainment have higher average earning power over a career, but also live healthier lives.

“All of Seattle’s children must have the same opportunity to succeed in school and in life,” said Brianna Jackson, Executive Director of the Community Day School Association. “By improving coordination across the entire system, from Early Learning to our universities, and by working together as an education community, we know we can achieve better outcomes for all students.”

Last fall, the City Council adopted a budget action asking the mayor to develop a proposal to elevate the city’s emphasis around education. The council voiced interest in aligning the city’s education and early learning programs, preparing for a universal preschool program, and improving collaboration with the school district.

“Twenty babies are born in Seattle each day and each one deserves a strong and fair start,” said City Council President Tim Burgess.  “We know that high quality education empowers children of all backgrounds to lead healthier and happier lives and their success makes our city stronger.  To enable our cradle to career programs to work better, the Council called for the creation of this Department and I applaud the Mayor and his team for doing the hard work to get the job done.”

For the last several months, the Murray Administration has been working to shape the new department responsible for supporting early learning, K-12 and higher education in Seattle. Most of the positions in the new department would be filled by existing city employees moving from Seattle’s Human Services Department, Office for Education and other organizations. Existing functions consolidated into DEEL will include:

  • Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, Comprehensive Child Care Program and other early learning services and initiatives
  • Elementary, Middle School, and High School academic and social support programs
  • School-based health services operated by the city
  • Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative
  • All Families and Education Levy programs

Nine new positions would be created to step up coordination with area colleges and universities, ensure the quality of city child care programs and pre-schools, and increase data collection to track the effectiveness of the department’s activities.

“We look forward to working with the Mayor and the new Department of Education and Early Learning to partner on behalf of our Seattle students,” said Dr. Larry Nyland, Interim Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. “As we head back to school tomorrow, our teachers, principals and staff are getting ready to ensure every student has the opportunity to graduate prepared for college, career and life. We cannot do this work alone. We are pleased the city will partner with us to meet our goals for student success.”

The new department would house 38 employees and manage a budget of $48.5 million, including $30 million each year from the voter-approved Families and Education Levy.

The mayor’s proposal will be included in his budget submission to the City Council on Sept. 22nd.

Murray on Weyerhaeuser move: ‘This is a game changer for Pioneer Square’

Weyerhaeuser's move to Pioneer Square

Mayor Murray made the following remarks Thursday evening in Pioneer Square regarding Weyerhaeuser’s move to the neighborhood:

Next week, we will gather here in Pioneer Square to celebrate the kickoff of the NFL season with our Superbowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

Today, we gather in Pioneer Square to celebrate the relocation of Weyerhaeuser’s corporate headquarters to Occidental Park.

This is a game changer for Pioneer Square.

Weyerhaeuser’s decision to conduct its future recruitment in Seattle is a clear demonstration of what makes our city attractive to businesses.

Businesses want the kind of talent pipeline that Seattle can provide.

Businesses want to be where creative people want to be, where there’s a vibrancy in the streets, in the arts, in our parks and in active, walkable, bike-able, transit-oriented neighborhoods – like Pioneer Square.

Weyerhaeuser’s move to Occidental Park – and the 900 jobs that come with it – will have a huge and positive impact on our efforts to revitalize Pioneer Square, to attract even more businesses to the area, and to bring continued vibrancy to this historic district.

I want to thank Weyerhaeuser president and CEO Doyle R. Simons for this game-changing decision.

Doyle could not be with us here today, but he has provided the following statement for me to share with you all:

“Moving our headquarters to Seattle is an important step forward for our company. The south downtown area is a great transit hub for our employees and we’re excited to become part of this growing, vibrant and historic part of the city.”

Thank you and congratulations to the Pioneer Square Alliance, whose hard work to improve the neighborhood over the past several years is paying off in new businesses, residents and a new buzz about its future.

Video from the press conference:

Kirke Park recognized for its sustainable landscape

Kirke Park was recently named a two-star certified site by the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) program, making it one of only 34 projects to be certified nationwide.

SITES was started through the United States Botanic Garden, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin and the American Society of Landscape Architects. The program encourages healthy ecosystems and has developed a comprehensive rating system for sustainable landscapes.

Mayor Murray applauds passage of Parks District measure

Mayor Murray today issued the following statement in response to the apparent passage of the Seattle Parks District measure by Seattle voters:

“I want to thank Seattle voters for their support of the parks district and commitment to creating a lasting legacy of open space and facilities for generations of Seattleites.

This vote means a sustainable source of funding for our parks system. We will begin work immediately to address our existing maintenance backlog, working diligently to manage the needs of our park system as Seattle continues to grow as a city.”

City of Seattle to partner with community on the future of Delridge

The City of Seattle is beginning a collaboration to produce a shared vision and action plan to continue improving the health and equity of the Delridge community.

Delridge is a unique area of West Seattle and home to a rich heritage, diverse communities and organizations. Over the years, the people of Delridge have worked with the City to create neighborhood assets such as Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, Longfellow Creek Legacy Trail, Cottage Grove Park and affordable housing options. These and many other additions to the neighborhood are the result of community activism and the neighborhood plan completed in 1999.

Pianos in the Parks campaign launched July 17

Shenandoah Davis performs with Sean Nelson in Othello Park

Local musician Shenandoah Davis performs with Sean Nelson in Othello Park

On July 17, Seattle Parks and Recreation, King County Parks, Laird Norton Wealth Management, and local arts and business organizations collaborated to launch Pianos in the Parks. The Pianos in the Parks campaign placed 20 decorated pianos in Seattle parks, King County parks, Seattle Center and City Hall Plaza hoping to encourage residents to explore green and open spaces and to share and enjoy each others’ art.

“We are delighted to host the pianos at 13 city parks, Seattle Center and City Hall plaza,” Mayor Murray said. “Pianos in the Parks will enliven our parks and engage communities through the power of art and music.”

The first piano was unveiled Thursday, July 17 at an event in Othello Park. Other Seattle Parks locations for the pianos include Cal Anderson Park, Denny Park, Hing Hay Park, Ballard Commons Park, Green Lake Park, Alki Beach Park, Maple Leaf Reservoir Park, Pier 62/63, Sam Smith Park, Rainier Beach Plaza, Volunteer Park and Westlake Park.

“We are thrilled to host this positive and innovative way to bring more people into our parks and to listen to music for all to enjoy,” said Christopher Williams, Acting Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Other partners include Seattle Symphony, KEXP, Gage Academy of Art, City of Music and Classic Pianos.

The pianos were procured and donated by Classic Pianos and will be available in the parks until Aug. 17. Members of the public are invited to play the pianos and can upload videos of their park performances to the Pianos in the Parks Facebook page for a chance to play at KEXP’s and Seattle Center’s “Concerts at the Mural” on Friday, Aug. 22. The Facebook entries that receive the highest number of “likes” will be judged by a community panel and a winner will be selected.

At the end of the campaign, the pianos will be sold to the highest bidder in an online auction on www.pianosintheparks.com. Proceeds from the pianos sales will benefit Seattle Parks and Recreation, King County Parks, Seattle Symphony, KEXP and Gage Academy of Art.

For more information about Pianos in the Parks scheduled activities, participating parks/open spaces and full contest information, please visit: www.pianosintheparks.com. To tag contest entries, pictures and experiences, use the hashtag #PianosintheParks and send your photos to @seattleparks on Twitter.

Mayor Murray renames City Hall to ‘Kitty Hall’ for the day to highlight Animal Shelter foster program

Mayor Murray renamed City Hall to Kitty Hall today to highlights the Seattle Animal Shelter’s foster care program and to promote shelter cat adoptions. The shelter currently has more than 200 cats and kittens available for adoption, both at the shelter and in foster homes. The kittens that took Kitty Hall by storm today are all currently under the care of foster parents.

The Seattle Animal Shelter, located at 2061 15th Ave. W., is open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. for adoptions and licensing. Animals available for adoption can be viewed online at www.seattleanimalshelter.org. The animal shelter’s next Adopt A Cat event will be held this Saturday, July 19 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Association at 6532 Phinney Ave N.

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The kittens requested plenty of treats and paw sanitizer in their contract.

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“Oh hi. I’m Cat Mayor now.”

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“I hereby proclaim that you put me down.” (photo courtesy Kitty Council staffer Dan Nolte)

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“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

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Council staffer Dan Nolte and Mayor’s office press secretary Megan Coppersmith get some “real work” done while draped in cats.

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KOMO-TV comes to all the right assignments.

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The Mayor thanks Animal Shelter volunteers for their daily dedication to the welfare of our shelter animals.

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Mayor Murray and Councilmember Sally Clark get on the cats’ level.

Mayor Murray hires Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Director

Cuc Vu

Mayor Murray today announced Cuc Vu as his choice to lead the City’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA).

Coc Vu“I hope to establish Seattle as a leader in immigrant and refugee integration and create an environment that welcomes the participation and engagement of immigrants and refugees in all areas Seattle,” said Murray. “Cuc is the perfect choice to lead the office, as her experience on immigrant and refugee issues is bolstered by her passion for equity and equality, working for two decades on some of the most important civil rights issues of our time, including the rights of workers, women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

“I am honored and truly excited to join Mayor Murray and his team at City Hall, the most diverse cabinet I have ever seen in City government. I share the Mayor’s vision for immigrant and refugee integration in Seattle and commit to achieving real progress and equity for Seattle’s immigrant and refugee communities,” said Vu.

In her new role as Director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, Vu brings her life experience as a refugee who knows the stigma of food stamps and the prestige of an Ivy League school, as well as 12 years of experience working on immigrant and refugee affairs as an advocate, issue organizer and non-profit founder and executive.

Vu most recently served as the first Chief Diversity Officer for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) where she provided the vision and strategy to help the organization fulfill its stated commitment to diversity and inclusion. She has also worked at SEIU, AFL-CIO and the U.S. Department of Labor.

“I am excited with the announcement of Cuc Vu as Director of the Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. She is an outstanding leader who will be a passionate and effective advocate,” said Eliseo Medina, labor union activist and leader, and advocate for immigration reform in the United States. “Thank you, Mayor Murray for your leadership and support.”

“I am delighted that Cuc Vu will be the next director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. I have known and worked with Cuc for over a decade, on the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, immigration reform and naturalization and voting for immigrants,” said Pramila Jayapal, OIRA director search committee member. “Cuc brings a wealth of leadership, strategy and policy skills that will serve the office well as it seeks to build a strong and innovative portfolio of programs to better serve Seattle’s immigrant and refugee communities. It’s great to welcome her back to Seattle.”

“I want to extend my profound appreciation to Aaliyah Gupta for her work over the past six months, leading the office and developing a five-point plan that will guide Seattle’s work to strengthen immigrant and refugee communities,” said Murray.

Vu started on July 15 and will make $125,000 annually. This position requires confirmation by the Seattle City Council.

Seattle is home to refugees and immigrants from more than 112 countries. Over a third of Seattle residents are persons of color, and 19 percent are foreign born. Washington State is the eighth largest refugee resettlement state in the country.

The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs facilitates the successful integration of immigrants and refugees into Seattle’s civic, economic, and cultural life; celebrates diverse cultures of immigrants and refugees and their contributions to Seattle; advocates on behalf of immigrants and refugees and promote a citywide culture that understands and values the benefits that all members of our society receive when immigrants and refugee communities are successfully integrated into our civic, economic and cultural life. For more information, visit http://www.seattle.gov/office-of-immigrant-and-refugee-affairs.