Last week, Director Dwane Chappelle was unanimously reconfirmed by the City Council in his role as head of the City of Seattle’s Department of Education & Early Learning (DEEL) through January 2024, following his initial four-year term. Director Chappelle originally became DEEL’s director on February 3, 2016 and was nominated for reappointment by Mayor Jenny Durkan early this spring after having served in Mayor Durkan’s cabinet since her election in 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic briefly delayed the reconfirmation process, which was put back on the City Council agenda this month.
“Every day, Dwane shows up to work committed to centering the needs of students furthest from educational justice. Under Dwane’s leadership, DEEL has made incredible strides, including the Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise levy, which makes significant investments to close the opportunity gap, expand child care and preschool, and create two years of free college. I am so grateful that Dwane is a member of my Cabinet. He makes DEEL better, he makes our students’ lives better, and he makes the City better,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan.
Chappelle, a former Rainier Beach High School principal, oversaw passage of the historic Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise (FEPP) levy, approved by voters in 2018 with the stated goal of partnering with families and communities to achieve educational equity, close opportunity gaps, and build a better economic future for Seattle students. This fall, the department announced results for multiple community-guided FEPP funding processes totaling more than $100 million for K-12 programs via school-based and community partnerships.
“Director Chappelle is a leader who understands the long term and necessary work of closing the opportunity gap and reaching educational justice for all Seattle students. He has brought his experience as a teacher and deep understanding of classroom dynamics into his leadership role, bringing a combination of proven practices and fresh ideas to our early learning preschool program and postsecondary opportunities through the Seattle Promise program. I’m thrilled Director Chappelle will continue his stewardship of DEEL, further deepening and advancing our City’s investments in Seattle students,” said Council President M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide).
Under Chappelle, the nationally acclaimed Seattle Preschool Program has expanded from serving around 250 students in 14 classrooms to serving close to 2,000 preschoolers in 135 classrooms today. The Seattle Promise program, which provides two years of tuition-free postsecondary education at Seattle Colleges for all Seattle Public School graduates, also launched during Chappelle’s first four-year term. This fall, the Seattle Colleges (North, Central, and South) will welcome their largest Seattle Promise cohort to date.
Both of these achievements are indicative of one of Director Chappelle’s top priorities, which is to align investments for children from preschool to postsecondary, especially around the effort to eliminate race-based disparities in educational outcomes, a primary focus of the FEPP levy. In his statement before City Council on Tuesday, Director Chappelle said, “I am resolved to help bring alignment to all our city’s educational investments—from child care for infants and toddlers, to preschool, to K-12 and high school graduation, to postsecondary education and beyond—so that at no point along their journey are our children left without access to caring adults, competent and culturally responsive educators, and the critical resources and opportunities to ensure their success.”
Under Chappelle, DEEL pursues their results-based goals by employing three key strategies: (1) ensuring access to equitable educational opportunities, (2) providing family and student supports, and (3) developing high-quality learning environments. When selecting partner schools and community organizations for funding, DEEL is looking for programs that demonstrate these three strategies, which have been determined to contribute to student success at every point along their educational journey.
In looking forward to his next four years as director of the Department of Education and Early Learning, Director Chappelle said, “I’d like to thank DEEL’s amazing staff, Mayor Jenny Durkan for her continued support of me as a member of her cabinet, City Council for their continued partnership, DEEL’s partners at Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Colleges, our FEPP Levy Oversight Committee, my Rainier Beach community, and most especially, my family. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue serving the city of Seattle and its residents in the care and education of our children.”