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Port of Seattle Creates First-ever Equity Department for a U.S. Port Authority

Equity and workforce development proposal advances with Highline Schools interested in a new maritime high school in the Duwamish Valley
February 11, 2020

The Port of Seattle became the first port authority in the nation to create a stand-alone department responsible for equity, diversity, and inclusion, which builds on earlier equity efforts, including resolution 3767, called the Duwamish Valley Community Benefits Commitment, and deepens the Port’s commitment and impact in addressing systemic barriers to all communities participation and benefit from Port programs.

“The Port of Seattle is proud to be the first U.S. port to create an office charged with ensuring that equity goals are incorporated throughout Port operations and providing strategic and policy direction on equity issues,” said Peter Steinbrueck, Port of Seattle Commission President. “This will allow the Port the ability to improve the lives of historically underrepresented groups – particularly communities of color – within the Port and near-Port communities.”

Under these policies, the Port of Seattle Commission heard a presentation on the feasibility and viability of a new maritime high school, with a curriculum focused on maritime jobs and environmentally-based career paths. The Highline School District has expressed interest in locating the new high school in the Duwamish Valley. The new high school would include students from south King County school districts, among others.

The Port of Seattle leadership created the country’s first-ever equity department for a U.S. port authority, called the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OEDI) in 2019. OEDI is led by Senior Director Bookda Gheisar, who is a member of the Executive Leadership Team and reports directly to Executive Director Steve Metruck. Today, the OEDI will share the highlights of a strategic plan implementing a bold vision for organizational transformation at the commission meeting.

In addition to overseeing the continued efforts of Workforce Development and Diversity in Contracting at the Port of Seattle, OEDI will lead employee and leadership trainings to normalize conversations and improve understanding about equity, infuse equity in all strategies and objectives throughout the Port of Seattle, and collaborate with the Commission office to embed equitable policies Port-wide. OEDI will also guide the efforts of the South King County Fund, established in 2019 to support projects in near-airport communities and increase access of opportunities to underrepresented groups.

Maritime High School

“Many of our maritime workers are approaching retirement at a time of economic growth, creating a workforce gap that threatens to stall our thriving and innovative sector. At the same time, youth in South Seattle and South King County are seeking careers in fields that pay well, that respond to the climate crisis, and that build prosperity for their communities. After significant study of schools around the country, we are excited to collaborate with Highline Public Schools to launch a maritime and ocean sciences high school bordering the Duwamish River, where the maritime ecosystem and the student population intersect,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Ryan Calkins. “A regional magnet school that is open to students from throughout the region will open pathways for youth from under-represented communities and serve the growing needs of our industry partners across the spectrum of maritime careers.”

The Port of Seattle’s $100,000 budget allocation will facilitate the successful transition of the maritime and ocean sciences initiative from a port driven effort to a community-driven effort.

“Our region, and especially the Duwamish, needs a maritime high school to help students prepare for lucrative careers in the maritime and environmental fields,” said Susan Enfield, Superintendent of Highline Public Schools. “Highline Public Schools stands ready to help create a magnet school that can serve all communities while providing students in the Duwamish a great learning platform to pursue their education in our region. We look forward to partnering closely with neighboring school districts in the Road Map region to ensure access for students across South King County.”


Peter McGraw | Maritime Media Relations
(206) 787-3446 |

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