FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Fairfax County Public Schools officially has a new leader.
Dr. Michelle Reid will be sworn in as the new superintendent during the school board meeting on Thursday night. She will replace Dr. Scott Brabrand who held the role since 2017.
Reid, the 2021 AASA National Superintendent of the Year, recently served the Northshore School District in Washington for six years before she was named the new FCPS superintendent in April.
"It's an awesome responsibility, but I'm looking forward to it and appreciate the confidence our board of directors has in having me," Dr. Reid told WUSA9 in a one-on-one interview before the board meeting.
Her first day on the job is on Friday.
The decision to hire her was paired with controversy. Many FCPS students and community organizations held protests and raised concerns about the lack of input earlier this year. They also questioned her high-level executive experience to handle the size and diversity of the largest school district in Virginia.
Among the parents to raise concerns was Sue Zoldak of Do Better FCPS. She wanted someone with more experience in a larger school district, but will remain hopeful and keep a critical eye.
"Whether I'm on the West Coast or the East Coast or a system large or small, the student needs are always going to come first," Reid said. "It's my intent to focus on the education and not politics. That's my job."
She plans to spend the next few months listening to parents and students and upholding the excellence she says makes FCPS a standout.
Like in most school divisions across the country, school safety is a big priority. Reid said she already has been in touch with the facilities team on coming up with a comprehensive plan, which could include extra steps to get into a school.
What seems to be equally important is addressing mental health needs. The school board recently approved $500,000 in the budget to help with telehealth services.
"Student and staff mental health is also often very connected to school safety issues," she said. "I think student mental health and staff mental health how we are very important at this time especially how we're rebounding from the pandemic is critically important."
Some parent groups criticized the former superintendent over his decisions during the pandemic including virtual learning. Due to ongoing distraction in school, the school board also approved to restrict cell phone use in classrooms.
Reid is taking over as the district continues to face some pushback for its decision to change the admissions policy at the prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School to help diversify the student population. Reid admitted to needing to know more information but says, "It's clearly critically important that each and every student have equitable access to programs, topics, courses, activities."
Following the parents rallying against the FCPS policy to stop 'maliciously misgendering' students, WUSA9 asked Reid on how to assure students in the LGBTQ+ community feel safe.
While there she did not mention a specific detail, Reid said, "We're going to make sure that each and every one of our students feel safe as their authentic selves to they can achieve a top learning experience."