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'Voices haven't been heard' | Fairfax students walk out over superintendent selection process

On Thursday, a School Board meeting vote decided Dr. Michelle Reid will be the new superintendent.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — A student coalition and the Fairfax County NAACP chapter have expressed concern over the selection process for a new superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). Students at several schools across the county walked out of class Thursday in protest. 

The search began after the current FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced that he would be leaving the school division at the end of the 2021-22 school year, consistent with his contract, according to the district. The School Board confirmed that it would be announcing its finalists for the position during Thursday's meetings, and voting on the new superintendent that same night. 

Students across the community say they feel their voices haven't been heard in the selection process, according to a student-led organization the Pride Liberation Project. According to a spokesperson for Pride Liberation Project, walkouts were planned for the following schools:

  • Mount Vernon High School
  • Westfield High School
  • Oakton High School
  • McLean High School
  • Liberty Middle School
  • South County High School

WUSA9 reached out to FCPS for comment on the walk outs, but the school district declined to comment.  

The NAACP chapter, along with the student coalition, stated in individual open letters to the greater community that it was revealed by whistleblowers that two candidates were being considered in the final stages of the search for a new superintendent: Dr. Cheryl Logan, the current Superintendent of Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska, and Dr. Michelle Reid, the current Superintendent of Northshore School District in Washington State.

Logan oversees a school district of approximately 53,000 students in more than 80 schools, while Reid oversees 22,000 students in 33 schools. FCPS, by comparison, is one of the largest school districts in the country with more than 180,000 students at 198 schools. 

On Thursday, a School Board meeting vote decided Dr. Michelle Reid will be the new superintendent.

RELATED: Fairfax County Public Schools names Dr. Michelle Reid new superintendent

"While recruiting a new superintendent from only school districts as large, diverse, and complex as FCPS would be a challenge given the small pool of similar districts, we are very concerned about the likelihood of success for a new superintendent who has no professional experience in any capacity with a school district of the size and diversity of FCPS," NAACP wrote in a April 9 letter.

"We formally request that the FCPS School Board bring in a Superintendent with the qualifications, experience, and knowledge to lead a school system of the size, diversity, and complexity of FCPS ... When the School Board makes its final selection, we look forward to learning that they made a decision based on deep experience with comparable districts and a track record with transformation in complex school divisions." 

The Fairfax Alliance of Black School Educators has also spoken up via an open letter, posted to Twitter Tuesday, sharing that they too are concerned about the potential superintendent's lack of demonstrated ability to address the needs of their membership.

On Monday, the Fairfax school board stated on the district's website that they had been made aware of some social media sentiments regarding the selection process.

The district said at the time that they had already reviewed applicants and looked forward to publicly announcing the final candidate. They did not share any plans to re-evaluate or amend the selection process. 

"We have benefitted from a strong pool of applicants who have demonstrated qualities and track records aligned with those identified during the community engagement part of the process and outlined in the job posting," their statement read.
Reid's first day with the school district will be July 1. It will be the start of her four-year contract.

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