The Fairfax County Public School Board selected Dr. Michelle Reid to serve as the new superintendent, replacing Dr. Scott Brabrand.
“Dr. Reid is focused on academic achievement and outcomes for every student in our Fairfax community. She has previously demonstrated the highest professional standards when it comes to leading a school district and a proven track record of working to build a successful future for students,” Fairfax County School Board Chair and Sully District Representative Stella Pekarsky said in a Thursday press release.
Reid is hired during a tumultuous time for the district, which is currently handling a lawsuit over practices at Thomas Jefferson High School and is a high-profile target for broader conservative concerns over education.
“Dr. Reid’s commitment to increasing access, opportunity, and equity for all students in public education led to the creation of Northshore’s Racial and Educational Justice Department. She is committed to bringing that equity mindset to her leadership of FCPS and will focus on ensuring that each student has access and opportunity to reach their greatest potential. During her tenure, she has overseen increases in graduation rates for all students – especially English Language learners,” the district said in the release.
The selection process was criticized by organizations across the political spectrum, and on Thursday, high school students staged a walkout, wanting to be more involved in the process, WUSA9 reported.
The Fairfax NAACP chapter had supported a different candidate for the role who backed out, according to WTOP. In an April 9 statement, the organization said that they weren’t invited to be part of the panel that would listen to the final candidates, and expressed concerns about Reid’s ability to scale her experience from a small Washington state district to Fairfax. The Fairfax NAACP also worried about low pass rates for minorities in that district under Reid’s oversight.
“The issue we all agree on is that FCPS needs a superintendent who has commensurate experience in leading organizations of this size, diversity, and complexity, and that the Superintendent of Northshore School District isn’t the right fit,” states an April 14 press release led by the Fairfax NAACP.
During his time at the district, conservatives criticized Brabrand for his leadership, including decisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, parents and activists launched Open FCPS, initially funded in part by former candidate for the GOP nomination for governor Pete Snyder.
The group, now rebranded as the Fairfax County Parents Association (FCPA), is also critical of the process to hire Reid.
“From our perspective, the effort excluded parents from any group other than those who are politically aligned with the school board – namely, the traditional captive parent groups such as the VA PTA. And with a school board where only five of the twelve board members have children in FCPS, we believed strongly that a broad swath of parent groups should have been included, or at least allowed to participate in the limited number of stakeholder meetings,” FCPA said in a Friday morning statement.
“Their only driving concern in hiring–by their own statements at the school board meeting–appears to be whether a candidate met a vague threshold of supporting a version of ‘equity,’ which in their parlance means mediocrity for all students, and not prioritizing academics or the special needs of so many students,” the statement said.