Closing system

Michelle Reid appointed Superintendent of Fairfax County Schools

Virginia’s largest school system has voted to nominate Michelle Reid as its next superintendent.

Virginia’s largest school system has chosen its next superintendent.

The Fairfax County, Va., school board selected Michelle Reid at Thursday’s board meeting after a 9-3 vote. Reid will succeed Dr. Scott Brabrand, whose last day is June 30. Brabrand announced his intention to step down last summer — he was named executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.

Reid comes to the DC area from the Northshore School District in Bothell, Wash., where she held the same position overseeing the district of 24,000 students.

She takes over at a time when Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has launched a search for ‘dividing concepts’ being taught in schools and urging parents to report teachers who introduce ‘dividing topics’ into the classroom at an e-mail advice line.

She will also be tasked with helping students catch up after the pandemic forced schools to temporarily close, and comes amid a legal battle between students and parents over admissions policy at the prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

Reid’s nomination completes a months-long search that has come under fire in recent days. The Fairfax County NAACP released a six-page letter last weekend that included the names of two people considered finalists for the job — Reid and Omaha Public Schools Superintendent Cheryl Logan, who has experience in Prince George and Howard counties in Maryland. .

However, in an updated statement this week, the chapter said Logan withdrew her candidacy before she was publicly named a finalist. The statement prompted other organizations to express frustration with the hiring process, saying the board had not solicited enough feedback.

At Thursday’s meeting, a motion to delay the vote to allow more time for community input was put forward but ultimately failed. Karen Keys-Gamarra, At-Large Board Member, introduced the motion stating that the timing of the Board’s decision had been rushed, with a vote announced and the contract posted the previous night.

“Despite Dr. Reid’s qualifications, I think the other candidate was more qualified,” Keys-Gamarra said. After naming 50 organizations and community leaders who reached out fearing the process had been rushed, she said: ‘To block this vote, in my view, is sending them a message that they don’t don’t matter”.

The county hired research firm GR Recruiting to conduct its search, and it administered a survey to parents, students and staff and held a series of town hall meetings before selecting candidates. Several board members expressed support for the process, calling the search “extensive” after receiving 72 applications.

Mason District board member Ricardy Anderson was the only other member to back the motion, saying while it didn’t impact the outcome, it’s ‘disappointing’ the community has the feeling that she was not part of the process. She mentioned that the students were organizing outings on Thursday and a rally before the meeting to protest the lack of student involvement in the process.

“These are all calls for help, calls for commitment, calls for inclusion,” Anderson said. “We should have taken a beat to do that.”

At-Large board member Abrar Omeish, who abstained from voting in the motion to defer, backed Reid’s nomination after hearing his vision for diversity and equity. When explaining her decision, she took issue with the idea that there wasn’t enough community input before making her decision.

“Our consultants invited the public to provide input in October and held the first stakeholder meeting five months ago in November,” Omeish said. “Thousands and thousands of people have been invited through public forums, public inquiry meetings and one-on-one meetings. And we’ve been so lucky that bands from all walks of life actually join us.

Following the failure of the motion, council member Karen Corbett Sanders said she would not vote for Reid, saying she was concerned about the passage of a small school district – similar in size to Mount Vernon – to more than 180,000 students. His claims echoed similar sentiments published in a letter from the Fairfax NAACP.

“We are very concerned about the chances of success for a new superintendent who has no professional experience in any capacity in a school district the size and diversity of FCPS,” he said.

Sanders said she hopes Reid will travel to her district of Mount Vernon to understand the challenges of working in a larger county with military families.

Despite his selection, concerns remain. The Fairfax County Parents’ Association criticized the length of time schools remained closed due to COVID-19 under Reid’s leadership.

Atticus Gore, chairman of the County Superintendent’s Advisory Council, said the county has “strong, committed candidates who want to share their opinions.”

“When we outlined our concerns with Dr. Reid, we saw frustration and anger from some of our peers who were unsure why Fairfax County was even considering a candidate with this background and experience,” said Gore.