Controversy Surrounding Newly Elected FCPS Superintendent


Brandon Level

On April 18, the Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) board made their decision to appoint Dr. Michelle Reid, from Washington State, as the next FCPS superintendent.

Their search for a superintendent began when incumbent Scott Brabrand announced he would leave the position in July of 2022, in accordance with his contract. Brabrand started his work in FCPS in 1994 as a social studies teacher but was later hired as the superintendent for the district in 2017. Now, after five years, Brabrand is finally making an exit from the FCPS community.

Dr. Michelle Reid will take her position on July 1st, the day after Brabrand leaves the position. She previously worked as the superintendent in the Northshore School District of Washington state.

The approval process for Dr. Reid hasn’t been exactly easy. She has faced opposition from both sides of the political aisle. Parents and students at the forefront of this pushback say they haven’t had enough of a say in the selection process.

Prior to her appointment, the student group “Pride Liberation Project”, released a statement by one of their members Aaryan Rawal. He says that the 11 student representatives for the school board couldn’t represent the over 180,000 students in FCPS. Raawan says, “Just give students the opportunity to share their thoughts and share their opinions before the county locks themselves into a decision that’s going to shape our schools for years to come.”

The School Board released their two possible candidates weeks ago to begin their investigations and background checks. Michelle Reid and Cheryl Logan were the two nominees. Immediately, problems arose with both candidates on either side of the political aisle, but more specifically with Dr. Reid. Shortly after the announcement, Logan dropped her name from the hat, which left Michelle Reid to be voted on, and scrutiny picked up.

While Reid has promised to look out for the interests of marginalized communities and support STEAM education, and the arts, some are still skeptical about her qualifications and readiness to lead a district as diverse as FCPS.

FCPS is significantly larger than her previous district of Northshore in Washington state. The operating budget is also significantly larger than her previous one at just over $4.3 million dollars. FCPS has around eight times the amount of staff. Her old district has 33 schools while FCPS has over 200. 

Academically, math achievement declined an astonishing 14.1% with English achievement rates dropping a large 6.7% as well. These are just some of the reasons constituents may be opposed to her appointment.

The “Pride Liberation Project”, opposed to her election, gathered signatures from 500+ students at almost every FCPS high school. In their letter written to the school board, they ask the board to “bolster student outreach in the final stages of the superintendent search by hosting town halls during high school free periods”.

 The group didn’t stop there; they also gathered a group of over 200 students at various FCPS high schools to stage a walkout. Just weeks ago these walkouts took place at multiple schools across the district in protest of Reid’s vote that was scheduled for later that night. The schools with students that scheduled protests are listed below.

  1. Mount Vernon High School
  2. Westfield High School
  3. Oakton High School
  4. McLean High School
  5. Liberty Middle School
  6. South County High School

Disgruntled students could be heard chanting “Dr. Reid, shall not lead!”, while various other protests happened at different schools and times throughout the day. While the protests were ultimately a failure, Reid acknowledged their existence and seems to be working to communicate better with students and staff of FCPS.

This pushback may come as a surprise to some, due to the fact that the selection process hasn’t changed at all since the last time a superintendent was nominated. When the initial search for a new superintendent started in January of this year, the Fairfax County School Board held numerous town halls, surveys, and reached out through social media. When for example, Scott Brabrand was selected as the new Superintendent, the process went relatively similar in regards to public outreach and communication. 

Now that Michelle Reid is officially voted in as Superintendent of FCPS, parents, students, teachers, staff, and school community members, wait to see what her plans are.