Newly Appointed Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid Meets with Students


2022 Fairfax County Public Schools

Loor Elbedour

During the week of May 3rd, five students from every high-school in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) were invited to meet with the newly appointed superintendent, Dr. Michelle Reid at Thoreau Middle School. Around 200 FCPS students gathered to ask questions about where Dr. Reid stands on a variety of topics such as political involvement in school policy, the presence of student resource officers (SRO’s), gifted programs such as Advanced Academic Program (AAP), teacher unhappiness, the involvement of parents in county decision making and many more.

Dr. Reid began the meeting by expressing her gratitude to everyone who made the event possible, faculty, students, janitorial staff etc. Students were given the opportunity to ask questions anonymously through a google form or during the open-mic session.

The first question, through the google form, asked Dr. Reid how she would respond to policies made by legislators that would make students, specifically marginalized groups feel attacked concerning their basic rights. Dr. Reid made clear her stance on politics in school policy and said that while she may come from a state with “very different legislature, different governor and different philosophies. [Her] role as the superintendent is to stay resolutely student-centered. [Her] responsibility is to [students], not to the governor or other political leaders.”

Through the google form, an anonymous student highlighted the concerns students and teachers of color have, specifically the question asked about Dr. Reid’s response to accusations that she “tethered the amount of teachers of color in the county?” To which Dr. Reid replied and disputed this comment saying, “Its important to [her] that [FCPS] hires more staff that represent all cultures, races, religions and all the demographics that have been underrepresented.” However, she added that while there aren’t numeric targets or quotas to meet regarding this goal; she believes that the more diverse student or staff perspectives are on decisions FCPS makes then the better those decisions are made.

A follow up question, referring back to the first question, entailed House Bill 1126 which if passed bans all trans-students from using the bathroom that aligns with their current gender identity. This bill would also affect FCPS policy of having one trans-gender bathroom in schools, the question asked how Dr. Reid would respond if this bill or one like it was passed. Immediately, Dr. Reid says “that would be a problem.” She highlights the importance of trans-student inclusivity and facilitating an environment in schools where all students can show up as their true and authentic selves. She says that not allowing trans-students to have a restroom facility they feel safe using violates ethics and morality.

When touching on the topic of sexual harrassment, Dr. Reid shares that in her previous role as a high school principal, she was asked to join a group of administrators in Washington to draft the state bullying and harassment legislation. Not only was she the author of this legislation, but she also trained staff on how to implement these procedures to facilitate a safe school environment.

During the open mic session, a student from Thomas Jefferson High School asked Dr. Reid about the Advanced Academic Program (AAP) and placement in these kinds of gifted programs. While Dr. Reid mentioned that she didn’t know much about AAP specifically, she feels that any gifted program should be accessible to all students. This student also questioned Dr. Reid’s stance on the highly debated topic of when gender identity should be taught in Family Life Education (FLE) lessons. After a brief response, the question was tossed back to the student in which the student agreed with Dr. Reid that these kinds of conversations about gender identity are natural and hate towards these topics is taught. Dr. Reid shared that she feels that often hate comes from fear and fear comes from a lack of understanding which is from a lack of education which schools should be a part of controlling.

Another highly debated issue that was mentioned was how the presence of Student Resource Officers (SRO’s) affect students. Research has shown that the presence of SRO’s has not had an effect on preventing school shootings. The student that mentioned this topic shared that as a black student she felt that the presence of these authority figures at school made her and other students of color feel intimidated or threatened. Dr. Reid shared that as a superintendent she would need to reevaluate the role of SRO’s to make sure that as a county FCPS maintains student focus, meaning that if these officers were not helping students or schools in feeling more safe then there would be a further discussion about their placement in schools.

A student from McLean High School asked the question that has been the root of the controversy surrounding Dr. Reid and her abilities as superintendent. Many students and staff doubt Dr. Reid’s ability to be an effective superintendent in FCPS that has around 200 schools and 180,000 students in comparison to Northshore School District that holds 35 schools and roughly 24,00 students. To this Dr. Reid mentioned that because FCPS is a larger school district it leaves more room for collaboration. She said “if we are aligned in our purpose and convicted by the same goal, the work will be done.”

Over the course of the discussion, Dr. Reid remained calm and authoritative in her answers. Even in the moments where there were gaps in her knowledge or awareness of specific events in FCPS she maintained a direct, clear response. Many in the audience also witnessed that Dr. Reid utilized the method of “tossing back” the question that was asked to the student that asked it and she asked what course of action they would take. This opened doors for a more effective discussion because students were not simply inquiring about Dr. Reid’s opinion but also offering a student perspective on what they would want. After the discussion ended, students went up to Dr. Reid and met with her on a more personal level. As a superintendent, Dr. Reid will give FCPS the progressive push it needs to overcome the difficulties and deficiencies it experienced after the pandemic.