Incoming Superintendent Answers Community Questions at First Event with FCPS Families and Staff
“I want to hear as many voices and perspectives as possible to clearly understand where Fairfax County Public Schools has been, where we are now, and where we want to go together,” incoming superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid said Tuesday evening to a roomful of FCPS parents, caregivers, students, and employees.
Dr. Reid spoke candidly to the group gathered in the auditorium at Annandale High School, answering questions for 90 minutes on topics including pandemic learning loss, supporting diversity, and career pathways.
“There’s not one solution for learning loss that meets every student’s needs, because each student had a unique experience,” Dr. Reid said. “We need to personalize our response to each student. Some students were impacted more than others. That will be an important factor when allocating our next round of ESSER dollars. We have to make sure our students who had the hardest time in the pandemic receive the most resources.”
Six student representatives from across FCPS shared the stage with Dr. Reid, asking their own questions on matters such as school lunch, supporting the arts, and helping immigrant families feel safe. McKenzie Vance, a sophomore at Westfield High School, asked about student feedback and understanding the needs of marginalized students.
“Student feedback is critical,” Dr. Reid responded. “In my current district we have a student board I meet with on a regular basis. Currently, they’re planning a student summit, where they invite representatives from each high school. It’s student-led and they choose the topics. I take their paths of action and we move to create significant changes. That’s the type of feedback loop that is important to me.”
When asked about balancing STEM courses and the arts, Dr. Reid responded, “The arts are so important. That being said, my background is math and science. In many ways, I think of music as applied math. Math is about patterns and counting and language. I get so excited about both math and music. It’s often the arts that teach us compassion and support a healthy mental outlook. I think there is a balance of the two that’s necessary and beautiful.”
Watch a recording of the event on the FCPS YouTube Channel.
Dr. Reid also met with roughly 200 FCPS students earlier in the day, during a forum held at Thoreau Middle School.
During the event, she highlighted her belief that children must be able to present their true selves at school, in order to make the most of their education.
“It needs to be safe for you to show up as your authentic you, in order to feel safe,” Dr. Reid said. “That is when the best learning happens.”
That approach applies equally to offering a wide variety of educational programming, as well as school lunch options that are appropriate for students of all faith backgrounds, and policies on bullying and harassment, Dr. Reid said.
She noted when she served as a high school principal in Washington state, she was asked to be part of a small group of administrators providing guidance on bullying and harassment legislation. Then, once the legislation was enacted, she had the opportunity to train staff across the state on how to implement the legislation.
Asked by students whether she will continue to employ school resource officers, Dr. Reid said she will review their job descriptions, the role of school resource officers and how to best utilize the funds allocated to that program. Then she will consult with all members of the FCPS community to gather feedback.
“I’m open to almost anything that is student-centered,” Dr. Reid said. “I also need to learn the broad perspectives of our elected board, our community, our staff and students. Before doing anything, I would want to know we have had broad discussions and have processed the issues thoughtfully.”
On educational offerings, Dr. Reid said FCPS must endeavor to “create spaces that look different” since all students have unique academic passions, goals and strengths.
“We have gifted linguists, students who excel at coding, and talented artists, they should all feel supported to pursue their interests,” Dr. Reid said. “What we have to figure out in this division is what is that excellent education for each and every student.”
While excited about the future, Dr. Reid said she intends to proceed thoughtfully and has no interest in rushing change, especially as the world heals from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The past few years have brought a health pandemic, a racial reckoning, and the loss of people, properties and professions,” Dr. Reid said. “That’s a lot. We need to think about what’s important. We have a moment in time to be thoughtful about not creating a faster, harder life.”
Tuesday’s events were the first of several opportunities for FCPS families, students, and staff to get to know Dr. Reid as she prepares to begin work on July 1st.
Dr. Reid will host a virtual town hall from 7 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17 via Zoom. Registration for that event will open soon.
Watch the highlights of Dr. Reid’s first FCPS town hall in the video below.