Fairfax County schools top technology official steps down amid distance learning woes

The head of information technology for Fairfax County, Virginia, public schools has resigned as the school system continues to experience technical issues with online learning.

WTOP has confirmed that Maribeth Luftglass, who has been the assistant superintendent of the Department of Information Technology for Fairfax County Public Schools for over two decades, has stepped down effective immediately. Operating Officer Marty Smith will take over day-to-day operations.

The school system, which has some 188,000 students, has been beset with problems with its online learning platform Blackboard 24-7 since students began remote education on April 14. Students and parents trying to log into Fairfax County Public Schools’ distance learning platform faced some connection and login issues.

Technical issues continued on the second day, leading the school system to cancel teacher-led online instruction, which had already been delayed for two hours, for the rest of the day. The school system then announced that night that it was canceling classes for the rest of the week for necessary upgrades and teacher training.

School Superintendent Scott Brabrand apologized last week to parents and students for the technical flubs. “We remain committed to making sure we’re going to get it right,” Brabrand told WTOP.

One of the biggest problems identified was the difficulty students and others had logging in to the system. In some cases, the servers could not handle the number of simultaneous logins.

“There were challenges between the login servers and the application servers, and that’s where the logjam occurred,” Luftglass said last week.

The other problem was identified by Blackboard’s Tim Tomlinson, the company’s chief product officer, who said the school system hadn’t updated the software as frequently as it should have in recent years.

Earlier this week, Brabrand announced that the school system was moving away from Blackboard Learn 24-7 as a tool for face-to-face instruction. Teachers are not giving face-to-face instruction until further notice, NBC Washington reported.

Luftglass had been in her position since 1999. Before joining Fairfax County schools, she was the senior director of information technology with the American Red Cross.

WTOP’s John Domen contributed to this report.

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