The superintendent of Fairfax County public schools in Virginia said he is committing to hiring more teachers of color, changing the system that has consistently resulted in more African American students than others getting in trouble at school and addressing overall equity issues made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
During a live Facebook town hall Wednesday night sponsored by the Fairfax County NAACP, Superintendent Scott Brabrand admitted that Fairfax County has not done all it can when it comes to issues of race, saying, “Fairfax has had many focuses, on many things, and equity has not been the No. 1 focus.”
Responding to questions from Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman and Education Chair Sujatha Hampton, Brabrand said he would be recommending to the school board that the school system hire a chief equity office this school year.
Brabrand said he understands that “equity is going to be deeper and longer than we ever imagined.” He suggested the inequities students in FCPS are experiencing with online learning helped him think about what is needed for the position.
Hampton is urging the county to use a job description created by the local NAACP chapter in hiring for the position.
“You cannot achieve radical transformation” without looking outside the credentials of a traditional administrator for this role, Hampton said.
One issue of the county discipline system that the county’s own data shows is a disproportionately large number of Black students and students of color facing discipline in the school.
Brabrand pledged new codes of conduct are going into place this school year that will address the issue and require teachers to explain more deeply why they are referring students to the main office for possible discipline.
Hampton said that she would be watching Brabrand “like a hawk” to make sure changes are made.
Hampton said, “Black kids are not so bad,” suggesting the school system’s largely white work force was having issues.
Perryman said Fairfax County has 26 schools that have no teachers of color. Fairfax County Public School’s website says it has a total of 198 schools and centers.
Brabrand said, “That is a problem and that is not acceptable.” He said the school system is setting new goals for hiring teachers of color.
Hampton, using a school system graph that essentially shows that over the past three years, Fairfax County schools’ workforce has not made much progress in hiring diversely, said, “the heart of the organization system, the heart, is clearly against hiring Black teachers.”
Brabrand concluded his comments saying it would be a less comfortable school year but it would be a good one because, “We’re going to put equity front and center.”