The school board in Fairfax County, Virginia, said it will unveil its “final candidate” for the next superintendent of schools and vote on that person’s appointment Thursday.
Fairfax County Public Schools sent an email to employees Wednesday night.
The Fairfax County School Board’s announcement and vote is scheduled for Thursday’s 7 p.m. school board meeting at Jackson Middle School in Falls Church.
Meanwhile, several organizations are urging the Fairfax County, Virginia, school board to consider seeking more feedback before selecting the next superintendent, a process the board said is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks.
The process has drawn scrutiny from students and officials after the county’s NAACP chapter disclosed the names of two finalists — Cheryl Logan, the leader of Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska, and Michelle Reid, superintendent of the Northshore School District in Washington state.
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The Fairfax County NAACP said in a statement this week that Logan removed her name from consideration before her candidacy was publicly disclosed.
The Fairfax County School Board hired the firm GR Recruiting to lead its search process, which, after soliciting public feedback, is traditionally done in private. Those involved are often asked to sign nondisclosure agreements.
The Fairfax Education Association declined to comment on the search process for that reason.
In the days since the candidates were named, parents, students and other groups have expressed frustration, arguing Logan is the candidate better fit for the job and urging the board to have further conversations with constituents before making a decision.
The status of Reid’s candidacy is unclear — Northshore School Board President Jacqueline McGourty told WTOP the search is a “confidential personnel matter and the school board will treat it as such.”
The Fairfax County School Board said in a statement on Monday that it has “has reviewed applicants and looks forward to publicly announcing the final candidate in the next few weeks.” WTOP has contacted the board for comment on recent concerns and whether an investigation into the leak is planned.
Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County’s board of supervisors, which wasn’t involved in the selection process, said in a statement that he’s concerned about “a potential leak and breach of confidentially as it negatively impacts on a larger basis the county’s ability to recruit candidates on this search and for future searches, and therefore harms all of us. I hope that a review of how that happened is a part of the school board’s process.”
McKay said he expects the next superintendent to “not only maintain but improve upon the excellence of Fairfax County schools.”
Anthony Harris, president of the Fairfax Alliance of Black School Educators, said the next superintendent should have experience working with diverse populations. In a letter to the school board, the group said given the recent NAACP report, it’s concerned that the new superintendent won’t be able to address the needs of its members.
Harris said Superintendent Scott Brabrand, who is retiring at the end of the school year, has been able to “navigate some really treacherous waters” and make progress on equity and inclusion initiatives. In the letter, the group said it wants to understand “the hiring criteria and process” of selecting the next superintendent.
Virginia’s largest school system administered a survey to parents, students and staff and held a series of town hall meetings before screening candidates, it said.
The ideal candidate, according to Harris, is someone “who’s reflective and thoughtful about the work that Fairfax County Public Schools has already done in this space of equity, cultural responsiveness, social-emotional learning, multi-tiered systems of supports, because I would want somebody to value that work that we’ve already done, because we’ve made great strides, and I say we purposefully.”
Separately, the Pride Liberation Project, which represents over 100 queer and allied students in Virginia who advocate for rights of LGBTQIA+ students, said in a statement further student outreach is needed. The group said an 11-student panel doesn’t represent the views of 180,000 students.
Jay Vizcardo-Lichter, a member of the group, said it’s essential that “me and other queer people are able to have a voice in who’s going to be our next superintendent.”
“There are always going to be concerns about candidates for any position from all sides because no person is perfect,” Vizcardo-Lichter said. “What we’re really trying to do here is before we in a more rushed way just put someone in a position of superintendent, which has a lot of power and influence in the county, that students should have their voices heard.”
The Pride Liberation Project said in a release multiple student demonstrations are planned for Thursday in response to the superintendent search. Included was a petition from 375 students interested in having the school district host student town halls during the final stages of the superintendent search.