Incoming Fairfax Co. superintendent talks bullying, COVID trauma

The incoming leader of Virginia’s largest public school system answered questions and laid out some of her priorities, speaking directly to families and staff members during a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday.

“I think there’s no more important work in our country today than the work of public education,” Michelle Reid said.

Reid takes over as superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools in July, replacing outgoing Superintendent Scott Brabrand.

When she starts the job, Reid said that she would unveil an “entry plan” that would “transparently share the work” she plans to do in her first 100 days.

“What I’m doing right now is listening and responding to questions as I really learn more about Fairfax County Public Schools and how I can best support the educators, students, staff and families of this great community,” Reid said.

Reid comes to the D.C. region from the Northshore School District in Bothell, Washington, where she served as superintendent, overseeing the 24,000-student population there. She’s making the jump to the Fairfax County public school system, which has more than 180,000 students.

Reid said it’s important to recognize the significant impact and “deep pain” the pandemic has caused for many people involved in education over the last couple of years.

“We’ve seen great growth this spring, but there’s been trauma for many of our students, staff and our families,” Reid said. “If we can’t name that and acknowledge that, we can’t address it and deal with it.”

One question Reid addressed was how schools should deal with the problem of bullying.

Reid said she had experience with that in Washington state, as she and a handful of other educators were tasked with writing “bullying legislation” for lawmakers.

“I had the opportunity to train administrators around our state in effective prevention and mitigation practices,” Reid said. “There has to be a clear reporting protocol, consequences for the person bullying and a feedback loop to make sure we continue to check in with the person who made a report.”

Reid said bullying is a behavior that is transferable from adolescence to adulthood.

“Even for the sake of the bully, we need to interrupt and disrupt that behavior so that it doesn’t become an adult behavior,” Reid said.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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