After 5 principals in 12 years, parents at this Fairfax Co. school want to be included in the hiring process

Justice High School principal Tiffany Narcisse (right) and her daughter, senior Dori Bob, get ready to dance on the track field during the school’s Oct. 9 Homecoming dance. (Courtesy Fairfax County Public Schools)

Some Fairfax County parents and teachers are urging Virginia’s largest school district to include more of their voices in its search for the next principal of Justice High School.

Tiffany Narcisse, the current principal of the Falls Church school, is leaving for an opportunity abroad at the end of this school year. Now, the school is starting the process of searching for its fifth principal in 12 years.

In a letter sent to Superintendent Michelle Reid and other school division leaders on March 8, the PTAs of the schools that feed into Justice High called for more involvement in the process. They’re requesting to see a final draft version of candidate questions for the interview process, and want community input to be more extensive. Faculty and staff members expressed similar desires in a memo sent to county leadership last week.

The school, the parent groups said, has a unique population, and therefore, the search should be approached differently than those conducted for vacancies at other schools.

Kim Lanoue, who has been a Justice High School parent for eight years, said almost 70% of the school’s population is eligible for free-and-reduced lunch. It also has a large percentage of students with disabilities and students whose first language isn’t English, she said.

“We really feel that we need a uniquely situated and experienced leader to meet the challenge,” Lanoue said.

During a virtual meeting about the selection process Tuesday night, Region 2 Assistant Superintendent Megan Vroman said the school district really does “want to get this right for everyone.” In a few weeks, Vroman said, school district leaders will meet with students and staff on campus, to learn more about their needs and the qualities they want to see in a future principal.

School district leaders said community members can serve as advisory panel members and email the human resources department with their thoughts on the search.

But, Lanoue said, parents are seeking more specific changes to the way the division approaches hiring a new principal. For one, more follow-up questions should be allowed during the interview process, Lanoue said. Currently, they’re limited to three follow ups, and additional questions will be collected to be asked at another time, she said.

The groups are also asking that the Justice High and Glasgow Middle PTAs have a standing position on the interview committee. They’re calling for more in-person and virtual meetings, and want the school system to take steps that promote retention, in addition to just hiring the right candidate.

“We have a wide breadth of families and students from a myriad of backgrounds, and we want to make sure everybody’s input is included,” she said.

Superintendent Reid, Lanoue said, told the group that its feedback will be “very helpful as the team works on the recruitment and hiring for the new Justice HS principal.”

In a separate memo, faculty and staff told leadership that their input should be taken seriously throughout the process. The next principal, they wrote, should understand the school’s diverse needs, be committed to staying at the school for five or more years and understand the importance of social-emotional learning.

The principal turnover, they said, “inhibits sustained academic and professional growth and the development of a positive school culture.”

The position was advertised last month, and the county will be hosting panel interviews with candidates on April 24.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, a parent said that in past searches, community input felt performative. But the feedback from the community, Vroman said, “is something very important.”

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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