Amid politics and investigations, Loudoun Co. school leader says focus is on learning

Despite political attacks and investigations into leadership at Loudoun County Public Schools, Deputy Superintendent Ashley Ellis said the focus on the first day of school remains on teaching and learning in the Virginia county.

first day elaine thompson elementary school
It’s the first day of the new school year for Loudoun County students, including at brand-new Elaine Thompson Elementary School. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

“This is the real deal for students and their families,” said Ellis, who was greeting students at Elaine E. Thompson Elementary School on their first day in the state’s third-largest school district.

“We have over 82,000 students returning to school today, and you can just feel the energy,” said Ellis, outside the brand new school, which was built to relieve overcrowding at three nearby schools in quickly-growing Loudoun County.

As young students entered the school, they were walked through a phalanx of high school cheerleaders, as a marching band oompahed their procession nearby. Nervous and excited parents were on hand, snapping photos of their children’s first day.

“When you walk into the schools, the focus is on learning and teaching,” said Ellis. “Teachers are there to support their students’ learning, and that’s the focus for everyone in the buildings.”

Last month, a Loudoun County Circuit Court judge ruled against the school board’s lawsuit to halt a special grand jury that was convened by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who has been investigating the school system.

As WTOP first reported, the school board has appealed that ruling to Virginia’s Supreme Court.

Miyares had convened the special grand jury at the behest of Gov. Glenn Youngkin to look into how the system handled two sexual assaults committed by the same high school student in two different schools last year.

Ellis said the school system’s focus remains on supporting teachers and their impact on students lives.

“This year we have launched a new strategic plan, our “One LCPS: 2027 Strategic Plan for Excellence,” said Ellis. “At the heart of that strategic plan is the students. And we equip our teachers to provide meaningful experiences for students every day.”

Even with the special grand jury investigation, political finger-pointing, speechmaking, and social media melee, Ellis said most residents feel students — and their families — are well served by LCPS.

In the most-recent LCPS Annual Stakeholder Survey Report posted in July, 91% of parents are satisfied with how much their children are learning at school.

“Our teachers work very hard from the very first day of school to build strong relationships with students and their families,” said Ellis.

“Our survey data, that we gather each year, really indicates that is true. Our families trust our teachers to do the best for their students.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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