Getting to know the community

Superintendent Michelle Reid places an emphasis on conversations to become familiarized with the FCPS community.

Lucas Ribeiro, Team Leader

On July 1, 2022, Michelle Reid became Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) superintendent. Reid’s career background was as the superintendent of the Northshore school district in Washington state, a district 8.5 times smaller than Fairfax, with much less diversity, and a lower percentage of English language learners, raising questions about her qualifications to lead FCPS. Reid’s selection process was also controversial, with students voicing concerns about a lack of parent and student input in her selection process.

Given these concerns, Reid has made every effort to familiarize and connect with the FCPS community since assuming her superintendent position. These include community conversations, visits to various schools, academic competitions, FCPS sporting events and weekly emails to all FCPS. These have helped inform her decisions, as she explained in her weekly message from October 16.

“My visits and conversations this week have provided me inspiration and insight as we begin our journey to create a new student-centered Strategic Plan for 2023 and beyond,” Reid said, “As I’ve traveled across the division, I’ve kept top of mind the two key questions that will drive our conversations: ‘How are the children?’ and ‘How is our household?'”

Reid has mentioned that her conversations highlighted some of the concerns facing students. In this quote from her Oct. 23 email, she reflects on her conversation from Oakton High School:

“It was a very thoughtful exchange of perspectives, particularly on how equity is incorporated into classrooms and weighing emotional and wellness supports for students against a greater focus on instruction,” Reid said. “Finding the right balance is key to our students’ reaching their greatest potential.”

On another discussion, at Centreville High, students, parents and teachers voiced thoughts on grading systems.

“A lot of our discussion centered on how we measure student success, with the understanding that students learn, and exhibit their mastery in different ways. Related to that is how we make sure parents can easily be informed about their child’s progress in order to better support them at home,” Reid said. “Throughout this discussion, the common theme was that we all share the same goal–for our students to find success and to be prepared for wherever their paths lead them.” 

Reid held a discussion at Jefferson on Aug. 23, and was scheduled to visit Jefferson again on Oct. 17, but her visit was postponed to an unknown date. In any case, Reid is hopeful that her interaction with the county will help build a better future for FCPS. 

“As I think about all the work we are each engaged in, all the work we have done, and all the work we have yet to do, I remain resolutely grateful for the opportunity to do the work with each of you,” Reid wrote in an Oct. 17 email. “As a division, we have not taken the easy path; instead we have boldly struck out on our own path, framed and focused by our decision to embark on a new strategic plan — one that is justice-centered, future-focused, and student outcome driven. This is work that must be done, and must be done together.”