Fairfax County School Board is silent as merit award controversy gains national attention
Fairfax County School Board (7News)

On Tuesday, Fairfax County Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid is meeting face-to-face with parents at West Potomac High School as she has done at Thomas Jefferson, Langley, and Westfield high schools. These are among the seven Fairfax County schools that didn’t tell students of their national merit recognition in time for college scholarship and admissions deadlines.

On Wednesday, the Fairfax County Superintendent is meeting with impacted families at John R. Lewis and Edison high schools and on Thursday she is meeting with families at Annandale High School.

FCPS has received national attention for the controversy, but the Fairfax County School Board has remained silent even though 7News has reached out to the school board several times for comment.

“Unfortunately, it's more of the same,” said Shawnna Yashar, parent of a Fairfax County Public Schools student. “I mean, this school board has spent the last three years not putting academics at the forefront of their agenda, and it's catching up with them. We're in a situation right now, where the entire world is looking at Fairfax County and seeing how they did not place academics at the top of their priority list. And this school board is remaining silent and not addressing it once again.”

RELATED | 'Maniacal focus on equal outcomes': Youngkin blasts FCPS for paying $450K for equity coach

Yashar’s son was impacted by the notification delay.

“My son is a TJ [Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology] senior and he was a commended scholar, and we're super proud of him in that process,” said Yashar. “And we didn't find out about it until November. I approached the school system and asked what had happened. And after doing some investigating and searching around, I had spoken to Mr. Kosatka, who's the Director of Student Services at Thomas Jefferson High School, and he did inform me that they were holding on to the certificates until there could be a discrete time to hand them out when the students that didn't receive it wouldn't feel so bad about not getting the award.”

ALSO READ | More Fairfax Co. schools didn't notify students of national merit recognition: Officials

“So that's really what triggered a lot of my concern about what was going on in the school system,” added Yashar. “I think the primary focus of the public school system should be academics, and if academics is your number one priority, awards like this would have been handed out immediately. There would have not been any pause there would have not been any delay, and they would have been celebrated with their classmates, with their families and with the administration.”

“They have a maniacal focus on equal outcomes for all students at all costs,” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin told 7News in a sit-down interview outside of his State Capitol Office in Richmond.

MORE | 16 high schools in northern Virginia didn't notify students of national merit recognition

“The reality is that we have a superintendent in Fairfax schools who has explicitly stated that her top objective is equal outcomes for all students, regardless of the price,” Youngkin said in his interview with 7News. “Now we know the price includes paying $450,000 to a liberal consultant to come in and teach the administrators in Fairfax County how to do this. What it appears happened is that principals in schools decided that they were going to systematically withhold accolades and a path to college admission and scholarships from high-performing students.”

While the Fairfax County School Board members prepare their reelection campaigns this year, Fairfax County’s relatively new superintendent has been the one receiving most of the public scrutiny.

“I don't think it's all her fault. I do think that it's good that she's addressing it, she's talking to the public. I have been really pleased with her initiative and outreach on that, but I do think she's going to have to answer to that sole-source contract that she did put out,” Yashar said.


Four Prince William County schools admit they didn’t tell students in time for important deadlines for college scholarships and admissions.

RELATED | AG Miyares expands merit awards investigation to Fairfax County Public Schools system

“Recent updates received from the schools today indicate that four out of 13 PWCS high schools made recent notifications to 28 students,” a PWCS spokesperson told 7News. “This delay was due to an accidental administrative oversight. PWCS regrets this mistake occurred and principals have notified all those impacted.”

On Tuesday, 7News learned a fifth high school in Loudoun County, Woodgrove High School, delayed notification too.

7News asked if Loudoun and Prince William counties' superintendents will be meeting with impacted families like Dr. Reid has been doing in Fairfax County. LCPS and PWCS did not respond to 7News’ question on Tuesday.

7News has requested interviews with Fairfax County School Board members Karen Key-Gamarra, Abrar Omeish, Rachna Sizemore Heizer, Megan McLaughlin, Elaine Tholen, Melanie Meren, Tamara Derenak Kaufax, Ricardy Anderon, Karen Corbett Sanders, Karl Frisch, Laura Jane Cohen, and Stella Pekarsky to discuss the national merit award controversy. The Fairfax County School Board members refuse to do interviews with 7News on this topic.

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