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'We're concerned' | Fairfax Co. students protest ahead of expected superintendent vote

This demonstration took place after school on the campus of Westfield High School.
This demonstration took place after school on the campus of Westfield High School.
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The next superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools is set to be revealed Thursday evening. 7News has learned a school board vote and announcement will take place during the 7 p.m. school board meeting.

During the Fairfax County school board's meeting to vote for Dr. Michelle Reid as the new superintendent of the school system, students were protesting outside of the school board meeting.

In the hours leading up to that vote, several groups of students voiced frustration over how the superintendent search process was handled.

"They're planning on appointing a superintendent today, and we're concerned that our student voices have not been heard," said Jaya Nachnani, a student at Mount Vernon High School.

Nachnani helped organize a student walk-out Thursday morning at Mount Vernon High School and says it's not just the hiring process they're concerned about.

She said it's also the candidate who's now believed to be the only remaining finalist: Dr. Michelle Reid. Reid is the current superintendent at Northshore School District, outside Seattle in Washington state.

7News obtained a copy of an email Reid sent to families in that school district on Monday that said in part:

I want to confirm reports that I am a finalist for Superintendent of the Fairfax County Public Schools.

"The potential new superintendent has been in a county where it's one-ninth of the population of our county," said Nachnani. "It's less diverse. And we have concerns that she would be capable of representing our student population."

7News checked the numbers and found Northshore School District has 33 schools, with about 22,000 students. Northshore's website says 59.6% of the district's student population is white.

Fairfax County Public Schools is the largest school district in Virginia and the 11th largest in the country with 198 schools and about 180,000 students. Roughly 36.8% of FCPS students are white. The FCPS website notes that its students speak over 200 languages.

"It's unacceptable to put a county leader who's going to impact our county for four years with this minimal level of outreach," said Aaryan Rawal, a Westfield High School student who led a demonstration outside of his school on Thursday afternoon.

Rawal is co-founder of a student organization called the Pride Liberation Project that organized Thursday's student demonstrations.

The group said students rallied and walked out of class in hopes of convincing the school board to do two things:

  • Don’t confirm Dr. Reid or any other candidate on Thursday, April 14.
  • Don’t confirm Dr. Reid or any other candidate until students and community members are allowed to participate in the process through student town-halls in each of FCPS’ regions during advisory periods, along with community panels open to any organization.

The Pride Liberation Project said 500 students also signed a petition asking for FCPS to conduct more student outreach before confirming Dr. Reid as superintendent.

Rawal said he and other students were also planning to attend Thursday's school board meeting.

"We don't think it's too late to change their minds," he said. "We're going to tell FCPS that it's wrong to appoint Dr. Reid and we're really hoping that FCPS can listen to the community here."

An email sent to all FCPS employees on Wednesday night said that "The Fairfax County School Board will be announcing the final candidate for the next superintendent of schools at tomorrow night's school board meeting. The Board will also vote on the candidate's appointment."

Dr. Michelle Reid is the only remaining finalist for the FCPS job that 7News is aware of.

The School Superintendents Association named Reid as their 2021 National Superintendent of the Year.

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In a statement about the superintendent search released earlier this week, the Fairfax County school board said they've "benefited from a strong pool of applicants" and looked forward to publicly announcing the final candidate.

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