Earlier this month, representatives for 4 Public Education met with Dr. Michelle Reid, the new superintendent for Fairfax County Public schools to discuss our programs, concerns and our commitment to working with her to confront the challenges facing our schools and to help our schools reach new heights.
Several of us had already become familiar with the superintendent through participation at school board meetings and attending one of the many “listening sessions’ she is holding throughout the county.
We were impressed.
Early in our meeting she apologized as she read an urgent text. Another student at one of our high schools had overdosed and needed medical care. Dr. Reid explained her extreme concern with the numbers of students overdosing, and the availability of drugs at our high schools.
We don’t have the necessary treatment bed for adolescents in our county. We have little support for students with addiction problems. This issue must be addressed. While this isn’t only an issue at our schools, it is an issue in our schools and our government should be working together to ensure every child gets the help they need as a baseline to protecting and educatiing our children.
Dr. Reid also noted that since she’s been on the job she’s discovered that only 37% of income eligible children are enrolled in our pre-K programs. The issue isn’t due to funding—it’s due to a lack of space. Federal money is available for these programs.
It is unconscionable that is a county as wealthy as Fairfax, and with so much empty commercial space, we have any children not in a pre-k program as these programs are the great levelers for all kids—ensuring that our children start kindergarten on a more level field. We can’t have the equity envisioned by the One Fairfax initiative if our youngest and most needy residents aren’t getting the lift up they need to succeed in school.
She is setting her expectations for academic standards at a high level and has set clear goal for the system to ensure they are achieved.
She also talked about the need to reinvent our conception of education as the careers many of our children will have don’t even exist today. Our world is moving so fast we need to become creative in the methodology of education so that we are teaching children skills that will be applicable for their work experience in the decades to come.
As you would expect of any great teacher, she took complex concepts and, on a sheet of paper drew diagrams for us to make her points clear. When I pushed back on her resolve that all kids should learn algebra, noting that some kids may not be ready, she showed me, with grace, an algebraic equation that kindergarteners could solve.
Dr. Reid is an intellect, a gifted listener, a bridge-builder and an educator committed to the ideal the every child in FCPS can and should excel.
Our students are in good hands.