Culture of Cover-Up Continues in FCPS; Superintendent Admits Systemic Problem, Staff Testifies Otherwise to VDOE

The more things change, the more things stay the same in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).

Within two hours of Superintendent Michelle Reid taking the extraordinary step of breaking with FCPS' tradition of covering up noncompliance, her staff continued along the old, traditional path.

December 21, 2023, FCPS issued an email from Superintendent Michelle Reid, acknowledging the need for systemic changes to address FCPS' long-time FERPA violations, and to provide more clarity about what FCPS failed to secure in the October 2023 FERPA noncompliance, the result of its investigation, and the steps that would be taken moving forward.

However, less than two hours before, FCPS' Due Process & Eligibility Coordinator Kristina Roman emailed Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) a letter signed by Terri Edmunds-Heard, Interim Assistant Superintendent, Department of Special Services, which states:

"FCPS denies that it has engaged in systemic violations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or the IDEA’s federal and state implementing regulations."

The letter was FCPS' response to just one of the five years of state complaints I've filed in an effort to see FCPS' long-time and egregious FERPA failures stopped—from privacy breaches to withholding records to intentionally thwarting FERPA. It was the traditional fare FCPS has a history of serving to VDOE in response to state complaints filed against it. Deny. Deny. Deny. Blame others. Blame simple human error (even though federal and state regs don't have waivers for human errors that happen over and over, year after year regarding FERPA and education of children).

But, in this case?

Is this another case of FCPS' left hand not talking to its right? Of FCPS departments working in silos rather than in partnerships? Or just straight out lying? No matter what the answer, the result is that it continued FCPS' culture of cover up.

On December 18, 2023, when I met with Superintendent Michelle Reid, she shared that the investigation identified the need for system-wide changes.

Yet, her staff undercut her effort to move forward by insisting on continuing along the same path.

FCPS wants to be trusted and says it wants strong relationships with families and students, but the actions of its staff state otherwise.

Final Word

FCPS has an extraordinary opportunity to leverage Michelle's leadership experience and heal a divided community, but it can't happen unless everyone is on the same page.

No one likes everyone, or agrees with everything everyone does, but I hope all can agree that she took an extraordinary step in the right direction, in an effort to stop a long-time problem.

Now she faces the uphill battle of changing the culture that resulted in FCPS being where it is today. She has extraordinary staff within the ranks of the school-based teachers. Perhaps she'll look to them for fresh ideas, leadership, and support.