FCPS Promises Transparency, But Hides the Ball

Several prior posts on this site have reported on a lawsuit stemming from the failure of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to provide timely notice to high school students of commendations they had received from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.  As reported earlier, the failure created intense controversy.  In response, the school Superintendent announced in January that an independent law firm was being hired to determine why the failure had occurred.  She promised transparency with the findings.

Unfortunately, transparency didn’t occur.  When the report was completed, FCPS refused to release it.  Instead, it published a short, self-serving, defensive characterization of what the independent report supposedly said.  FCPS claimed the actual report  was protected by the attorney-client privilege.

A suit was then filed under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act to require the report’s release.  After several procedural delays, a hearing was held on October 4 in the Fairfax County General District Court.  The court issued its decision on October 16, upholding FCPS’s arguments.

FCPS’s conduct was a classic bait-and-switch.  It used the outside law firm’s hiring to say to the public, in effect, “We’ll get to the bottom of what happened.  To assure the objectivity of the investigation, we’re hiring an independent party to conduct it, and we promise to disclose its key findings.”  This tamped down the controversy for several months.  Then, when the law firm delivered its report, FCPS essentially said, “We’ve been cleared.  Nothing to see here.”  But FCPS only published its internal spin on the law firm’s findings, not the actual findings.  It invoked the law firm’s independence to garner public support, but then hid behind a claim of “privilege” to hide the law firm’s report.

FCPS has prevailed in court, at least for now, but its tricky tactics have undermined trust in the objectivity and transparency of FCPS.

I have written an op-ed about the case, which has been published in today’s edition of the Fairfax Times.  A link to the article is HERE.

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  1. Valerie Waddelove on October 28, 2023 at 9:33 am

    So many promises, so little progress. This report should be in the public domain. People should be able to assess for themselves what it says, and what that means. We know test scores are falling, and that TJ has lost 5-6 points in national ranking. I have concluded that Dr. Reid is committed to her equity agenda which she believes, once fully implemented, will produce an educational utopia where all students will thrive.. Statistics and results are not on her side. Students can now graduate from high schools in a handful of states without demonstrating proficiency in core subjects. This is partially due to equity — lower the standards and all can graduate. It makes HS certificates meaningless. Not only that, students who most need a better education have been cheated. They need to know that future success depends on hard work and concrete, measurable performance. This is how people move up in the real world … in careers, and in life. Being average may be an achievable equity goal, but not preparation for a successful, rewarding future. We cannot take Dr. Reid and the FCPS Board at their word — the actions and results must be transparent for all to see the truth of what is happening.

  2. gino marchetti on October 28, 2023 at 6:55 pm

    Well said, Valerie.