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Parents blasts Fairfax school board for shuttering schools, leading a ‘race to the bottom’

A parent in Fairfax, Va., blasted administrators for appearing to lead a “race to the bottom” in academic excellence at a recent school board meeting. 

Tom Goudreau, a father of a special education student in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), urged the school board to focus on three strategic priorities, beginning with a return to academic levels achieved prior to the 2019-2020 school year.

“FCPS online learning harmed many students and significantly reduced student success,” Goudreau said on Thursday, referring to COVID-19-related school closures.

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Two, he said the board needs to “repair damaged relationships with parents.”

“Declaring war on parental consent, hiring lawyers to fight parents of special education students, and failing to sustain academic excellence has directly contributed to thousands of students disenrolling from FCPS,” he continued. “Implementing policies that destroy the parent-teacher relationship has significantly reduced FCPS workforce satisfaction.”

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The third priority on Goudreau’s list was for the board to “reestablish resource stewardship to serve FCPS strategic priorities.” He urged FCPS to end spending on discretionary projects until all classroom requirements have been funded.

“Lastly, FCPS’ commitment requirement to ‘reach, challenge, and prepare every student for success in school and life’ should not just be about eliminating gaps,” he concluded. “Rationing educational opportunity does not create a caring culture. Achieving equity by limiting other students’ potential is a race to the bottom.”

“Dr. Reid, if the FCPS strategy is simply to be an average public school system, your new strategy should plainly say that,” he said, addressing FCPS Superintendent Dr. Michelle C. Reid, who just took on the position in July.

The community “deserves better,” Goudreau said.

In Fairfax County Public Schools, one of the largest districts in the country, students’ reading scores decreased 10% from 2019 through 2021, according to the Virginia Department of Education’s most recently available data. Math scores dropped 30%.

At-home learning during the pandemic appeared to have a negative national effect as well. Average reading scores among 9-year-olds dropped five points compared to 2020, the sharpest decline in 30 years, while math scores decreased for the first time in history, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Another community member at the FCPS meeting, Jo-Anne Sears, cited the historic drops noted in the NCES report, quoting former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the Washington Post. Sears paraphrased Bloomberg to say the poor academic findings were indicative of school closures “that went on for far too long pushed by teachers unions and some of their political allies,” before addressing the board members before her.

“Those political allies are sitting on the board in front of me now,” Sears said. “What this board has created is nothing short of a national emergency. Some communities are doing okay. This is because wealthier families have been able to buy their way out of the failure of school systems like FCPS, who shuttered schools for 17 months.” 

Scores for Latino and Black children, she noted, are especially “abysmal.”

The board got some positive comments, including from parent Shea Cousin, who just asked for more resources to become available online but commended the board for doing a “great job.” She said she is “a very happy parent” and added, “I love our schools.”

FCPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Parents have sparred with FCPS on a number of controversial items in the past few years. Over the summer, parents erupted as the school board vote to make it possible for students as young as fourth grade to be suspended for “malicious misgendering” or “deadnaming” their peers.

“So to hold little children culpable, responsible, for someone else’s personal decision, compelling their speech at such a young age,” Tyler Ohta, founder of Moms for American Values, told Fox News Digital ahead of the vote. “It’s a very dangerous path that we’re going down and we need to defend our free speech and our religious beliefs.”

Other parents recently cried foul at confusing guidance from the school system on masking. An email alerted the community that children will still potentially have to wear masks indoors for the 2022-23 academic year pending high CDC COVID-19 community rates. But, the same memo noted that parents and legal guardians have rights under the Code of Virginia to decide whether or not to send their kids to school masked. 

The Fairfax County Parents Association called the correspondence “baffling.” Others suggested the school district was trying to find any reason to prolong the mask mandates.

“I could not believe the Fairfax County Public School System’s out of date and out of touch and frankly anti-science email to parents and students on Monday,” Elizabeth McCauley of the Virginia Mavens told Fox News Digital. 

“Parents/familes can opt out of any mask requirement. Nothing has changed since the last school year,” FCPS said in a response to Fox News Digital.

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