By Karen Corbett Sanders, Mt. Vernon School Board Representative
Alexandria, VA – Shortly before school started in Fairfax County on August 22, the new FCPS superintendent, Dr. Michelle Reid, spoke to the Mount Vernon and Lee Chamber of Commerce about her goals for Fairfax County public schools.
Dr. Reid joined FCPS from the North Shore District in Washington State. A chemist by training, she has been a teacher, principal, superintendent, and guest lecturer at Harvard and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She has also played professional basketball and tennis.
In 2021, the American Association of School Superintendents awarded Dr. Reid the National Superintendent of the Year Award.
With a look toward the future of education and our economy, Dr. Reid provided an interactive presentation that allowed the audience of area business and community members to share their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing our students.
As a leader who prides herself in making data-centered decisions, Dr. Reid shared statistics about high school students in the 21st century. Of particular note is the decline in the number of students in 2019 who had jobs, a driver’s license, or dated while in high school. She said students today rely heavily on technology and school experiences for social interactions.
These different experiences of today’s students, as opposed to previous generations, require educators to meet students where they are at rather than rely on a model based on where their parents were at in high school.
Dr. Reid believes it is an economic imperative that every student graduating from our schools be able to fully participate in the workforce. This is especially relevant given the national workforce shortages in critical needs jobs.
She cited the statistic that in the 1970s, there were five new entrants to the workforce for every retiring worker. Today that number is one-to-one.
Retail and food services jobs are the highest in demand, followed by healthcare, education, and business administration.
Before the pandemic, and still today, our area’s top projected job growth over the next ten years is in computer systems design and related services, which includes cyber security. FCPS students can obtain real experience in these areas through the Career and Technical Education and Academy Programs.
Dr. Reid says it is essential for FCPS to reimagine the high school experience. With this in mind, she will be undertaking a listening tour around the county beginning in September.