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BREAKING: Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent will exit next year

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand (via FCPS)

(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand will step down from the position at the end of the upcoming school year, FCPS announced this morning (Thursday).

Brabrand will leave at the end of his current contract, which was extended through June 30, 2022 by the Fairfax County School Board in December.

The announcement of Brabrand’s impending departure comes as FCPS prepares to start a second phase of expanded summer school and resume five days of in-person learning for all students when the 2021-2022 school year kicks off in August.

“My colleagues and I are extremely grateful for Dr. Brabrand’s unwavering commitment to FCPS students, staff, and families,” School Board Chair Ricardy Anderson said in a statement. “We look forward to our continued collaboration toward the goal of returning all students to school safely for five days in the fall and providing every child the instructional and social emotional services they need this coming school year.”

While FCPS did not expand on Brabrand’s decision to leave next year in its press release, his departure follows a year of unprecedented challenges as school systems nationwide scrambled to adapt to closures and a massive shift to virtual learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the leader of Virginia’s largest public school system, Brabrand was tasked with balancing the sometimes competing needs of a diverse population of students and staff, drawing criticism from both parents who pushed for school buildings to reopen and faculty wary of the health risks that they would face from teaching in person.

Prior to the pandemic, Brabrand’s tenure as superintendent, which began in 2017, has been characterized by an emphasis on equity and supporting students’ social and emotional needs as well as their academic success.

The effectiveness of his efforts has been mixed so far. For instance, changes to the admissions process for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology produced the magnet school’s most diverse class in years, but conditions for students with disabilities in FCPS have drawn repeated scrutiny, prompting a federal investigation and policy changes.

Brabrand’s career with FCPS has spanned almost 30 years, starting in 1994 when he was a social studies teacher, according to the news release.

Dr. Brabrand, a career changer who was inspired by doing volunteer work in the schools, began his career in FCPS as a social studies teacher in 1994. He also served as an assistant principal at Herndon High School and an associate principal at Lake Braddock Secondary School before becoming principal at Fairfax High School in 2005. In 2009, he was promoted to cluster assistant superintendent, where he was responsible for 29 schools and more than 22,000 students, and provided collaborative leadership for 27 principals and administrators. Prior to being named superintendent at FCPS in 2017, Dr. Brabrand spent five years as superintendent of Lynchburg City Schools.

“I pledge to continue to serve with the same love and passion for FCPS that I had when I started,” Brabrand said. “In the best of times and in the worst of times, I have always strived to lead with a steady hand and a full heart.”

FCPS says Brabrand will work with the school board “to lay the groundwork for a smooth transition in leadership at the end of his term.”

The school system plans to hire a search firm to identify and recruit potential candidates, according to a new webpage on the search process.

“The School Board will immediately begin the process of finding a new division superintendent,” FCPS said. “Community members will have opportunities to participate in the process.”

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