Chronology of Events: How critical race theory creeped into Fairfax County Public Schools


Chronology of Events

March 20, 2014 — FCPS last reviewed its “Controversial Issues” policy and its procedures said, “Such studies shall be carried out in an atmosphere of freedom from bias, prejudice, or coercion.” 

The philosophy of the policy was listed as: “The preparation for effective citizenship includes the study of issues that are controversial. The study of controversial issues shall create an atmosphere in which knowledge can be freely imparted and the critical thinking of students can be developed through research and classroom discussion, within the guidelines of the Program of Studies.”

May 3, 2019 — Board member Karen Corbett Sanders submitted a document to colleagues, seeking a work session on the topic, “Addressing Hate and Bias Crimes in Our Curriculum.” She wrote: “I will be bringing to the board a forum topic on May 9, 2019 a request for support from my colleagues to expand our curriculum on cultural sensitivity and anti-bullying to more explicitly address the issues of hate crimes to include actions taken by students in school and on-line.”

Jan. 9, 2020 — FCPS Board held a regular meeting and discussed: “Addressing Hate and Bias Crimes in Our Curriculum.” Karen Corbett Sanders was listed as the board member leading the effort. Attached was the May 19, 2019, document.

June 2020 — School Board held a “Forum on Eliminating Racism & Implicit Bias in FCPS.”

Sept. 15, 2020 — The School Board had a work session in which FCPS staff presented a PowerPoint on “Anti-Racism & Anti-Bias Curriculum.” It included general recommendations, including, “Board adoption of policy that rejects all forms of racism, supports anti-bias education, and sets an expectation for staff to challenge racism, bias, and exclusion.”

The meeting agenda had agenda No. 3.02 as “Anti-Racism and Anti-Bias Education Curriculum.”

The FCPS staff were listed as: Frances Ivey,deputy superintendent; Sloan Presidio, assistant superintendent, Instructional Services; Kathleen Walts, executive director, Office of Professional Learning and Family Engagement; Leona Smith, director, Equity & Family Engagement; Noel Klimenko, director, Curriculum and Instruction; Nina Thomas, coordinator, Professional Development & Cultural Responsiveness; Colleen Eddy, coordinator, Social Studies; Deborah March, specialist, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. 

This session is in response to the Forum topic discussed on January 9, 2020.  The outcome of that meeting was the following:

FCPS has a robust elective program regarding anti-hate and bias, and the Superintendent will develop plans to expand it, making it part of the core curriculum. The Board will schedule 1-2 work sessions so that Board members can provide feedback on the anti-hate and bias curriculum.

This work session also connects to the June 25, 2020 forum on Eliminating Racism & Implicit Bias in FCPS. Reforming curriculum is one key piece of eliminating racism and implicit bias in the larger system. 

The Board will review a draft of FCPS goals & framework for anti-racism and anti-bias education, review current FCPS curriculum revision projects with a focus on K-12 social studies, review FCPS professional development actions, and discuss the need for an FCPS anti-racism and anti-bias policy.

Later, FCPS described this work session as: “School Board consensus to pursue policy development for anti-bias education and controversial issues.”

Two motions passed. 

I move to directed the Governance committee to review the controversial issues policy.
Motion by Ricardy J Anderson – Chair, second by Melanie K Meren.Final Resolution: Motion CarriesYes: Megan McLaughlin, Ricardy J Anderson – Chair, Melanie K Meren, Rachna S Heizer, Elaine V Tholen, Tamara D Kaufax, Karen Corbett Sanders, Karen A Keys-Gamarra, Stella Pekarsky – Vice Chair, Abrar Omeish, Laura Jane H Cohen, Karl V FrischI 

I move to direct the Governance Committee to draft an anti-racist anti-bias policy for discussion by the full Board.
Motion by Karen Corbett Sanders, second by Melanie K Meren.Motion CarriesYes: Megan McLaughlin, Ricardy J Anderson – Chair, Melanie K Meren, Rachna S Heizer, Elaine V Tholen, Tamara D Kaufax, Karen Corbett Sanders, Karen A Keys-Gamarra, Stella Pekarsky – Vice Chair, Abrar Omeish, Laura Jane H Cohen, Karl V Frisch

The documents attached include “Design Principals [sic] for Cultural Responsiveness.”

Oct. 13, 2020 — The FCPS Governance Committee met and its agenda had “Review Policy 3280, Controversial Issues” as point No. 4 with a copy of the policy and “Draft an anti-bias, anti-racism policy” as point No. 5. Its meeting minutes are empty. There were no other details.

October – December 2020 — FCPS said (video, 6:20): “Governance Committee directed staff to develop timeline and return to Board to share scope and cost of stakeholder engagement.”

Dec. 8, 2020 — FCPS School Board Governance Committee held a meeting with Item 1.02, the minutes said, discussing: “Anti-Bias, Anti-Racial Policy (New Policy).” 

It said: “Committee discussed the timeline and process for development of this policy. A timeline for development was approved at the November Governance Committee meeting, and it was agreed that a review of Policy 3280, Controversial Issues, will be included as part of the process of developing the new policy.” In addition, it said: “Committee discussed how to identify stakeholders.” Finally: “Consensus was reached that Committee Chair will work with Board Chair to request this topic be scheduled for a one-hour School Board Work Session, including the new FCPS Chief Equity Officer.”

Buried in the documents was an explosive document: “Policy Development for Anti-Racism and Anti-Bias Education.” The URL for the meeting was with “Meeting ID” BUDFMB3FC356, “Agenda Item” ID BUDFUD40CCDA and “Unique ID” BVGHU64A2284

The URL for the PDF was:$file/Policy%20Development%20for%20Anti-Racism%20and%20Anti-Bias%20Education.pdf.

It stated: 

The School Board’s Governance Committee directed staff to prepare a timeline that outlines when the School Board can expect the following:

●  Controversial Issues Policy (P3280.3): Benchmarking what other comparable districts are doing and preparing suggested revisions that align with our hope to empower marginalized communities

●  Anti-Racism/Anti-Bias Policy: Benchmarking what other districts are doing (especially LAUSD and Albemarle, VA), and preparing a draft policy for us to begin considering

●  Planning for the community engagement process with strategic selection of externalfacilitation of that process

●  Stakeholders listed to include the groups, individuals, and staff who must be involvedand who the staff leads are

It stated further: 

Fairfax County Schools acknowledges our history of systemic racism in our school system and we hope to initiate steps to reconciliation with our stakeholders by offering a Letter of Reckoning with Racism supported by policies that influence our actions to create, foster and sustain equitable outcomes for all students and families.

Letter of Reckoning with Racism. Acknowledging a history of systemic racism in FCPS

Policy Recommendations

Controversial Issues Policy Revision

Anti-Racism and Anti-Bias Education Policy Proposal

Nondiscrimination Policy Review

Controversial Issues Policy (P3280.3): Revisions to the Controversial Issues Policy and Regulation are necessary to support a learning environment appropriate for anti- bias and anti-racism education. The current policy and regulation emphasize the need for teachers to remain impartial on matters of contemporary controversy. In contrast, meaningful anti-bias and anti-racism education requires teachers to take a clear position on matters that may be perceived as controversial in order to affirm the dignity and belonging of all students. The revisions will need to clarify expectations for teachers and students for supporting an inclusive learning environment when engaging controversial issues pertaining to bias, hate, and racism.

Anti-Racism and Anti-Bias Education Policy: This policy would be developed to articulate the School Board’s goals and expectations for anti-racism and anti-bias education. The policy would also include specific direction for the development of topical anti-bias lessons, including intended learning outcomes for students. Related expectations for staff, including demonstration of cultural competence and participation in adult learning, would also be expressed.

Nondiscrimination Policy (P1450.6)Overview is pending based on feedback from HR.

Facilitation: It is recommended that the Board consider the following organizations for external facilitation of community, staff, and student engagement on the development of these School Board policies.

●  Leadership Academy (formerly known as NYCLA): This organization currently leads equity coaching for FCPS Leadership Team and principals and offers

●  The Equity Collaborative: This organization supported stakeholder engagement in Loudoun County and focuses on building new capacities in the people and teams that comprise the system. They work at every level of the system to best understand all of the stakeholders in the school community and ensure alignment of purpose and action toward equitable outcomes.

●  Equity Literacy Institute: This organization has offered professional learning for the Equity and Cultural Responsiveness Team on anti-racism facilitation. They support organizations in developing an intentional equity vision, cultivating a common organizational language related to equity, and building equity initiatives intentionally around a set of well-defined principles and goals informed by deep equity knowledge.

●  Institute for Student Achievement : This organization has supported the Equity and Cultural Responsiveness team with the annual Summer Equity Symposium.

In “Community Engagement,” it identified groups who “might inform the development of policies related to anti-bias and anti-racism education in FCPS,” including, “Fairfax Anti-Racist Minds, NAACP and Fairfax for Anti-Racism in Education.

Draft Timeline (Staff Leads: Colleen Eddy and Alicia Hunter)

●  November 10 – December 4, 2020

○  Research what policies other comparable districts have in place for ControversialIssues and Anti-Bias & Anti-Racism Education

○  Determine which external facilitators would meet the needs of the Board.

●  December 7, 2020 – January 4, 2021
○ Collaborate with external facilitators to prepare for community engagement.
○ Prepare suggested revisions of the existing Controversial Issues regulation andpolicy as a draft for stakeholder review.

●  January 4 – February 26, 2021

●  February 26-April 4, 2021
○ Collaboratively prepare draft policy taking community input into account

●  March 9, 2021

The Governance Committee reviews synthesized community input and informs drafting of policies. 

● April 6, 2021

○ The School Board reviews the draft policy at scheduled work session and provides feedback.

● April 22, 2021
○ Public comments on draft policies are heard at the scheduled School Board meeting. 

● May 6, 2021

○ School Board votes on Anti-Racism and Anti-Bias Policy at the scheduled School Board meeting.

The “Letter of Reckoning with Racism” was described further as a “reckoning with the history and legacy of racism in Fairfax County Schools.”

Letter of Reckoning with Racism: The Board might consider, in collaboration with the Leadership Team, publishing a letter to the community focused on reckoning with the history and legacy of racism in Fairfax County Schools. This letter could include the commissioning of this policy work and an invitation for community engagement.

March 11, 2020 — FCPS issues “RFP 2000003095,” a 19-page Request for Proposal for “Leadership Development Training. The document states proposals are due July 23, 2020, at 9 a..m. EST. The contract administrator is Jennifer Mott. 

The contract would begin on the date of award and end July 31, 2025.

Clause 1.2 in the “Scope of Services” is wide-ranging and not ideological indoctrination. It states: “These leadership development training programs and/or materials will benefit all employees by equipping them with knowledge and skills that can be applied to their positions within The County. Topics may include (but are not limited to):

“For operational employees: change and conflict management; effective decision-making; effective planning, alignment, and communication; building and leading effective teams; developing and coaching others; and influence.”

“For school-based employees: educational equity and cultural responsiveness; family and community engagement; developing the capacity of school personnel; effective professional learning communities; and continuous improvement. All topics should be focused on the promotion of student achievement and well-being.”

There are no mentions of “anti-racism” or “anti-bias” work. There is only one mention of “cultural responsiveness.” There are only two mentions of “equity” in relation to the training. 

March 25, 2020 — FCPS filed “Addendum No. 1,” stating that the closing date for the Request for Proposal was “extended until further notice.” The addendum was signed by Laila Sultan, “Coordinator” in the FCPS Office of Procurement Services.

Before July 17, 2020 — FCPS staffer Laila Sultan issued “Addendum No. 2,” stating that the closing date for the Request for Proposal was July 23, 2020, by 9 a.m. EST. It said that since FCPS wasn’t able to accept electronic submissions, it had extended the due date but could not accept proposals electronically. It said: “FCPS anticipates to award a contract or contracts by August 2020.

It said: “Fairfax County Government, if it so desires, may utilize contracts awarded under this RFP.”

It said the Request for Proposal was a “sealed competition,” with bidders’ names “kept confidential from the public until an award is announced.”

Question No. 32 asked, “Why are you choosing to outsource this project rather than staffing it internally?” FCPS answered: “At this time, FCPS does not have the resources to provide these services in-house.”

The proposal would include training for about 200 principals. It would not include retired employees. 

Question No. 89 asked about “equity,” FCPS said, “By equity, FCPS means exposure, access, and opportunity that give everyone the means to reach a desired outcome.”

Question No. 90 asked what “family and community engagement” included. FCPS said, “Family Engagement means any way that a child’s adult caretaker (biological parent, foster parent, sibling, grandparent, etc.), at home, at school, and in the community, effectively supports learning and healthy development.”

In Question No. 101, asking if trainings would be mandatory, FCPS said “some may be mandatory.”

July 17, 2020 — Michelle Pratt, director of the Office of Procurement Services, issued “Addendum No. 3,” with answers to mostly technical questions.

Jan. 27, 2021 — FCPS held a work session on “Anti-Bias and Anti-Racism Education Policy Development,” recorded on YouTube. Colleen Eddy (5:30) discussed the revision of the “Controversial Issues” policy and creating an “Anti-Bias and Anti-Racism Education” policy. She discussed engaging an “external consultant.” The PowerPoint slides revealed the plan.

She used Montgomery County, Md., Albemarle County, Va., and Piedmont Unified, Va., as examples that they researched. 

Alicia Hunter, an FCPS staffer in curriculum, discussed the “Timeline and Stakeholder Engagement.”

“We are going to build on the foundation of One Fairfax,” she said (11:05). They planned to have policy in place “this school year.”

The new FCPS chief diversity officer, Lisa Williams, explained (16:40) why “working with an external partner” was “one of the real opportunities” with partnerships. She presented the partner: The Leadership Academy. She said it again at 34:30. 

“It feels like a win-win situation,” she said.

The stakeholder groups slide (21:20) didn’t include a single Asian community group.

Board member Melanie Meren said (21:25) it was “so exciting” that “outside consultants were coming on per community input.”

Board member Ricardy Anderson said, “I don’t know if I missed how much this would be” to include the outside consultant. 

At 23:50, FCPS executive Sloan Presidio said that “we are looking at working with The Leadership Academy.” He said FCPS had a contract and would add an addendum, and it would be “under $50,000,” under “the threshold.”

At 25:10, Williams said she wanted to have groups involved who often aren’t “at the table.”

At 1:01:26 FCPS board member Megan McLaughlin questioned the use of the consultant. “There is a lack of information as a board that we need before saying we can spend $50,000 on a vendor,” she said.

Presidio argued for the spending. “We do have a little bit of money available for this,” he said.

“There is a lot of work involved,” he said, with running meetings.

McLaughlin asked why FCPS had to hire an outside consultant (1:08:35).

Board member Karl Frisch responded, irritated with her questions.

Williams said the consultants “have the cultural competencies (1:09:27)” to process work that includes “soul searching.” FCPS staffer Leona Smith insisted that the school district had to “invest” in the effort. “We have this moment in time to listen,” she said.

FCPS staffer Kathleen Walts said that the contract would not require a Request for Proposal because it was less than $50,000 (1:14:00). 

Board member Tammy Derenak Kaufax said she supported an outside consultant, but the board needed more information about The Leadership Academy to “ease fears.” (1:15:20)

“You’ve arrived at the perfect moment,” Frisch said to Williams. (1:23:10)

“Great job,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand said at the end. (1:23:50)

March 11, 2021 — FCPS issued an “Acceptance Agreement.” It included a Memorandum of Negotiations signed on March 1, 2021, by Nancy Guttierrez, president and chief executive officer of The Leadership Academy. Kathleen Walts, executive director of Professional Learning and Family Engagement, signed it on March 5, 2021. And Michelle Pratt, FCPS director of the Office of Procurement Services,” signed it on March 11, 2021.

It included “Sample Program Content,” including the “State of Equity at FCPS,” with the board and senior leadership, at a rate of about $20,000 for two two-hour virtual sessions with the board and three three-hour sessions with senior leadership.

FCPS also issued a “Notice of Award” with “Contract Number” 4400010398 to NYC Leadership Academy for a four-year, four-month contract running from March 11, 2021, through July 31, 2025. The Notice of Award has three renewals. It is for Request for Proposal 2000003095, issued a year earlier on March 11, 2020.

The contact is Philip S. Benowitz at NYC Leadership Academy. The FCPS contact is Jennifer Mott, the contract administrator.

For “Prices,” the “Notice of Award” states: “SEE PRICING SCHEDULE.”

The terms of the “Pricing Schedule” stated, “NYCLA and FCPS will discuss and agree to price as needed.”

May 6, 2021 — FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand sent families and community an email, with the title, “Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Curriculum Policy Survey. Provide input on the development of a new curriculum policy.” He wrote FCPS was “working with The Leadership Academy to support the revision and development of the two curriculum policies,” including “revising the existing Controversial Issues Policy and developing a new Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Education Curriculum Policy.”

He provided the survey link:

He directed readers to an “Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Education Policy” webpage for the school district. It was a subpage of “One Fairfax” and “Equity and Cultural Responsiveness.”

The website said: “FCPS is working with a consultant The Leadership Academy to support stakeholder engagement on the revision and development of these two curriculum policies.”

It noted: “An update on the draft policy will be presented to the Fairfax County School Board in the summer.”