LCPS Supervisor of Specialized Reading and Math Resigns. Shines Light On Much of What We’ve All Suspected is Wrong in LCPS

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Jennifer S. March 9, 2022

“Leadership and colleagues:

This letter is to advise of my resignation, from the position of Supervisor of Specialized Reading and Math effective June 30, 2022, at the conclusion of my current annual contract. In submitting my resignation I hope to provide a transparent explanation as to the factors that have led to me to make this challenging decision, as it has not been one that I have reached in haste, nor without a great deal of reflection. I am resigning because following an extended period of medical leave, I have come to the understanding that the root cause of the symptoms I was experiencing was that my professional ethics, moral values and strong beliefs in the importance of providing a high quality public education with equitable access for all students, as well as a healthy working environment for all those who are stewards of this work, was in misalignment with many of the actions I observed and experienced over the course of the past six years in Loudoun County Public Schools. Awareness of this significant discrepancy makes my continued employment in this system and my desire to live a life in alignment with my ethics, morals and wellbeing two incongruent paths.

Examples of such discrepancies I have personally witnessed and experience include:

1. Failure to systemically implement scientifically based literacy instruction across all tiers of instruction and in all schools, perpetuating a trend of lowered literacy rates among our minority and at risk populations.

The motto of Loudoun County Schools states, “Empowering all students to make meaningful contributions to the world.” In alignment with this, the message one with integrity might deliver and swiftly act upon following the results of the most recently published external review of LCPS literacy would include that the organization finds it to be collectively imperative to promote the ability for each and all of our graduates to be literate. Without literacy, one cannot even begin to access the knowledge of those who came before them. Without access to knowledge, there is nothing foundational and factual to effectively engage critical thinking skills around. Without synthesizing critical thinking into new and creative problem solving, we will not resolve the needs present in our current reality. We need literacy in order to make meaningful contributions to the world. We need literacy in order to achieve the LCPS 5 Cs. Literacy not merely for some students who are fortunate enough to get by with independent or implicit learning, or perhaps even private tutors, but for every single future graduate. The Science of Reading is not a vision or destination, but the vehicle in which we drive the mission of deeper learning and the Profile of a Virginia Graduate forward. The message and actions provided to date, have not mirrored this level of urgency nor response.

Ever aware of the precious resource of instructional time, as well as the realities of budget and implementation, the Specialized Instructional Facilitator of Reading Team found a way to construct a no cost training and instructional materials which require minimal planning time three years ago. Yet, the school division failed to require the vendor of the external review to include this program material in the outside literacy program evaluation prompted by the school board, although a comprehensive review of all tiers of instruction was listed as a part of the RFP for this review, was discussed in subsequent interviews to obtain the contract and the materials were requested and gathered explicitly for the purposes of the review. Yet they were not included in the report, and they still were not included in the report when I brought this to the attention of leadership.

This is concerningly misaligned with my professional ethics because I am aware that it is only through explicit, sequential and cumulative instruction, students from all backgrounds may learn to read at a proficient level enough to close existing achievement gaps based on factors of race, ethnicity, first language, disability and/or socio-economic status. This instruction was made available to Loudoun County Public Schools for the past three years, at no cost, and it failed to be widely implemented to include at-risk students, in favor of balanced literacy approaches, which continue in implementation today, despite the external review proving their ineffectiveness.

2. Engaging in a clear pattern whereas children whose parents have paid for attorneys, advocates, private evaluations and tutors attain publicly funded services above and beyond that which are provided to students who have similar or greater educational needs, yet whose parents cannot afford such means of attaining those services. Although, of course, the individual nature of such occurrences are confidential due to student rights to confidentiality, it is my written statement that I did observe a noticeable pattern in this regard in the meetings I was required to partake in by procedural support.

3. Continued implementation of mathematics progressions which track students into predetermined paths from which they do not have opportunity to catch up with their peers, and are therefore inadequately prepared for post-secondary education. This system of inequity is able to be sustained and rationalized by its supporters at the secondary level as a result of failure to systematically implement NCTM best practices in mathematics instruction across all elementary classrooms. Despite intentional efforts on the part of the LCPS mathematics leadership to promote these research-based best practices, individual school

administrators are provided the liberty to choose whether or not they require teachers to follow NCTM best practices or create their own materials which may or may not be in alignment.

4. Failure to keep students and staff safe from repeated injuries at the hands of aggressive students. Again, confidentiality of both students and staff preclude me from providing details. However, it is my written statement that I observed such occurrences being dismissed by special education leadership without appropriate support being provided to schools.

5. Encouragement of staff to predetermine IEP placement based on a student’s category of special education eligibility, and/or utilize lengthy and self-imposed LRE protocols instead of allowing IEP teams to make authentic decisions based upon the needs of the individual student and in accordance with federal and state regulations governing special education. Confidentiality of both students and staff preclude me from stating details. However, it is my written statement that I observed such occurrences, and even have heard these messages shared in supervisor and special education designee meetings.

6. Creation of a hostile work environment and failure to mitigate reports of unethical behavior, and the further suppression of the staff who attempt to speak out. To my knowledge, at least eight individuals in administrative roles in the Office of Special Education reported concerns to a private attorney commissioned by the superintendent to investigate

concerns related to the working environment in the LCPS Office of Special Education. Following the conclusion and report of this investigation, it is my understanding that not only have none of the concerns been addressed, but there has been a pattern of further suppression of individuals within the group that came forward. During this investigation I was informed that my participation and statements would be protected by confidentiality. However, I made no agreement likewise to keep confidential the fact that there

was an investigation, I did participate, nor to the details of my statements provided to the investigating attorney.

Despite these concerns, I also want to be clear that I have met and worked with many individuals in LCPS who consistently act in the best interest of students, whether they serve in the classroom, school-based leadership or from the central office perspective. Additionally, I believe the organization’s relatively new and emerging steps towards supporting the rights of the LGBTIQA+ population, increasing cultural awareness, racial equity and emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and social-emotional learning, as well as systemic school improvement efforts, have been steps in the right direction, which I felt in complete alignment with. It is an unfortunate reality that at times even many individual bright spots can be overshadowed by co-existing concerns which are too pervasive to continue to ignore, as such is the case in this context.

For these six reasons, I cannot in good faith retain my professional values and simultaneously choose to be aligned with an organization in which I have witnessed and experienced these occurrences. Therefore, at the conclusion of my annual contract I will be vacating my position. During my time in LCPS, I attempted to be an agent of positive change by acting upon what was under my capacity for influence in the best interest of students. I delivered my role to the best of my ability, and successfully met high expectations, while also maintaining a healthy working environment for the staff members I oversaw. In fact, the only less than positive feedback I ever received in regard to my performance was a verbal comment that I “write too much, and no one is interested in my lengthy explanations.” 

In the spirit of that feedback, I will conclude by summarizing that the patterns of inequity and repeated misuse of authority simply became more than I was willing and able to consciously tolerate. I allowed my fear of retaliation and desire to maintain my livelihood to outweigh my better judgment in speaking out on what I know to be true. The reality is, we all have voice and choice, regardless of how unpreferred those choices may be, or the consequences they may lead to. Now, I choose differently. I choose integrity. 

I do not consider this message to be confidential and welcome it to be shared with any relevant parties, in its unaltered form.”

Jennifer S.

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