Jefferson dome.

A couple of articles in the national news about our overly-large school district.

Which are probably not going over well in the superintendent’s office since, when I worked for them, our guiding principle was to never do anything that would land in a Washington Post story. Much less on TV news.

First up is the latest (final?) chapter in the long running saga of the admissions process for Thomas Jefferson, our “prestige”, competitive-admission, science/tech high school.

After nearly four years of legal fights, the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal from a group of parents who were upset when the district changed how they selected kids to attend the school. As a result, the ruling in favor of the district’s plan was allowed to stand.

Basically, back in 2020, Fairfax dropped the admissions test, around which had grown a large and expensive prep business, in favor of what they called a “holistic” approach. One aimed at admitting kids from all parts of the county and not primarily from wealthy neighborhoods.

And rich parents get very upset when told they’re not able to use their money to gain perceived advantages for their kids.

Now I’m no fan of Jefferson. But if we are going to have what is essentially a publicly-funded private MIT prep school, it needs to serve every part of this community and not just the families that have the resources to cover expensive tutoring for another standardized test.

Well, I suppose they still have the PSAT/SAT with which to game the system.

Then there is the much larger problem of data security, something Fairfax has never been especially good at.

The Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia’s largest district, has a systemwide problem protecting students’ privacy, the state education agency said Friday, calling for additional training of staff it said were either “not aware of the precautions that should be taken” or weren’t “sensitized” to the issues.

The finding stems from a complaint brought by a Fairfax parent and special education advocate in December after she inadvertently received data on roughly 35,000 students, including special education records, confidential legal memos and mental health conditions.

Oops.

The 180,000-student district has until March 25 to appeal the state’s finding or complete a “corrective action plan” that includes some steps the district has already agreed to, such as additional staff training.

Except that “additional staff training” was supposed to begin last October, a response to an earlier data breech. And that one was hardly the first data problem Fairfax has had.

Back in 2020, the HR department notified current and former employees that personnel records had “leaked” as part of a ransomware attack. But no problem. We did get a few years worth of credit monitoring services to “fix” things.

Going back even farther, I remember the occasional efforts at cyber security training but never anything like a serious long-term program to address an obviously growing problem.

I wonder how long this one will last. Probably only until shortly after the spotlight moves somewhere else.


The photo is the Jefferson dome at our school named for the third president.