One special needs parent is tired of excuses and demanded a plan for addressing the education gap created by forced at-home learning during extended school closures in Fairfax, Virginia.
Tom Goudreau addressed the Fairfax County Public School Board on September 15, accusing them of leading a “race to the bottom” in academics and failing students spectacularly as they gloss over the long-ranging effects of extended school closures.
“FCPS needs a new strategic plan,” he said. “FCPS online learning harmed many students and significantly reduced student success. Recovery in compensatory services needs to be a strategic focus.”
The father implored the board to commit to a return to academic levels experienced prior to the 2019/2020 school year, repair damaged relationships with parents and establish resource oversight to prioritize funding objectives.
“FCP’s online learning harmed many students and significantly reduced student success,” Goudreau said. “Recovery in compensatory services need to be a strategic focus.”
Goudreau’s son was to enter kindergarten when Fairfax schools decided not to reopen in-person schooling in 2021 —a decision he told Fox News Digital was “in direct contradiction with his son’s individualized education plan.”
“My initial thought, my initial reaction was to reach out to the school board individually, explain my son’s issues, and ask for a resolution,” the parent told Fox News Digital. “They dismissed me and ignored my problems. So then I ended up taking the school system to court through due process. And we finally settled by January of ’21. But in that period of time, my son lost a lot of educational progress and incurred a lot of negative consequences as a result of online learning.”
Fairfax County Public Schools, which serves over 180,000 students, saw reading scores decrease 10% and math scores plummet 30% from 2019 to 2021, according to reporting by Fox News Digital.
“Online learning really was a failure for a large percentage of the students in Fairfax County,” Goudreau said. “And it’s not a function that parents weren’t home trying to help proctor the learning. It’s just – it’s a failed format for a lot of folks.”
Goudreau’s son has vision problems, ADHD, and emotional detachment disorders, making online learning unbearable for the young academic.
“So putting him in front of a Zoom call with 16 other students that he doesn’t know, with teachers that don’t know him where he can’t see everybody in the class, that they mute everybody until they’re called upon, was a point of frustration,” Goudreau told Fox News. “And doing that for six hours a day, five days a week, it was insanity. Just insanity.”
The district’s complete lack of a plan to return to in-person learning and their disregard for student deficits was never more apparent than when they “sought to have [Goudreau’s] due process complaint dismissed, fought requests for discovery, and even FOIA’d [Goudreau’s] letters to the school board,” according to Fox News Digital.
“While FCPS would not spend Fairfax County taxpayer dollars on supporting my son’s IEP, they did spend heavily on fighting to preserve their right to deny my son promised services,” Goudreau said at the time. “And FCPS has increased their legal budgets to continue fighting parents of special education students.”
Now, Goudreau is asking the district to stop the war with parents and focus on the future.
“Number two: Repair damaged relationships with parents,” he said during the September 15 meeting. “Declaring war on parental consent, hiring lawyers to fight parents of special education students and failing to sustain academic excellence has directly contributed to thousands of students dis-enrolling from FCPS. Implementing policies that destroy the parent-teacher relationship has significantly reduced FCPS workforce satisfaction.”
Lastly, Goudreau asked the district to reestablish fiscal oversight.
“Reestablish resource stewardship to serve FCPS strategic priorities,” he said. “FCPS needs to end spending on discretionary projects until such time that all classroom requirements have been funded.”
Goudreau implored the district’s leaders to get back to what made them great.
“FCPS achieved national recognition in large measure because we resourced a gifted and talented program that maximized student potential while also meeting our commitment to special and general education,” he said. “Rationing educational opportunity does not create a caring culture. Achieving equity by limiting other students’ potential is a race to the bottom.”
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