Fairfax County Public Schools
Maribeth Luftglass

Fairfax County (Va.) district technology chief out of job after online program failures

April 23, 2020
Maribeth Luftglass has been assistant superintendent of the department of information technology since 1999.

The longtime information technology chief for the Fairfax County (Va.) school district is out of a job days after the district’s disastrous debut of online learning.

The Washington Post reports that Maribeth Luftglass has served as assistant superintendent of the department of information technology since 1999.

“Effective immediately, Maribeth Luftglass is stepping down from her role,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand wrote in a message to information technology staffers. “I want to thank Maribeth for her nearly 21 years of service to our school division.”

Luftglass has been at the center of the Fairfax district’s botched preparations for online learning over the past month. After two failed attempts, the district this week temporarily canceled face-to-face virtual instruction, announced it was moving away from its technology platform, Blackboard, and retained a law firm to conduct an independent review of the rollout.

In a message to families Monday, Brabrand wrote that the stumbles had been “frustrating and disappointing for everyone.”

The school system, which serves 189,000 students, waited four weeks after schools were closed on March 13 to debut its real-time video instruction on April 14.

First, the Blackboard learning platform saw massive technological glitches that left students and teachers throughout the system unable to log on, or facing poor audio and frozen video once they did. For some who managed to get online, classes devolved into a chaotic mess as group chats filled with anonymous, hateful messages.

Fairfax ultimately canceled school for the rest of the week.

After the first failed attempt at online learning, parents and teachers throughout the division demanded answers: In a contentious virtual board meeting, Luftglass and a representative from Blackboard traded blame.

Blackboard Chief Product Officer Tim Tomlinson says that Fairfax failed to carry out seven updates to its technology over the past nearly two years.

But Luftglass says the company never told her the updates were needed to improve performance ahead of distance learning.

The troubled launch of online school also stemmed from Fairfax officials’ neglect of basic Blackboard safety features, and a lack of guidance given to teachers. District documents show that technology specialists foresaw possible trouble weeks ago and tried to warn higher-ups long before virtual school began.

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