Luftglass has served as assistant superintendent of the department of information technology since 1999, according to her profile on the Fairfax schools website. She could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
Luftglass, who previously directed information technology for the American Red Cross, was at the center of the sprawling school system’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 announcing the review on Monday, Brabrand wrote that the stumbles had been “frustrating and disappointing for everyone.”
The school system, which serves 189,000 students in Northern Virginia, had plenty of time to prepare. It waited four weeks after schools were closed by order of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on March 13 to debut its real-time video instruction on April 14.
The results were catastrophic.
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. Worse, 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.
In the days after the first failed attempt at online learning, parents and teachers throughout the division demanded answers: Why had things gone so wrong? In a contentious virtual board meeting later that week, Luftglass and a representative from Blackboard traded blame.
Blackboard Chief Product Officer Tim Tomlinson noted that Fairfax had failed to implement seven updates to its technology over the past nearly two years, although company staffers had publicized the upgrades to the school system.
But Luftglass said the company never told her the updates were needed to improve performance ahead of distance learning.
The Washington Post previously reported that 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. Documents obtained by The Post show that technology specialists within the system foresaw possible trouble weeks ago and tried to warn higher-ups long before virtual school began.
The problems continued Monday. Although Blackboard and Fairfax had promised to get things up and running, teachers and students once again struggled to access the platform — leading to the temporary cancellation of face-to-face virtual instruction.
Some watching last week’s board meeting felt Luftglass had unfairly sought to cast blame on the school system’s technology specialists. Kimberly Adams, president of the 4,000-teacher-strong Fairfax Education Association, wrote to the school board demanding an apology from Luftglass.
“Despite claims otherwise,” Adams wrote, tech employees “are in no way responsible for the complete fiasco . . . of distance learning.”