Daniel Smith, the chief of staff for Loudoun County Public Schools, is expected to be elevated to interim superintendent at an emergency school board meeting Thursday. The board fired superintendent Scott Ziegler in a closed-door meeting Tuesday after a grand jury report blasted Ziegler for his role in handling two sexual assaults that occurred at district high schools last year.
Smith joined the Loudoun superintendent’s office in April, months after the district’s purported missteps in the summer and fall of 2021. He previously worked as a principal at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Fairfax County.
The board’s firing of Ziegler came on a unanimous vote during a closed-door meeting Tuesday after the special grand jury report said district administrators “failed at every juncture” when responding to the May 2021 sexual assault of a student in the girl’s bathroom of Stone Bridge High School.
Special criticism was reserved for Ziegler, who said at a June 2021 school board meeting that “we don’t have any record of assaults occurring in our restrooms,” despite knowing of the assault. The grand jury said it agreed with a witness who characterized Ziegler’s comment as a “bald-faced lie.”
The grand jury, which has not yet been dismissed, said that the actions of Ziegler and other administrators in the aftermath of the first assault allowed the male perpetrator to assault another student at Broad Run High School in October 2021. The student was sentenced to a locked residency program at a psychiatric facility in January.
A spokesperson for Loudoun County Public Schools said the board will release a statement shortly after the meeting Thursday.
Ian Prior, a Loudoun activist and the executive director of Fight for Schools, told the Washington Examiner that Smith will be given the “benefit of the doubt” but “he will be on a short leash with the public, and it will grow shorter if he does not clean house of all the bad actors identified in the grand jury report.”
“We expect that the school board will involve community leaders in the search for a permanent superintendent,” Prior said. “And we don’t mean the usual woke special interest and advocacy groups that it typically relies on to carry its water in the community.”