Superintendent's Weekly Reflections

By Dr. Michelle C. Reid
Superintendent's Messages
August 21, 2023

Hello Team FCPS,

I trust you are each enjoying a beautiful summer evening. I want to thank you for the great energy this past week as we prepare for the new year.  It is so inspiring to be back together again as we prepare for the fast approaching start of the school year tomorrow. It is so important for us to connect and “Remember who you are.” – Mufasa.  We are FCPS!!

I have heard so many great stories of the work going on in the schools and departments this week. So many excited students and families have shared their enthusiasm about the start of a new school year. Please know how much you are each appreciated. Our community is better for your efforts.

I had so much fun Wednesday evening at the Chantilly High School Open House! Mascots from Rocky Run Middle School and Franklin Middle School joined the Chargers as we welcomed smiling faces back to the building!

Superintendent Reid with students and staff at the Chantilly HS Open House

My heart beats strongest in schools, and it was such a treat to be a part of this special time. Thursday night, I also stopped by Stone Middle School and Herndon Elementary School for their kickoff events. I had a great time shooting hoops with some of the new middle school students, but I must remember to bring my sneakers next time! 

Thursday, I attended an advisory meeting for Think Big for Kids, a nonprofit which has partnered with FCPS, local businesses, and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. This initiative helps prepare middle and high school students for the workforce by connecting them with career showcases, skill-building workshops, field trips, and summer programs in a variety of fields and professions. Partnerships like this one are a foundational pillar of FCPS’ 2023-30 strategic plan, our North Star for excellence, equity, and opportunity for each and every student. This early start in career readiness means that our learners can develop the talents, skills, and motivation they need to contribute meaningfully to our local workforce and communities. Together, all things are possible!

This past week, I was also able to join FCPS’ multilingual interpreters and translators kick-off meeting for back to school. This team is vital for our English language learners and their families, who come from all over the world and speak more than 200 languages. For the roughly 20% of our students who access English learner services, supporting their communication needs — and those of their parents/caregivers —helps keep all of Team FCPS connected.  We have so many reasons to be grateful to be in FCPS!!

Thank you to our amazing Curriculum and Instruction team for providing a meaningful and supportive day of professional development on August 16 to more than 14,000 educators. Wow! Elementary teachers gathered across six locations in the morning and afternoon.  So important for each of us to take the time to learn new skills; together all things are possible. 

Staff attend an in-service session on Literacy and Conscious Discipline at Robinson SS

Pictured above are pre-K and kindergarten teachers who attended a session on literacy and Conscious Discipline at Robinson Secondary School. Pre-k teachers, pre-k instructional assistants, kindergarten teachers, kindergarten instructional assistants all attended a full-day session, with a spotlight on ELA, numeracy and SEL in Early Learning. All other teachers attended a three-hour, in-person session that focused on high leverage practices in literacy to support the division's continued shift towards scientifically-based literacy instruction. This collaboration leads to innovation and innovation will continue propelling us to becoming that lighthouse division that other school systems continue to watch.

Saturday was beautiful weather for a community back to school event at the Lorton Community Center and Library! Thank you to our community partners, including the Fairfax County Health Department, Community Services Board, Department of Family Services, and Inova Health System for being onsite to assist with immunization appointments, vision and hearing screenings, vaccinations, school supply giveaways, and more.

Superintendent Reid with community members at the Lorton Community Center and Library back to school event

Learning happens best in community and our principals and family partnerships staff work tirelessly to support our students and families as we return to school.  These wonderful partnerships keep us thriving and help give our learners a strong and healthy start to the school year!  The morning kindergarten welcome event at Mason Crest ES was also so inspiring as we welcome the Class of 2036 to FCPS!!

Our transportation team is also working hard to prepare for the start of school, featuring our continued efforts to be carbon neutral by 2040. Below is a photo of staff training on the electric buses. Thank you to our entire transportation team for making sure that the ride to school is safe and friendly. It’s a heavy lift given the traffic and challenges of such a large area to cover, and you all do this work with skill and commitment that is truly appreciated every day; it matters.

FCPS' transportation department training on electric buses

I so appreciate all the work our transportation department did to prepare for the upcoming year.  Each transportation area meeting was filled with great energy and excitement.  Our transportation leaders provided a robust agenda with information that kept staff engaged.  Through the hustle and bustle of getting ready for the first day, everyone is supporting each other to ensure our kids are met with prepared professionals.  Like Transportation Executive Director Francine Furby, I am so proud of our Transportation Super Heroes! As we anticipate a bright new year, I also want to share a way to reflect on the previous year’s moments that made us proud, inspired us, and centered us in this important work! You can read Sharing our Success on our website. 

I often say that our students will lead us. This week, I’d like to share two stories of the ways that our students continue to impress me with their passion and commitment to causes that will better our community.

Superintendent Reid meets with FCPS student about expanding restorative justice

Pictured above is Angelina, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Angelina and I spoke earlier this week about the expansion of restorative justice practices across the county. Restorative justice practice is a philosophy based on a set of principles for responding to harm and wrongdoing that is victim-centered and focuses on offender accountability to those who were harmed, and to the laws or rules that were broken. Restorative justice is a formal process facilitated by trained, skilled facilitators that brings together those impacted by wrongdoing to discuss the incident, understand who has been affected and to create an agreement for reparation of harm. You can read more about the value of Restorative Justice on our website.

Our students are also leading us in keeping our environment healthy. Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources Virginia Naturally (VAN) Schools program recognizes schools for their efforts in promoting learning opportunities for environmental literacy and responsible citizenship. Because this program encourages schools to innovate and build upon their efforts each year (rather than being a one-time award), FCPS has over a dozen schools recognized over multiple years:

  • Rachel Carson Middle School, 2 years
  • Belvedere Elementary School, 8 years
  • Churchill Road Elementary School, 4 years
  • Colvin Run Elementary School, 4 years
  • Daniels Run Elementary School, 15 years!
  • Hunters Woods Elementary School, 2 years
  • Katherine Johnson Middle School, 10 years!
  • Providence Elementary School, 2 years
  • Wolftrap Elementary School, 3 years

This year we have several VAN Schools newcomers:

  • Centreville Elementary School
  • Edison High School 
  • Waples Mill Elementary School
  • Westlawn Elementary School

Edison HS students clean up Kingstowne Lake

At Edison High School, students explored the impact of pollution on the Chesapeake Bay watershed, partnered with the Kingstowne Lake Improvement Association to learn about and help clean up Kingstowne Lake in Alexandria, and took a trip to Huntley Meadows field. Their commitment to our healthy environment continues to inspire me.  Together, all things are possible. 

FCPS students learn about the life cycle of the salamander

At Westlawn Elementary School, students increase their environmental literacy in several ways, including exploring the life cycles of animals such as salamanders that lay their eggs in their vernal pool (pictured above). Families also take field trips after school or on weekends to places such as Huntley Meadows wetlands or the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and the school has a vegetable garden designed by Carol Hunt where students in multiple grades plant, water and weed, harvest, and eat what they sow. Such amazing things are happening across FCPS. This work will build the next generation of stewards for our beautiful planet. Team FCPS’ dedication to environmental literacy and responsible citizenship can be found all across our division – not just in the schools listed above! – so I encourage you to apply for recognition as a VAN School! You can find more information here.

I also applaud our school staff for embracing our Get2Green (G2G) program. Nearly 200 school-based G2G Leaders joined two Kickoff sessions August 10 at Willow Oaks led by four new G2G Resource Teachers. These teachers will support the work of all of our staff in leading student-centered environmental stewardship at their schools. This work matters!

Finally, we center ourselves, take a deep breath and ready our hearts and minds for the start of a new school year. I'd like to leave you with some beautiful words that were shared with me this week. Thank you to Melissa Green, teacher and Matthew Chapman, principal of Marshall Road Elementary for sharing a poem they wrote titled, “You Will Change Lives This Year.”

"You Will Change Lives This Year"
Written by Matthew Chapman and Melissa Green
Marshall Road Elementary – Fairfax County Public Schools

You will change lives this year!
It bears repeating, it all starts with a friendly greeting.
And the motivation to see children achieving.
Because it’s inevitable
Impossible not to build confidence and inspire.
For its our call
our duty to prepare students to dream higher.
You will change lives this year!
It’s what you were made to do!
Encouraging creativity
Cause critical thinking,
promotes ingenuity.
It’s the reason they come here,
To Collaborate,
To Motivate,
and To Belong, to feel like they are a part of something special and super strong.
We all know a student who stays the same is not being educated.
They are now… behind, lacking skills and frustrated.
And that would be a change from where they thought they were going to be.
But you, you have the power to catapult their abilities.
You have the power to instill joy and resonate all the possibilities.

You will change lives this year!
Not someone else.
the person that explores the words
that frees locked minds
that reads
and feed
Band-Aids scraped knees
that shows compassion
who takes action
who provides sight in moments of blindness
models responsibility and kindness
The one who crowns each child to remind them of their natural “highness”
That’s your job, that’s your thing!
You bring the mission and vision
we rely on you for EVERYTHING!
Teach them to sing
To seek
To geek
To appreciate each moment, each hour, each day of the week.
You…but you are not alone.
So when you are unsure of your footing,
And your hands are sweaty,
It’s not just you, the wind, and the wall.
We are all here to prevent your fall!
Because You
You have life changing work to do!
You will change lives this year!
Making moments for the better
A friendly hello and a beautiful smile
Planning all the while
For their needs
and for when they struggle
and how they will proceed
and how they will succeed
and they will succeed
probably after they fail
after you fail
after I fail
and we get up
get up get up get up
to keep climbing
because they WILL, we WILL get up
And try it another way,
there is power in perseverance and in the attitude you portray.

You will change lives this year!
They are starting in one place
In their minds
In their hearts
In their bodies
Which will inevitably grow
Though for some fewer teeth they will have to show
And they’ll forget their hearts when they hurl some words
And forget the thing you showed them seven times ten minutes ago
Because they’re living, breathing, and here for a reason.
They are a reflection of you and the words you choose.
In so many words…
We change
We Re-arrange
We Engage
We open doors that were closed
Doors that thought they couldn’t open
Doors they didn’t know even existed
Don’t get it twisted, we know this work is challenging!
You will change lives this year!
They are not widgets
Or simply data point digits.
The “street data” reminds us they are
Squirrelly and silly,
Loud and loving
Brash and bright
Rising sun and guiding moon light
They are themselves in a process of unfolding and finding
So don’t forget that when you have to calm or correct
Find that gentle re-direct
The little heart behind the big energy or feelings
The living breathing human.
You will change lives this year!
The time is now.
Our work cannot wait.
From 1 to 180
We’re turning the tide
Bolstering their pride
And when ya’ know
Ya’ grow!!
From phonics
To electronics
String by string
Note by note
Track laps and maps
Weather systems and thunderclaps
You make the space the makerspace
Creative place
You accelerate or slow the pace
For the minds
On grinds
To produce
To gather
And stack
Potential fails are the ultimate set up for a comeback
So Be the change
Be the change AGENT
Change hearts
Change minds
Change lives
Let’s be clear
It’s why you are here.

You will change lives this year!

And let the new school year begin….


Warmest regards,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Fairfax County Public Schools