Superintendent's Weekly Reflections
Hello Team FCPS,
What an incredible first week of school! I want to thank each of you for all that you continue to do in supporting a world class educational experience for each and every one of our students; it matters. I have heard from so many students and parents about how grateful they are to be a part of our FCPS family. Learning happens best in community and ours remains strong!!
I kicked off the first day of school bright and early Monday morning at Herndon High School (at 4:45 am), followed by Robinson Secondary School. From there, it was a quick trip to Fairfax and Edison high schools. I enjoyed being part of the first day of school traditions across our division.
From senior sunrises to early morning donut and coffee trips, Team FCPS sure knows how to start the school year off on a special note! A special shout out to the talented cheerleaders, mascots, and marching band members. They were among the very first to arrive at the schools I visited, and still had enough energy and enthusiasm to lift the spirits of even our grumpiest night owls!
Later in the day, I stopped by Annandale Terrace, Fort Hunt, Hollin Meadows, Springfield Estates, Mosaic, and Fairhill elementary schools. I was impressed by how many people I saw biking or walking to school. What a great way to enjoy the beautiful morning and work off some first day jitters — for both students and their family members! ;>)
Inside, our youngest learners were buzzing about the new salad bars, full of healthy fruits and veggies to keep the energy up for learning. It is exciting to know that we have salad bars in all of our schools this year and are committed to more scratch cooking in our central kitchens. I also learned a great deal about our resilience as students and staff work through renovation challenges and still provide a world class education experience for each and every student.
My heart beats strongest in schools, so I was back out Tuesday morning at Frost Middle School and then on to Falls Church High School, and then Louise Archer, Flint Hill, and Providence elementary schools. County Executive Bryan Hill joined me for some of the visits. At Frost, librarian Danielle Powers showed me around the new library which has become “the hub of the school.”
The new library is an active, learning-centered environment with an emphasis on flexible, multi-use spaces designed to engage students, allowing them to collaborate or work independently, browse for books, and participate in learning. Mobile shelving and new furniture allow staff to modify the space based on need, whether the library is being used for reading, teaching, guest speaker events, or book fairs. Frost students are thrilled at their new space. Eighth grader Michael says the library gives him “endless books and endless possibilities!” Besides a tour of the wonderful library, I was also invited to join Frost teacher Hannah Warnick and her students for an icebreaker activity, featuring the photo below.
Which squirrel are you? After being at an “8” all week for back to school, it was nice to spend some time this weekend at a “5”! Thank you to Hannah and her class for sharing — it was a great opportu-nut-y! ;>)
During my stop at Louise Archer Elementary School, Dilip, the project manager, showed me how the renovations will add more than 104,000 square feet to the school. The modular will be removed, and the library and classrooms will be modernized. Thank you to Principal Michelle Makrigiorgos and her staff for their resilience and flexibility in starting the school year under renovation. Go Suns!!
Louise Archer and Frost are just a few of the FCPS facilities currently being renovated through our Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The CIP, which is funded through taxpayer-approved bond referendums, will enable FCPS to break ground on three new schools and renovate 25 others through 2028. The next school bond will be on the ballot Tuesday, November 7. The projects in this bond package will ensure that each and every FCPS student has an opportunity to learn and grow in world-class facilities. You can learn more about by checking the progress of our currently funded projects and watching our video explaining how school bonds help keep our schools safe, healthy, and up-to-date. Thank you to the young learners from Pine Spring Elementary School who can even make a bond sound fun!
Later in the day, I visited Willow Springs Elementary School, where I was greeted by Principal Dylan Taylor, his administrative team, and student government leaders Baya, Camden, and Echan. Our first stop was the school’s garden, where students grow many different plants such as pumpkins, tomatoes, basil, sunflowers, and lamb’s ear.
The students harvest the vegetables and work with a local farm to do a farmer’s market at dismissal on Fridays. Everything looked delicious! Next, I met with students Ashvin, Yaesung, and Bailey, and their teacher Logan Williams, who created a recycling video that won the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and JASON Learning Youth Recycling Contest last year. The topic of their video was “Why Should we Recycle Steel?” You can see their outstanding work for yourselves online.
Finally, I met with students Baya, Natalie, Madeliene, and Antonella, who help create the school’s podcast, Willow Waves. They showed me the studio where the podcasts are made, as well as the equipment. I’ll be back to tape an episode with them!
I then made the trip to Bull Run Elementary with Principal Jason Pensler. I stopped by the second grade classroom of Hila Nalamothou, where students were working on reading. Next, I went to the art classroom of Luanne Inn, where I could see the excitement of the students who were doing a scavenger hunt to learn about the classroom resources.
Before heading off to Daniels Run Elementary School, I watched as Carolyn Frank and Kathryn Charlton’s third grade students worked on their flipbook about the day they were born. Skyler Borer and Julianne Trimble’s fourth grade classes, meanwhile, were hard at work writing “The Story of My Life.” This type of introspection and empathy-building is invaluable as our young people are navigating their way into an increasingly interconnected world. Our students will lead us!
The back-to-school excitement was still running strong Thursday when I visited Groveton Elementary School for their Back to School night! I remain so grateful for all the staff that put so many hours into working with our families to support students success. These family partnerships are critical to our collective success.
At Groveton I was inspired by the young learners who had written down their hopes and dreams for the year. As I visited classrooms, I heard so many positive comments from families about the work being done to support students; together all things are possible.
I’m sure these students wouldn’t mind if we borrowed some of these goals for ourselves — we could all use a reminder to be better friends and helpers! Our students will continue to lead us in ways both large and small…
Thank you to everyone on Team FCPS — each and every one of you helped us have a strong and energetic start to our 2023-24 school year! Thank you to our students who came ready and eager to learn and to our families who helped prepare them for another year of academic success. And a big thank you to our educators and leadership team who will be implementing our bold new 2023-30 strategic plan this year! By aligning on excellence, equity, and opportunity, we’re supporting the unique potential of each and every one of our learners. Together all things are possible!
The drive and initiative of our students never fail to inspire me! A Langley High School student named Sonia recently reached out to share with me that she started a non-profit related to the Virginia Page Program, which provides students with legislative experience as pages in the Senate and House of Delegates. As pages, middle and high schoolers develop their leadership skills, expand their civic knowledge, and gain valuable insight into the legislative process. Sonia’s non-profit is called the Youth Advocates Initiative (YAI) and includes former Virginia pages. Sonia says she started the YAI because her experience as a Virginia page was “life-changing” and she’d like more students in FCPS to have the resources and information they need to apply. Sonia and her team have big plans for YAI to increase interest among Virginia youth in the House of Delegates and Senate Page Programs.
I encourage you to learn more about the program and application here. Kudos to Sonia and YAI for wanting other FCPS students to have the same enriching opportunities that they did! I’m looking forward to learning more about YAI’s work in the coming months.
Let’s give a round of applause for the FCPS teachers who received awards at the annual Virginia Technology and Engineering Education Association (VTEEA) Summer Conference! This includes:
- Hayfield Secondary School’s Peter Beczkiewicz: Virginia Middle School Engineering Teacher of the Year award
- Luther Jackson Middle School’s Mark Smith and Roni Breza: Virginia Middle School Engineering Program of the Year award
- Chantilly High School’s Susan Chudovan and Michael Piccione: Virginia High School Engineering Program of the Year award
These awards recognize outstanding technology and engineering education teachers, programs, and professionals who promote and encourage STEM. This work matters!
My apologies for a bit of confusion last week on the photos that I shared – the wonderful salamander life cycle lesson had taken place at Westlawn Elementary School, not Centreville Elementary School. Go Soaring Eagles!
Friday evening I had an opportunity to visit the Wolftrap ES community as they celebrated their Wolftrap Under the Stars event. As I have frequently shared, learning happens best in community and Friday evening, the Wolftrap ES community was remarkably strong and connected. It was great to visit with staff, students, and families on such a beautiful late summer evening.
Principal Maggie Grove shared, “Wolftrap Under the Stars is sponsored by our PTA, and it is a much anticipated tradition, where families and staff gather to celebrate the new school year. In addition to current students, we also welcome alumni and neighborhood residents, so it is truly a community event.”
Finally, Friday evening I had the opportunity to join Falls Church HS Principal Dr. Ben Nowak and his staff as they welcomed the Chantilly HS football team and crowd to the newly renovated football field in Falls Church. Go Jaguars!!
It was a great late summer evening of football. The dance and cheer teams were energetic and the marching band sounded great. It is often easy to take evenings of this nature for granted. The reality is that these events take so many staff and the commitment of time and resources to support a safe and healthy event that the community can enjoy. Thank you to all who support these events; they matter.
And so, … Wow, what a smooth start to another epic school year we have had this week. As I have been out in the schools, I have been so moved by the intentional ways in which we are welcoming students and families to our learning communities. Further, our staff, in many different roles, and in ways large and small, are taking that extra time and putting that extra effort into making this start special for all involved. We continue to resolutely focus on our bold strategic plan and are convinced that this is the year we have planned and prepared for and now we have the unique privilege of living our plan... As it is so often said, “Purpose is the reason you journey. Passion is the fire that lights the way.” ... loving the passion out there -- in Our House .... Thank you!
Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Fairfax County Public Schools