Superintendent's Weekly Reflections

By Dr. Michelle C. Reid
Superintendent's Messages
September 04, 2023

Hello Team FCPS,

As the sun rose this morning, I was once again struck by the beauty of this season. We have so much to be grateful for each and every day. As I reflect on our first two weeks of school, I remain grateful for each of you and your dedication to this critical mission driven work, it matters. 

As we traverse this long holiday weekend, let's be mindful of the meaning behind Labor Day (celebrated since 1894) which honors the labor movement in our country and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of this great nation. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.- “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” Thank you for all that each of you do each and every day to support our students, families, and one another, as we here in Our House continue to stay resolutely focused on excellence, equity, and opportunity for each and every student in FCPS. 

During our recent School Board meeting, I shared highlights from FCPS’ 2023 Summer Programming — I’m proud to say that Team FCPS had a productive, engaging summer break!  Many grateful thanks to all who were a part of the summer educational journey. 

FCPS 2023 Summer Program participant numbers

This includes a number of different programs geared towards credit recovery, Career and Technical Education (CTE), summer graduation, and artistic pursuits. Our Summer Programming participants included:

  • 4,104 students from preschool to age 22 in Special Education Extended School Year Services
  • 12,119 elementary and middle school students who participated in mathematics and reading instruction, the Young Scholars program, the Bridge to Kindergarten program, Portrait of a Graduate Presentations of Learning (POG-POL), project-based learning, and a Book-Give-Away for middle schoolers
  • 2,498 high school students in our Credit Recovery Academy
  • 4,368 middle and high school students in our online campus summer program who earned 4,242 credits across 21 courses!
  • 262 English Learners in our online English language development program who honed their English reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills
  • 1,438 rising third through twelfth graders who delved into music, art, theater, and more in our Institute for the Arts (IFTA) and Elementary-IFTA programs
  • 1,780 students in our CTE Summer Camps who explored careers and enriched their vocational skills
  • 123 summer graduates who earned their high school diplomas!

I’m so inspired by everyone on Team FCPS who took part in a summer program and what they were able to accomplish in just a few short weeks’ time! Whether earning a high school diploma or finding an artistic passion, summer programs help our learners create lifelong foundations for success.

On Thursday I also had the opportunity to share an update about our 2023-30 strategic plan, our North Star for aligning on excellence, equity, and opportunity for each and every one of our learners. FCPS’ Department of Strategy, Planning, and Learning was established to lead the work around our strategic plan and other division-wide efforts.

In the coming months, I’ll be reporting our progress towards our student-centered goals to Team FCPS. The tentative timeline is as follows:

  • October ‘23: Goal 3 - Academic Growth and Excellence
  • November ‘23: Goal 2 - Safe, Supported, Included, and Empowered
  • December ‘23: Goal 1 - Strong Start
  • February ‘24: Goal 4 - Equitable Access and Opportunity
  • March ‘24: Goal 5 - Leading for Tomorrow’s Innovation

I’m so excited to be bringing you updates and encourage you to learn more by visiting our strategic planning webpage

It was great to have the opportunity to attend several Back to School nights this past week. Monday, I visited Longfellow MS for their informational evening event. Principal Jim Patrick was an enthusiastic champion of the many student and staff accomplishments. It was an exciting evening as I visited classrooms and chatted with students, staff, and parents. I was particularly excited about hearing the passion and focus on increasing the number of students successfully completing Algebra 1 prior to students transitioning to high school. This is important work as we know that students who successfully complete Algebra 1 in 8th grade are twice as likely to attend post-secondary educational opportunities. 

Another important topic highlighted during my visit was the AVID program and its impact at Longfellow.  School based Technology Specialist Mary Reid shared how the AVID program supports curricular work in all content areas. I resolutely believe we must maintain high expectations for each and every student and this requires high support. AVID is a great example of high support.

Tuesday evening I had the opportunity to attend the Great Falls ES Back to School event. This was a very well attended evening of information and excitement. I had the opportunity to visit with the PTA, students, staff, and parents.

Dr. Reid at the Great Falls ES Back to School event

Principal Sara Harper shared her passion for all things educational as we toured the classrooms and visited with attendees. Learning happens best in community and we are grateful for our PTA support in the schools. Go Roadrunners!!

Wednesday evening, I attended the Back to School night at Sunrise Valley ES. It was an exciting well attended evening event. Principal Kevin West toured me through a number of classrooms and presentations. In visiting with students, staff, and parents, there is definitely a strong sense of expectation as the new year begins. 

Following the Back to School Night excitement, I attended the Madison HS vs. Marshall HS Volleyball game. Madison HS Principal Liz Calvert shared her excitement for the Warhawk athletic competition.  The gym was packed and the athletic play was fabulous.  It was definitely a hard fought match between two well matched and talented teams. Well played!!

This week also brought a visit by Cox Communications Northern Virginia Vice-President (and FCPS alum) Kathryn Falk. Kathryn brought their new Digital Equity Spokesperson Malcolm Mitchell, a former New England Patriot, to visit. They were able to touch about 350 students with a message of resilience, respect and the importance of reading as a life skill.

Digital Equity Spokesperson Malcolm Mitchel speaking with FCPS students

Malcolm visited with Belvedere Elementary 5th grade PE classes, Montrose Alternative Middle School where he met with students and shared his own story of coming back after making bad decisions, and Annandale High School where he met with the 9th grade PE classes. Along the way he shared a message of resiliency, respect and the importance of reading and digital literacy.  

Finally, the ribbon cutting at the Annandale Boys & Girls Club Innovation Lab with Lloyd Tucker, Supervisor Walkinshaw, Delegate Vivian Watts, Jim Almond, SVP of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and of course, most importantly our students.

Here is a link to a news story about the event Annandale Boys & Girls Club gets $20,000 worth of new technology from Cox | Annandale Today. This is a great example of learning happening best in community and we remain grateful for our community partners and their impact on the success of our work in shaping the future. 

In thinking about how learning happens best in community, on Sunday morning I joined several FCPS leaders at the First Baptist Church of Vienna at the invitation of Pastor Dr. Vernon C. Walton, to celebrate and contemplate that school is back in session and the opportunities we all have for learning this year. The morning was focused on the return to school and many of our students were part of leading aspects of the service. It is a great reminder on the importance of education and the importance of community support; together all things are possible. 

Dr Reid at the First Baptist Church of Vienna back to school event

During the first week of school, I had the honor of tossing the coin on the newly renovated football field at Falls Church High School’s football game against Chantilly High School. The new Jaguar home turf is just one of the many renovations underway at the FCHS campus. I know that many of you, in a wide variety of our schools, have opened the year under renovation and know how much more effort this takes. I very much appreciate you and your resilience in working through renovation challenges and opportunities; it matters. 

Dr. Reid tossing a coin at the Falls Church HS football field

It was a wonderfully spirited game, but it also reminded me of something that American poet (and Sandburg Middle School namesake!) Carl Sandburg said. On his 85th birthday celebration in 1963, he was quoted as saying: “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

As we settle into the rhythms of the new school year, let’s remember to be mindful of how we’re spending our time. We often find ourselves busily humming along, crossing items off of our to-do lists (if we are particularly productive ;>) … but it’s important to take moments for ourselves to reflect. Let’s take stock of what we’re spending our time on and make sure we’re aligning our actions with our beliefs and intentions.

In looking forward to the rest of our Labor Day, I hope you will find a joyful way to make time and space for family and friends; these are our best days…

All the best and take good care,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Fairfax County Public Schools