Superintendent's Weekly Reflections

By Dr. Michelle C. Reid
Superintendent's Messages
October 23, 2023

Hello Team FCPS,

During our recent All County Principals Meeting, I shared how much I enjoyed watching the sunrise each day, some days more discernable than others. It is such a great reminder of the season's rhythms and the potential for good each and every new day. I so appreciate our collective efforts for good each day; it matters. 

Sunrise over Bryant HS

Thank you to Karen Hertel, principal at Bryant High School. Karen shared that she often takes photos in the mornings of Bryant’s beautiful view as the sun comes up over the nearby Potomac River. A wonderful way to start the day with a splash of beauty and appreciation! Do you have any special routines or habits that help you get ready for the day? I’d love to hear about them! Especially as the days are getting shorter and colder, those little pick-me-ups can help keep us mindful and connected. 

Monday and Tuesday, I hosted the last of this season’s Employee Conversations at Hughes Middle School and Langley High School. As always, it was my pleasure as a listening leader to hear from you. Thank you to everyone who brought their questions, concerns, comments, and ideas. And thank you to Hughes for providing fresh (and delicious) popcorn for those in attendance! One recurring theme has been how we can better support and retain everyone on Team FCPS. If you weren’t able to attend an Employee Conversation yet, more opportunities will be available in the spring. I look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday morning I started my day at Terraset Elementary School. Its design is unusual, as you enter the school from the second floor. I was greeted by Principal Lindsay Trout (who will soon be a new Executive Principal for Region 1) and excited student ambassadors. We spent time in Maggie Johnson’s kindergarten classroom learning about the conscious discipline program.

Dr. Reid with a student at Terraset ES

This program helps teachers integrate social-emotional learning, discipline, and student self-regulation, so teachers spend less time policing behavior and more time teaching vital life skills. Everyone in the classroom is ready to handle any conflict that arises with love and empathy so that all students can learn. I had a chance to be a part of the class morning meeting, as well as Tickle Me Tuesday, in which the students get a chance to share their best jokes. I wish I could start my day every day this way! Go Tigers!

After Terraset ES, I made my way to Clearview Elementary School, led by Principal Stephanie Almquist. I was greeted there by excited student ambassadors. I was able to visit preschool classes, including a pre-school autism class, an early childhood special education class, an early head start class, and a pre-K class with inclusion.

Dr. Reid with students and staff at Clearview ES

The work of these dedicated educators helps set up students for success as they progress in their academic careers. I also got a chance to see one of our tutors in action, helping a small group of students who need additional support. Go Yellow Jackets!

I have an update on FCPS’ high-impact tutoring program, which began in May and provides targeted instruction and remediation for students before, during, and/or after the school day. Our highly qualified tutors (which currently include former teachers, school administrators, medical doctors, lawyers, NASA scientists, professors, and small business owners) are paid $48.58/hour and, once trained, paired with students most in need of their support. We currently have 161 tutors in approximately 60 of our schools and are working to expand this program. FCPS contracted employees are eligible to tutor before or after their work day. Non-exempt operational employees and employees in positions such as substitute or homebound teaching are also eligible, provided that combined (primary position plus tutoring) hours worked do not exceed 40 hours per week. If you’re interested, I encourage you to apply by visiting this link. Together, we’re helping our students reach their academic potential!

On Tuesday evening I joined a Zoom meeting for the Fairfax County Council of PTAs (FCCPTA). The FCCPTA has more than 10,000 local educators and members from more than 170 local PTAs throughout the entire county of Fairfax. Learning happens best in community, and the support of teachers and families helps keep FCPS a lighthouse school division. This work matters!

Later Tuesday evening, I joined our Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax County Athletic Council in celebrating and honoring students, parents, and coaches across the county as a part of the 2023 Stephen A. McLaughlin Champions of Character Awards. It was an inspiring evening for sure!!

On Wednesday, I met with this year’s Supporting the Mission (STM) cohort to congratulate them and answer their questions about my role and our division. STM is a time-honored cornerstone of leadership development within FCPS, designed to familiarize participants with the mission and goals of each of our departments, offices, and regions, to explore leadership competencies, and to tackle equity challenges in the division.

Dr. Reid meets with the 2023 Supporting the Mission cohort

As one of the largest school districts in the nation, it’s quite the undertaking! The cohort is made up of 40 teacher leaders, assistant principals, instructional and operational central office administrators. Matthew Johnson, assistant principal at Lewis High School, and Melissa Russell, director of payroll, co-facilitate the cohort and the program is managed by Tiffany Lee, educational specialist for Leadership Development. As I shared with the cohort, our shared legacy is to prepare each and every one of our students for a future yet to be determined. STM — and the way it enables an understanding of the people, the work, and the challenges of our entire division —  is important to creating and maintaining this legacy. Thank you to all who support and participate in this important transformational leadership work; it matters. 

On Wednesday I visited the McLean Community Center to meet with and answer questions from students. It was just as lively and engaging as last year’s visit — I’m always impressed by how sharp and inquisitive our young people are! Learning happens best in community and our students definitely benefit from our strong community.

Thursday was the All County Principals Meeting (ACPM) — perfect timing for Principal Appreciation Month! ;>) During the meeting, we gave updates on two important FCPS initiatives.  The first is Instructional Rounds, which is a method to align school divisions by observing and debriefing on instructional practices at individual schools. I am thrilled that so many schools have volunteered to be a part of the early rounds. The goal is for FCPS to see how our wonderful educators are doing your best work, so that as a division we can then support and share these innovative practices with each and every one of our students. 

The second initiative is our Restorative Justice Program’s new Responsible Pathway to Restorative Justice Facilitation. This pathway program will enable trained and endorsed members of Team FCPS to operate as school-based restorative justice facilitators. By this time next year, our goal is to have two of these facilitators in each of our schools. I’m thrilled about this program and how it will support us to provide excellence, equity, and opportunity for each and every one of our students, especially those impacted by discipline disparities.  As I shared with the principals on Thursday, I know there likely are a lot of questions about these two initiatives! More information on our Instructional Rounds and the Responsible Pathway to Restorative Justice Facilitation will be made available in the coming weeks; stay tuned! 

Last week, I mentioned the 40th anniversary of the Davis Career Center. During the celebration, a first-year Davis student named Christian was invited to perform by Principal Chad Clayton. Below is a video of Christian playing the piano and singing “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban. You can view his amazing performance here — fair warning, it’s an amazing and inspiring performance! Christian’s dad shared that Christian taught himself to play piano before he could talk and the family discovered he has perfect pitch when he began singing with his fourth grade chorus. With much love and support, Christian began his singing career while he was at Sunrise Valley Elementary School and continued throughout his time in Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School. He recently graduated from South Lakes, where he earned All-District honors for all four years! Christian’s future goals are to be a singer, voice actor, and Broadway performer. With support from his family, he currently has a voice-over audition lined up to be part of an animated Hollywood feature film. Bravo, Christian! We can’t wait to hear you on the big screen! ;>) Thank you to Christian’s family for sharing and for the wonderful reminder of how high each and every one of our students can soar when they’re given the opportunity to spread their wings and chase their dreams… Just like the lyrics from Christian’s performance — “You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains.” 

FCPS students performing at the Langley HS Choir’s Fall Concert

Thursday evening was the Langley High School Choir’s Fall Concert, which featured choirs, a chamber orchestra, and soloists. I’m told that the pipe organ you can see in the background of the picture above is one of the largest in the United States. Even so, it was no match for the pipes (and musical talents!) of our students!  Principal Kim Greer and School Board Chair Elaine Tholen joined me in applauding the incredible performance of these young vocalists and musicians. I continue to be so inspired by the talents of our students and staff. Go Saxons!

On Friday morning I toured the Fairfax Junior Achievement (JA) of Greater Washington Finance Park with School Board member Tammy Derenak Kaufax. This is such an important FCPS partnership program as middle school students across the division learn about the importance of financial matters in a realistic simulation. Key Middle School Principal Drew Campbell dropped by to share his thoughts as students from Key MS were in attendance learning together with our community partners.

Dr. Reid at the Fairfax Junior Achievement (JA) of Greater Washington Finance Park

Finance Park opened its doors on the grounds of Frost Middle School in 2010 and is visited by more than 14,000 FCPS middle schoolers each year. JA Finance Parks provide an innovative, experiential way for students to connect today’s decisions to tomorrow’s success by teaching them about financial literacy and educational/career choices. Partnerships like these are an important part of equipping our young people with the tools and perspectives they need to reach their full potential.

Friday evening was a rainy Fairfax High School homecoming football game. Albeit a wet evening, more suited to Ducks than Rams and Lions, the teams played hard and the fans enjoyed a great game. I also appreciated the marching band, dance team and cheer teams as they shared their gifts and excitement as well. Friday night lights are alive and well here in FCPS.

Dr. Reid with students at the Fairfax HS 2023 homecoming football game

Congratulations to Paul Naanou, a teacher at Falls Church High School and recipient of the 2023-24 Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Research Program! Each Fulbright recipient is awarded the opportunity to pursue a months-long professional development experience — Paul is headed to the Netherlands!

Paul shares that “I am eager to embark on my research project and collaborate with exceptional mathematics educators and esteemed researchers in mathematics education at the University of Utrecht. “My project will focus on the curriculum reform that the Netherlands implemented in 2011, which aimed to establish national problem-solving standards and assess these skills through their national exams. During my stay, I will study various Dutch math teacher preparation programs, observe math classrooms at both elementary and secondary levels, and seek to identify effective instructional and curricular practices for nurturing self-assured problem solvers.”

“Additionally, I plan to deliver guest lectures at Utrecht University to share insights gained from my own classroom experiments, fostering international partnerships that FCPS and I can leverage to advance our approach to math instruction. I have also registered for the International Math Education conference in Rome in April to further expand my learning and share experiences on a larger platform.” Go Team FCPS!

Be sure to tune in later this week for the inaugural WBSC U-15 Women’s Softball World Cup, where McLean High School sophomore Riley Staats will be helping Team USA battle for their third gold medal! In the photo below (courtesy of USA Softball), she’s the one holding the trophy ;>) 

The U-15 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team at the Pan American Championships

Riley is the only player from Virginia to represent Region 2 on the U-15 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team and made her national team debut last year at the Pan American Championships in Lima, Peru. She’ll be competing in Tokyo, Japan later this month. Click here to find out where you can watch. Go Riley!

Well this afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend the Chantilly HS theatre production of Lord of the Flies.  Whew, what a great performance — deeply moving and provocative. I continue to be so impressed and inspired by the many talents of our students here in FCPS and I so appreciate the efforts of our educators who teach into these gifts and skills; it matters. 

With the week ahead fast approaching, I’m reflecting; “The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been kindness, beauty and truth.”  — Albert Einstein. As we head into this fall week ahead, please continue to enjoy the colors of the changing season and the warmth of friends and family.  

Take good care,

Warmest regards,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Fairfax County Public Schools