Superintendent's Weekly Reflections

By Dr. Michelle C. Reid
Superintendent's Messages
November 13, 2023

Hello Team FCPS,

I want to start my notes this evening with a 'thank you for your service' to all Fairfax County Public School Division staff who are veterans and have served this amazing country. Secondly, I would like to thank those FCPS staff who are family members of veterans as I understand the sacrifice this entails.

On Monday afternoon I helped celebrate Gatehouse Café Manager Shobana Sen with central office staff and Food and Nutrition Services Executive Director Shaun Sawko. Many members of our FCPS staff family showed up to share our appreciation for Shobi and her team for their service to supporting our FCPS mission driven work; it matters. 

Dr. Reid with FCPS CARES of the Month recipient Shobana Sen

Shobana, who’s been managing Gatehouse Café since 2018, was recently recognized as an FCPS CARES of the Month recipient. Congratulations, Shobana! We are both proud and inspired by you and your work. 

 Dr. Reid at the Silverbrook ES Veterans Day remembrance

On Friday morning I joined students, staff, and veterans at Silverbrook Elementary School for their second annual Veterans Day remembrance. It was wonderful to see how many families and military personnel attended to help celebrate our veterans … and all of the students dressed in patriotic colors! You can watch the highlights of the day on our YouTube hannel.  I especially want to call out Principal Pamela Simpkins, who herself is a veteran!! Thank you for your service. 

 Dr. Reid at the Gatehouse Veterans Day celebration 2023

On Friday afternoon at Gatehouse, I attended a celebration for Veterans Day and for the 248th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. With both Army and Marine veterans in my immediate family, I so appreciate all who attended and helped us honor our nation’s military members. The dedication and commitment of our veterans help our students — and help us all — understand what it means to serve others. 

FCPS employees with photos during their military service

Thank you to Rowlett “Moose” Bruce, retired Navy Commander and FCPS substitute teacher and all of our FCPS staff who are also military veterans. Their dedication to both our country and our students is inspiring! We’re also fortunate to have veterans among our school volunteers, including 91-year-old Navy veteran Captain Harley Stuntz, known as “Captain.” Captain has been volunteering at FCPS for 25 years and says that “Every day is magic!” Watch our video to see how Captain and other veterans at White Oaks ES are making a difference for our youngest learners. Thank you to all of our veterans and their families!

During the Academic Matters segment of Thursday’s School Board meeting, I discussed student attendance and engagement. Chronic absenteeism, which is defined as a student missing 10% or more of school for any reason, is a concern across Virginia school districts. Although FCPS continues to outperform the state average in attendance rates, as seen in the chart below, we are tracking chronic absenteeism closely and stressing the importance of attendance to students and parents while providing a multi-tiered system of intervention.  Thank you one and all who are working on this topic; it matters. 

 Chronic absenteeism data for FCPS vs. Virginia 2016-23

Goal 2 of our 2023-30 strategic plan is creating school environments where students are safe, supported, included, and empowered. Measure D within that goal is student attendance and absenteeism rates. As I shared in the board meeting, attendance is critical for academic success. Data shows that:

  • Missing just 10% of school — just two days a month — negatively affects a student’s academic performance. 
  • Only 17% of students who were chronically absent in both kindergarten and first grade were reading proficiently in third grade, compared to 64% of those with good attendance.
  • Students who fail to read at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely than students who achieve proficiency to drop out of high school.
  • By sixth grade, chronic absenteeism becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.

FCPS’ Multi-Tiered System of Support provides intervention strategies based on a student’s risk for negative educational outcomes based on their attendance. This includes partnering closely with students and families, and implementing individualized attendance success plans. As we start the second quarter of the school year (can’t believe it happened so quickly!), I’m happy to report that we have seen improved attendance so far. Let's continue to stress the importance of strong attendance habits.

During the Superintendent Matters segment of the School Board meeting, I highlighted a few of my recent school visits and several of the important programs that FCPS has in place for supporting families and military-connected students. We had great news last week with the approval of FCPS’ 2023 school bond referendum. Thank you to our Fairfax County community for voting to approve the bond package, which will enable FCPS to break ground on three new schools and renovate 25 others through the next five years. 

Lastly, changes to course designations and curriculum additions were approved during the School Board meeting. Most of the course additions are intended to introduce students to in-demand potential career paths and allow them to begin their postsecondary plans with a solid foundation in whatever future they choose. This includes courses in aircraft and remote piloting, healthcare, AI, welding, and more. Other courses, including JROTC, select journalism courses, and Guitar Ensembles 2, will be given additional GPA weight to account for their rigorous curriculum that goes beyond what is typically taught in public school. FCPS is also recommending that our Cybersecurity Fundamentals course become part of our standard curriculum so that all high school students have the opportunity to broaden their cybersecurity awareness. I’m excited for these new courses and how they’ll help prepare our learners for careers that don’t yet exist!

Finally, I’d like to share two student success stories.

McLean HS softball player Riley

Congratulations to McLean High School sophomore Riley Staats, who represented Team USA at the recent WBSC U-15 Women’s Softball World Cup in Japan. With Riley’s help, Team USA won the championship and defeated Puerto Rico 3-0. Watch Riley’s video to hear what this win means for her and other student athletes. Go Highlanders! 

Congratulations also to Yordanose Moges, a senior at West Potomac High School, who has been appointed to the Virginia State Board of Education’s Student Advisory Board! Yordanose has been recognized for exceptional leadership and will be one of eight high school students providing the board a student perspective on education-related issues in Virginia. Go Wolverines!

On Friday evening I helped celebrate the 70th anniversary of Cameron Elementary School, home of the Cheetahs (formerly the Cobras). Thank you to Principal Eric Johnson and his staff in making this such a memorable event. I’m so inspired by the way that Cameron educators and staff foster a diverse global community. I was also so inspired by all those former students and staff members who took the time to be present and be a part of commemorating the event; it matters. 

 Dr. Reid at the Cameron ES 70th anniversary

As I shared with those at the celebration, each wild cheetah has different spots and a unique pattern. Some cheetahs have more stripes, some have splotches, some even have freckles instead of spots. Each cheetah is different, but they’re all cheetahs. The same is true for Cameron ES Cheetahs, and for all of us at FCPS. Though we’re all different, we all have the same mission. And by celebrating and learning about our unique cultures, languages, and traditions, we grow stronger, and we grow closer. Go Team FCPS! And go Cheetahs!

Saturday morning I attended the Great Falls Freedom Memorial Veterans Day Ceremony. It was a great opportunity to honor our veterans and enjoy our FCPS students as they participated in this event. Our Scouts presented the colors and we had several FCPS student vocalists provide music for those gathered. 

Great Falls Freedom Memorial Veterans Day ceremony 2023

Saturday afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend the matinee of the Justice High School production of Beauty and the Beast with Principal Tiffany Narcisse. While I missed the character party ;>), I heard it was a great event hosted by our Justice HS students in costume. I was so impressed and inspired by the actors and musicians who put on this musical. I enjoyed the story, old as time ;>), and appreciated the efforts of all involved in producing this entertaining production. I do remember my one and only role in a play being that of a tree (no moving, no speaking, and no singing ;>) )

Justice HS production of Beauty and the Beast

Saturday evening, I attended the 16th Annual Arts Teacher Exhibition titled The Collective in conjunction with the Workhouse Arts Center. This was a tremendous event and well attended by appreciative fans. The arts are so integral to a world class education. 

Later Saturday evening I had the opportunity to attend the Marshall HS production of The Laramie Project. I was so impressed with the quality of the performance and the commitment to a story so poignantly shared. 

 Marshall HS production of The Laramie Project

Theatre teacher Bernie DeLeo inspired the ensemble to thoughtfully present this story. According to Bernie, “the script is an examination of a tragedy that is 25 years old as of last month, and it is still sadly relevant in the current political climate.  But theater can also be educational and enlightening. Fear comes from ignorance, and maybe, just maybe, if this play opens some eyes, unhardens some hearts, and changes some attitudes, our students will be putting some good out there in the universe.” I agree and thank you for your service Bernie; it matters. 

Finally, as this weekend we celebrate Veteran’s Day, I would ask each of you to pause sometime during the coming days to think about and thank those who have served our country so valiantly, and remember the many sacrifices made on our behalf. It is so true that we are free because of the brave. And from a former Commander in Chief, let's remember "We are of course a nation of differences. Those differences don’t make us weak. They’re the source of our strength." -- Jimmy Carter.

Warmest regards,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Fairfax County Public Schools