Superintendent's Weekly Reflections

By Dr. Michelle C. Reid
Superintendent's Messages
January 08, 2024

Hello Team FCPS,

As I think about this amazing new year and all it has to offer each of us, I am reminded of the many opportunities that are ahead of us. In particular, I think about all that is going well and all that could go better.  It also brings to mind thoughts that are top of mind… “If you don’t like the road you're walking, start paving a new one.” -- Dolly Parton. I look forward to the new roads we will walk together…

This beautiful West Coast sunset was sent to me by Elaine Tholen, who served as our School Board’s Dranesville District representative and most recently as Board Chair. Thank you, Elaine, for the photo! And thank you to Elaine and all of our other former board members for their years of service to our school division. Their work has helped shape the future of FCPS and we are a better division for their efforts. 

West Coast sunset photo

The first regularly scheduled School Board meeting of 2024 will take place this coming Thursday. We have a number of new board members — I hope you’ll join me in welcoming them and in some cases, welcoming them back! I can’t wait to continue collaborating with our board as we continue to realize our 2023-30 Strategic Plan

I know that I’m not the only one excited to be back into the swing of the School Board, as on Tuesday afternoon I met with our school year 2023-24 School Board student representative, Rida Karim. Rida’s role on our School Board is an important one, as she presents the concerns and priorities of young people across our division during our meetings’ Student Representative Matters segment. I’m grateful for the work she does to elevate FCPS’ student voice and am always energized by the enthusiasm she has for her role! 

Congratulations to our incredible schools, students, and members of Team FCPS for all of their hard work in the first half of this school year! Here are just some of the organizations that have awarded, recognized, or given grants to FCPS staff or students in the last five months:

  • All-Virginia Elementary Orff Ensemble
  • All-Virginia Jazz Band
  • AP School Honor Roll
  • Capital Emmys
  • Chesapeake School Public Relations Association
  • Fairfax County Police Department
  • FCPD students
  • FCPS Excellence and FCPS CARES Awards
  • Fred Rogers Institute, “Helper Award”
  • Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Research Program
  • International Baccalaureate’s (IB) Global Youth Action Fund
  • National Merit Commended Scholars
  • National Merit Semifinalists
  • National YoungArts Foundation Competition
  • U.S. News & World Report’s public high school rankings
  • Virginia Association of School Librarians
  • Virginia Board of Education Exemplar Award
  • Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Council on the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children’s Purple Star Schools
  • Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources’ Virginia Naturally Schools program
  • Virginia High School League
  • Virginia Junior Classical League
  • Virginia Music Educators Association Senior Honors Choir
  • Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium's Dedicated Leader Award
  • Virginia State Board of Education’s Student Advisory Board
  • Virginia Technology and Engineering Education Association 
  • Washington Post All-Met Sports

These are all wonderful achievements! And alongside them, we have a multitude of other accomplishments throughout our division — the everyday moments that make a difference … a student overcoming a roadblock, an educator sparking curiosity, community members making lifelong connections. Big and small, these moments matter! As we look back on the last calendar year, our Office of Communications has compiled FCPS’ most shining moments month by month. From students defying the odds and graduating from high school to young innovators building the future of sustainable agriculture, I continue to be inspired by how our community comes together to achieve greatness! As the American writer Sarah Josepha Hale wrote, “What has made this nation great? Not its heroes but its households.” That includes Our House, here in FCPS! 

And thank you to all who have shared your time, voices, ideas, and talents with me in the first half of this school year over the course of:

  • 10 community and employee conversations
  • 26 meetings or roundtables with school-based leaders, PTAs, educator associations, veterans, business or faith-based leaders, and legislative, non-profit, or community partners
  • 60 school-based events, including visits, athletic events, theater productions, and musical performances

As a listening leader, I’m grateful for our engaged community we nurture here in Fairfax County and am looking forward to continuing this work! I’m excited to let you know that we have finalized dates for this spring’s Employee Conversations, which are open to all FCPS staff:

  • Wednesday, April 3, from 6:30-8 p.m. at Fairfax Villa Elementary School
  • Thursday, April 4, from 6:30-8 p.m. at Braddock Elementary School
  • Monday, April 8, from 4:30-6 p.m. at South County Middle School
  • Monday, April 15, from 4:30-6 p.m. at Frost Middle School

Keep an eye out for the forthcoming registration links and be sure to bring your questions, concerns, comments, and ideas! If your question or contribution is from a family or community partner perspective, I hope you’ll join us for our Community Conversations, which will begin in mid-April. You can view those events here

This Wednesday, January 10, we will be hosting a special Community Conversation about opioid awareness from 6:30-8 p.m. at Edison High School. All attendees will receive a free REVIVE! Narcan training during the event and learn about support services currently available within FCPS and Fairfax County. Registration isn’t required but is helpful for space considerations. It’s important to remember that this issue affects all of us, no matter how removed we may think we are from it. If you haven’t yet watched it, the Fosters, an FCPS family, recently shared the heartbreaking story of their late son Cayden.

Their experience puts into perspective just how close this issue is for all of us in FCPS. Cayden was a young man with a bright future, on track to graduate from Centreville High School last year and then head off to college. He didn’t show any signs of engaging in risky behavior or substance use. Just half a pill ended his life when Cayden mistakenly took a painkiller that turned out to be fentanyl. His story is tragic and eye-opening. As his family shared with me, “We were those parents that thought we were safe.”  I do hope you’ll join us for Wednesday’s opioid awareness event as we come together to protect our children, our students, and our community from the deadly impacts of fentanyl and substance misuse.

I had several opportunities to discuss and share ideas with our principals this week, including a roundtable with principals who have three or more years of experience on Wednesday morning and meetings with the Middle School Principals Association and the High School Principals Association on Friday. As school leaders, principals have unique insight into helping keep our staff and students connected, engaged, and thriving.  

We also hosted our Superintendent Teacher Advisory Council meeting on Thursday afternoon to answer questions and hear concerns from many of our incredible educators. As a division, empowering our teachers to do their best work enables our students to find their brightest futures. Lifting up Team FCPS isn’t just important to me as a listening leader, it’s also Pillar C (Diverse, Adaptive, and Supported Workforce) of our 2023-30 Strategic Plan. This work matters! 

We had a recent Fairfax Inspires moment, courtesy of FCPS’ Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) team, led by Executive Director Shaun Sawko, for helping our community partners in a time of need! This week, there was a warehouse fire in Alexandria. While no one was hurt (other than a responding firefighter who was treated for a minor injury), there was extensive damage to the warehouse. This has left several local Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) Community Centers, Head Start/Day Care Centers, Senior Centers, and Adult Day Health Centers without a food supply. Team FCPS jumped in to action. 

Our FNS team began coordinating with the Fairfax County Government for FCPS to contract meals for them through at least next week. Thank you to Shaun and all of our FNS staff for their hard (and quick!) work in making sure our neighbors aren’t going hungry — this is the extraordinary impact that can be achieved when we work in community!  Thank you, much appreciated.

In interesting news, a 2023 survey of 400 education professionals found that 50% of them are using AI in their college admissions process, a number that’s expected to grow this year. The use of AI in admissions is geared mostly towards reviewing recommendation letters and transcripts, as well as automating initial screenings based on test scores and GPAs. As we think about the world of the future and the access and opportunities we prepare our students for, this is a topic we must remain curious about. 

On Friday night I attended a girls varsity basketball game between Herndon High School and Marshall High School. It was a great game with strong athletic performances and a spirited crowd to cheer on our student athletes. I also appreciate the winter cheer squads as they lead sportsmanship and spirit goals. Go Hornets and Statesmen!

It is often at this time of the year, as I reflect and am thoughtful about my resolve for the coming year, that I review the interesting link to the Five Essential Questions in Life according to former Harvard School of Education Dean and current University of Virginia President, Dr. James Ryan. I think these remarks are especially timely as we begin a new year filled with such promise and fraught with its usual uncertainty. It is nice to know that which we can count on when we anticipate challenges and new ideas. Our greatest resource is one another and the relationships we hold dear. Together, all things are possible -- and of that we can remain resolutely certain.

2024 will see our Fairfax County Public Schools strong and getting stronger. Our future depends on the character and competence of the children we both raise and educate. It takes all of us in moments both small and large to make the difference for our future generation. I look forward to seeing you in the schools or at an afterschool activity in the coming year.  “Make time, make peace, make change, make love, and make sure your voice is heard.”  -- Oprah

Warmest regards,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Fairfax County Public Schools