Superintendent's Weekly Reflections

By Dr. Michelle C. Reid
Superintendent's Messages
February 20, 2024

Hello Team FCPS,

I trust each of you has found time to enjoy this beautiful holiday weekend. Getting outdoors and connecting with friends and family is so renewing. I trust that you will continue to find time over the next several weeks to enjoy simple pleasures, quiet times, and joyful outbursts with those closest to you. These are our best days... 

As you know, I presented our Fiscal Year 25 Proposed Budget at last week’s School Board meeting. As we consider this budget focused on excellence, equity, and opportunity, it's important to understand how public schools are funded.

In July 2023, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released a study of Virginia’s K-12 funding formulas. This study found that many school divisions in our state receive less funding per student than the 50-state average, the regional average, and many of our neighboring states including West Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky. 

JLARC study findings on VA's K-12 education funding

Compared to other states, school divisions throughout Virginia receive 14% less in state funding per student – a difference of about $1,900. At FCPS alone, that equates to an additional $345 million that isn’t supporting our students. You can read the JLARC findings here to learn more about how the cost of education is calculated in Virginia. 

February 15 was School Resource Officer (SRO) Appreciation Day! Thank you to all of our SROs for keeping our schools safe places to learn and work. FCPS’ SROs are members of the Fairfax County Police Department, and this partnership is critical for maintaining safe, secure, and positive school environments. Our SROs also provide their expertise during educational opportunities for our students on important topics such as gang prevention, driver training, and drug awareness. This work matters!

I’d also like to highlight the important work of our Fairfax County School Board for School Board Appreciation Month in February. Our Board members help FCPS work towards our mission of  excellence, equity, and opportunity for each and every student as we implement our 2023-30 Strategic Plan. I so appreciate the spirit of collaboration and dedication our School Board members bring to each meeting, each work session, and each action item. Thank you!

If you have been in Northern Virginia for some time, I expect you were not surprised by Saturday morning’s winter weather. Our facilities and transportation teams were out working hard to support opening schools by noon and getting students to events that were scheduled in the afternoon. Thank you for all you do to support these important school and community activities. I recently came across an interesting map showing how much snow it takes to close down the different school districts across our nation. 

Map showing how much snow is needed to cancel school across the U.S.

Imagine going to school with close to two feet of snow on the ground! It does happen in places well-equipped to manage those significant snowfall, or maybe these are simply stories from my grandparents. ;>)

Monday was the first Strategic Plan Advisory Committee meeting, whose purpose is to continue (and expand) the robust community-centered process through which we developed the 2023-30 Strategic Plan.

 FCPS' community-centered process for the 23-30 Strategic Plan development

The committee comprises community members who provide feedback on our plan implementation. During Monday’s meeting, 24 community members joined us to discuss communication, engagement, and partnership opportunities. 

The committee identified opportunities for FCPS to coordinate legislative advocacy efforts with external partners who have a shared interest in our goals (ex: expansion of inclusive pre-K) and to leverage community partnerships to support student access to inclusive pre-K.

In addition, they suggested multiple avenues to reach all our community members by enhancing our outreach efforts, including two-way engagement. They also recommended that our division supports a greater understanding of our progress towards (and the impact of!) our Strategic Plan goals. The committee also provided input on how data is presented as it relates to our equity commitments for each and every student, and ensuring surveys going to families are clear about their purpose.

I’m grateful for their time, feedback, and thoughtful recommendations! I’m looking forward to continuing this work and to our next committee meeting next month.

The Strategic Plan Advisory Committee wasn’t my only meeting with community members this week, as I also had the opportunity to connect with the Special Education Parent Teacher Association and with retired teachers. Thank you to all who support our learners, and who come together in community. Community is at the very core of our mission at FCPS!

Tuesday evening, I had the opportunity to attend girls basketball playoffs at Lake Braddock Secondary School playing Woodson High School, while Wednesday evening I had the opportunity to watch Edison High School take on Falls Church High School in another competitive girls basketball game. Both these games were extremely competitive and I was proud of our student athletes as they competed. I also appreciated the hard work and enthusiasm of our winter cheer squads.

Dr. Reid with the Edison HS winter cheer squad

Wednesday morning was a roundtable for school-based administrators. As we look towards the few short weeks we have left until the end of the third quarter, our administrators are working hard to support students and educators for a strong finish. It’s hard to imagine with all the wintry weather, but the end of the school year (and summer!) will be here before we know it!! We actually have already passed our 100th day of school!! Any of you who have student events celebrating the 100th day, please share these pictures. 

Thursday morning was the All-County Principals Meeting (ACPM). It was a full agenda, but one aspect I wanted to touch on with you is Universal Design for Learning (UDL). In construction, universal design refers to a way of building spaces which maximizes participation.  A classic example is the curb cut, which removes the barrier of stepping onto a raised curb for people with wheelchairs or other mobility devices, cyclists, people pushing strollers, and also makes things easier for all of us. 

When applied to education, universal design makes learning more accessible for all students by removing barriers to learning. Through UDL, the diverse learning needs of each and every one of our learners can be met, and achievement gaps can be closed. There will be much more on this later — stay tuned!

Thursday evening, I attended the Math/STEM Night at Herndon Middle School, with plenty of Robotics Team demonstrations and hands-on learning activities. There was lots of excitement, and what a joy to see our students’ enthusiasm! As I told the participants, it’s important for each and every young person to have the chance and opportunity to participate in and learn about STEM. These students will be leading and shaping our futures, with careers that don’t yet exist!

Robotics Team demonstrations at Herndon MS' Math/STEM Night

I also shared something else with these students that I think all of us can keep in mind, especially as we ourselves are evolving throughout our careers and our lives. Whether you’re flying a drone for the first time, learning a new recipe, or trying to stick with a new routine, “failure” is just an opportunity for another experiment, another chance to get it right. Each time we take a risk and maybe fail, we learn from it, and we try again! Persistence matters. It was great to see our Herndon HS Robotics students supporting this important work; it matters. It was also another great example of learning happening best in community with the wide variety of community and parent partners involved. 

Friday night I attended the “Rambunctious” Theatre Company’s production of Matilda the Musical, Jr. at Robinson Secondary School. More than 150 middle school and high school actors and technicians worked together on this amazing show. Well done!! I had forgotten how challenging school was for Matilda and her classmates ;>) 

Finally, as we close out this amazing holiday weekend honoring our presidents, I am reminded of the following George Washington quote – “The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph.”  As we traverse this amazing winter season, let our triumphs be many and joyful… 

Take good care,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Fairfax County Public Schools