Superintendent's Weekly Reflections

By Dr. Michelle C. Reid
Superintendent's Messages
February 26, 2024

Hello Team FCPS,

I trust this note finds each of you enjoying this beautiful weekend; it has been a great weekend to get outdoors. March is fast approaching as we experience the last of February in the coming week. As I think of all that we have done, and all that we have yet to do this year, I am energized and inspired by all I see around me in this amazing division. Thank you for all you each do in acts both large and small; they matter.

Last week, on Tuesday morning I visited Shrevewood Elementary School with Principal Josh DeSmyter. We began our visit in the library, which was renovated in 2019 and serves as the hub of the school. It’s a multipurpose space; educators and reading and technology specialists meet with students to work on Portrait of a Graduate (POG) skills, reading, technology, and more. As we left the library, Josh pointed out several outdoor learning areas that will be ready to be used again when the weather gets warmer. Students may not have to wait long. I’m told the temperature is going to get up to the high 60s this week! As a STEM enthusiast, I was excited to see science lessons in progress at the next two classrooms we visited! Second grade teacher Cristin George’s students were in the middle of a hands-on lesson about the attracting and repelling forces of magnets, and Leo Ribeiro’s second grade students were raptly recounting what they’d learned so far about gravity. 

Dr. Reid with Shrevewood ES students

What a treat to see our young learners so enthusiastic about science! These fundamental lessons are so important for our students, as a strong science foundation helps support more advanced learning in later years. 

Next, we headed to Sarah Jones’ fifth grade classroom, where students were working independently and in small groups for a reading and writing workshop focused on their Global Classroom assignments. The Global Classroom Project builds on Portrait of a Graduate skills and helps prepare our young people for their interconnected futures as innovative, global community members. As part of Global Classroom assignments, FCPS students are connected with international peers to collaborate on local, national, and global challenges. The topic at hand for the fifth graders I visited was the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals, which were developed to build a worldwide partnership for improving life while promoting environmental sustainability.

Our last stop at Shrevewood was a sixth grade classroom, where teacher Rasheed Abdullah and school-based technology specialist Kaylin Daniels were working with students on portfolio presentations for an upcoming Celebration of Learning event. The students were using Canva as they learned about fundamentals of web design and the importance of engaging content in storytelling. 

As principal of Shrevewood, Josh was excited to share with me the impact that data has had on his school and his community. As a division, we’ve been collaborating deeply with our Department of Technology to make school data more accessible and available. Our overarching 2023-30 Strategic Plan relies on data to help us understand where we are and where we need to go to meet our commitments to our students as a division, but data is critical at the individual school level as well. As Josh told me, this data has been helping him communicate student achievement to Shrevewood’s families, who are excited to see how their students are doing and learn what they can do to further support their academic progress. Thank you, Josh, for the wonderful feedback! Go Wise Owls!!

Tuesday evening was the FCPS Families of Fairfax County meeting at Bonnie Brae Elementary School. Thank you to all the families who shared their time, feedback, and ideas with me! These efforts continue to help make FCPS a wonderful place to learn, grow, and play. It is also a great reminder that learning happens best in community. 

Wednesday evening was the Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities (ACSD) meeting. The ACSD meets to help our school division meet its commitments to all our students with disabilities, from their early education years through to graduation. It does this through advising on student needs, participating in strategic planning, submitting recommendations, reviewing division policies, and more. I enjoyed hearing about the work this group does and how we best support our students requiring extra supports. 

Prior to the School Board meeting on Thursday evening, we had the opportunity to celebrate our VHSL champions.  Congratulations to the talented FCPS students, staff, and teams recognized by the Virginia High School League (VHSL) for the fall 2023 season:

  • Robinson Secondary School Golf Team - Class 6 Golf Champion
  • West Springfield High School Girls Cross Country Team - Class 6 Girls Cross Country Champion
  • Langley High School Girls Volleyball Team - Class 6 Girls Volleyball Champion
  • Woodson High School Esports Rocket League - VHSL Tournament Champion
  • Centreville High School Esports League of Legends - VHSL Tournament Champion
  • Centreville High School Saxophone Choir - VMEA Selected Performing Ensemble Group
  • Chantilly High School Jazz Group - VMEA Selected Performing Ensemble Group
  • Centreville High School Symphony Orchestra - VMEA Selected Performing Ensemble Group
  • Katherine Johnson Middle School Bella Canzone - VMEA Selected Performing Ensemble Group
  • James W. Robinson Symphonic Band - VMEA Selected Performing Ensemble Group
  • Katherine Johnson Middle School Chamber Orchestra - VMEA Selected Performing Ensemble Group
  • Langley High School Wind Symphony - VMEA Selected Performing Ensemble Group
  • Langley High School Flute Quartet - VMEA Selected Performing Ensemble Group
  • Thomas Jefferson High School Percussion Ensemble - VMEA Selected Performing Ensemble Group
  • Cooper Middle School Band - 77th Midwest International Band Clinic Selected Performance Ensemble
  • Langley High School Band - National Band Association Blue Ribbon Award (Division and National)

Across a variety of sports and artistic endeavors (and with the efforts of our dedicated educators!) our students continue to excel! Go Team FCPS!!

During Thursday’s School Board meeting, the Board voted to approve FCPS’ FY 2025 Advertised Budget. As I noted during my presentation, this needs-based budget focuses on:

  • Adjusting compensation to recruit and retain our world class staff.
  • Providing the necessary resources to cover student enrollment growth.
  • Fulfilling our existing multi-year initiatives, including bringing our 2023-30 Strategic Plan to life.

The budget overview includes highlights of our expenditure adjustments since last fiscal year’s budget, as you can see below. 

Highlights of FCPS' FY25 advertised budget

In the coming months, we will continue to work with the FCPS community and our partners at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to finalize this budget. The School Board is scheduled to approve and adopt the final version of the FY 25 budget on May 23. I also presented an update on our 2023-30 Strategic Plan Goal 4: Equitable Access and Opportunity as it relates to our new middle school sports program. This has been the first year we’ve had extracurricular middle school sports (cross country last fall, track and field this spring) in all 26 of our middle schools.

FCPS middle school sports overview

As you can see above, an important part of our implementation was removing barriers — each and every one of our interested students should have a chance to participate and benefit from athletics! Access to extracurriculars promotes a student’s connection with their school, builds personal integrity and responsibility, and fosters persistence. Be sure to watch our video to hear the impact that sports have had on our middle schoolers and why it’s important to offer sports to all of our students. Thank you to Team FCPS for their hard work in launching this program and thank you to the families who have supported their students on the field! With robust participation so far, I’m looking forward to starting our track and field season in April! 

During the Academic Matters segment, I presented information on how FCPS is promoting STEAM and Computer Science throughout our division in order to prepare our students for careers of tomorrow. 

Benefits of early childhood access to STEAM and CS

STEAM has several connections to our existing initiatives, including Portrait of Graduate skills and Get2Green. And as you can see below, it’s been shown to build academic skills across disciplines.

How math and ELA integrates with STEAM and CS

I’m thrilled to continue our work in this important arena! When paired with early opportunities to STEAM and access to foundational instruction, the innate curiosity of our youngest learners can develop into a lifetime of opportunities.

On Friday morning I had a virtual meeting with the NOVA Public School Leaders Network. This regional group spent time reviewing the literacy challenges and implementation plans for literacy assessments and course curriculum materials. Professional development thoughts were also shared as we strive to make collaborative efforts to improve the literacy skills of each and every student in our region; this work matters. 

This week I met with the High School Principals Association and attended a Principal Roundtable for new principals where we discussed a number of topics as they relate to supporting our teaching and learning opportunities for each and every one of our students; together, all things are possible. 

On Friday evening I attended the Fairfax County Council Parent Teacher Association (FCCPTA) Reflections awards ceremony. The Reflections program is an annual competition for young artists in grades pre-K-12 who create dance choreography, film, literature, music, photography, or visual arts pieces in response to a student-chosen prompt/theme. This recognition of our student artists and the importance of art in public education is just one of the important ways that the FCCPTA helps support our students and schools.  Art is a cornerstone of a well-rounded education. Whether as a career or a lifelong passion, the arts prepare our students for any future they choose by fostering critical thinking, innovative problem solving, and effective communication. This year’s Reflections theme was “I am hopeful because…” and I was so impressed with the thoughtfulness and creativity of our students’ artistic visions! As I shared during the awards ceremony, it was truly wonderful to see the very many different reasons our young people have to be hopeful. Our entire community in Fairfax County has much to be hopeful — and grateful — for! Congratulations to all the winners and all those who entered a work of art!

Following this event, I had the opportunity to close out Friday evening by watching girls basketball at Robinson Secondary School. The Robinson Rams played a great game against a tough South County High School team.  I enjoyed spending a bit of time with Robinson SS Principal Tracey Phillips as we cheered on our student athletes. 

Congratulations to members of FCPS who have been selected for the 2024 Virginia High School Hall of Fame! This award is given to those who have made outstanding contributions to high school athletic activity programs to preserve the rich heritage of outstanding achievements by students and adults in sports and activities within Virginia’s public high schools. The Class of 2024 includes two FCPS inductees:

  • Athlete Andrew Courteney, Robinson Secondary School (tennis). Andrew is a three-time state singles champion and four-time state doubles champion with a 101-6 career singles record and 71-2 career doubles record. He led Robinson to three state championships, won Washington Post All-Met Tennis POY in 2008, High School All-American in 2008, was a four-year starter at the University of Virginia and NCAA Doubles Champion in 2010 and UVa team captain (2011-12) who played professionally on the ATP Pro Tour.
  • Coach Fred Priester of McLean and Oakton High Schools (basketball). Fred currently owns 800 career wins. He has led his Oakton teams to nine Final Fours and reached four state finals (2000, 2007, 2012, 2017) winning the state title in 2012 with a perfect 31-0 record. Fred has won numerous coach of the year honors and was named head coach of the East team in the prestigious McDonald’s All-America game in 2013.

In a Fairfax Inspires moment courtesy of South Lakes High School Principal Kim Retzer, I want to highlight South Lakes’ new inclusive fine arts class. I so appreciate when you reach out and share the inspiring work going on all around the division each and every day; it matters. 

South Lakes HS' basketball team and staff pose with a media piece created by a member of the school's new inclusive fine arts class

The class is led by the school’s Visual Arts Chair Dr. Matthew Ravenstahl, who says it’s a true joy to work with his students and provide them with the tools they need to “express themselves through a visual language they find meaningful and satisfying.” Two of the students from his class have been chosen for an upcoming Youth Art Month exhibition at the Reston Community Center! Congratulations to these budding artists! One student is also working on a media piece with South Lakes’ basketball team. Our students will continue to lead us!

Saturday brought several opportunities to be out in the community. I had the chance to start the day at Lake Braddock Secondary School as we hosted a job fair for prospective educators. This was an energizing morning with many of our school leaders and staff gathering to interview approximately 400 applicants throughout the morning. I met so many applicants excited about the opportunity to join Team FCPS. 

I so appreciate all the school leadership teams who joined the event to share the good news of the work happening here in FCPS and to interview prospective educator candidates. Stay tuned for the data on successful hires…

Later Saturday afternoon, I had the opportunity to wish a Happy Lunar New Year to a community gathering at Luther Jackson Middle School. We celebrated the 15th Annual Chinese New Year Festival. It is exciting to welcome in the Year of the Dragon with the characteristics of abundance, growth and progress. These are definitely good omens for our year ahead. This was a well-attended event with many of our students and community members performing and sharing their gifts and skills.   

In ending this evening, I want to share a favorite provocative quote; "Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway." — Mary Kay Ash. Let’s continue to marvel at the innovation of the bumble bee as we stay curious just a bit longer. 

Warmest regards,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Fairfax County Public Schools