Superintendent's Weekly Reflections

By Dr. Michelle C. Reid
Superintendent's Messages
June 03, 2024

Hello Team FCPS!

Well, it has been another fantastic spring week, though it is hard to believe that May has come to a close.  I have long since recognized the wisdom of dear friends (who at the time were older ;>) when they shared that the days are long but the years are short. This seems especially true at this time of the year.  I trust each of you are maximizing opportunities as our days grow longer… These are our best days…

Tuesday morning, I visited Island Creek Elementary School where I was warmly greeted by Principal Jennifer Fallert as well as the Student Council Association President Westin and Vice President Audrey. They led me upstairs to the sixth grade classrooms, past the tranquil koi pond.

An Island Creek ES student shows Dr. Reid her presentation

We first visited Melanie Hoffman’s classroom, which was full of attentive sixth graders who enthusiastically displayed their Portrait of a Graduate Presentations of Learning (POG POL). What a great way to celebrate POG’s anniversary! They reflected on how they have grown in POG skills such as being a goal directed and resilient individual at school, home, and soccer practice which Zaina explained to me.

Island Creek ES POG POL presentation on water testing

Two other students, Henry and Evan, applied their knowledge of the water cycle to an experiment where they tested the water samples from a variety of sources, including the pond in the school. This project, seen above, was a great example of students being ethical and global citizens who aim to protect their environment!

Then I visited Cheryl Long’s sixth grade classroom, where students were engaged in community building through their morning meeting. These students eagerly chimed in with their understanding of POG POL on trifold “boards of growth” listing skills they have developed over the year which enhance their future workforce readiness. Regina Green’s classroom, the next stop on my tour, was brimming with animated sixth graders, ready to share their POG POLs. As I traveled through the rows of desks and listened to Audrey’s presentation about the Oregon Trail, I was reminded about my own trip on the Oregon Trail — I felt the same sense of history as I walked! I was impressed with these young learners, not just for providing a meaningful learning experience that allowed a genuine exchange of knowledge, but also for their enthusiasm!

Finally, I visited an enhanced autism classroom where captivated students were working in small table groups to practice spelling their names with letter magnets. I could feel the dedication and inclusivity in that classroom, and I’m immensely grateful for everything that Team FCPS does to meet the needs of each and every student! This work matters!! Go Crocs!!

The Woodley Hills ES chorus performs at Gatehouse

Also on Tuesday, I had the pleasure of watching the Woodley Hills Elementary School chorus, led by Kai Diez, perform at Gatehouse Administration Center. Such beautiful voices! Kai shares that “when we were rehearsing John Jacobson's Your Family and Rina Sawayama's Chosen Family for our spring performances, one of my sixth grade chorus students raised her hands and asked me ‘When we all graduate the sixth grade and leave here, will we still be a Woodley Hills Family?’ I replied to her and all my students that we will always be a Woodley Hills family!” So happy to see that Kai and the school are creating a culture for students in line with Goal 2 of the 2023-30 Strategic Plan: Safe, Supported, Included, and Empowered. Together all things are possible!

On Tuesday evening I headed to Johnson Middle School for the last of our spring Community Conversations. There was a lot of discussion around our boundary policy, which hasn’t been updated in many years and is currently under review. In order for our division’s boundary policy to adapt to changes in enrollment and student needs, we’ll need feedback and engagement from our entire community — stay tuned!

Family Vision Group participants

Last week I also attended Family Vision Group meetings at Fairview and Lane elementary schools. One of the goals for these meetings is finding ways to engage our families with FCPS’ division wide work, including our 2023-30 Strategic Plan and our upcoming website redesign. Their feedback is critical in helping us communicate effectively, accessibly, and transparently. We’ll continue to work together, both to meet the needs of our community as a whole and of each and every one of our students as individuals. 

I’m so appreciative of everyone who has attended our Community and Employee Conversations and Family Vision Group meetings over the last several weeks. Your voices and ideas are critical to fostering excellence for our students, staff, and families. This work matters!!

On Tuesday I attended a reception to help honor 33 of our graduating Latino/Hispanic seniors who were awarded scholarships by the Hispanic Leadership Alliance. Manuel Gomez Portillo, an educational specialist for equity and cultural responsiveness in FCPS’ Chief Equity Office, shared more about these wonderful students and what they’ve accomplished. He writes that “The scholarship recipients represent a cadre of outstanding men and women who are passionate, determined, skilled and brilliant, highly involved, energetic, visionary, and self-driven. All the applicants are first generation Latino college students.

“They demonstrate leadership and mentoring qualities in their variety of educational and social activities. Their stories are profound and riveting; their ambitions admirable; their desire to make a difference is great. These candidates want to commit their education, and indeed, their own lives not to individual economic success, but to the welfare of the community. All recipients are outstanding representatives of FCPS’ Hispanic students.” Beautifully put, Manuel, thank you for sharing! Manuel also provided more context on what makes these students so special; among the scholarship recipients are students who:

  • Built community bathrooms in Laos during the summer break.
  • Will graduate with honors after only three years of English instruction.
  • Endured a harrowing trip from Guatemala at age 14 and is graduating at age 18.
  • Organized a community health fair.
  • Cared for her grandfather who has Alzheimer’s and seeks to become a compassionate caretaker.
  • Lived through homelessness after a house fire and is now graduating with a 3.9 GPA.

I’m so inspired by the drive and determination of these students (you can read more about them here), whose postsecondary ambitions include teaching, engineering, law, art, advocacy, science, journalism, and more. Congratulations, Class of 2024! We can’t wait to see what your futures hold! Thank you to Manuel for sharing — his pride and dedication to these students is apparent! And thank you to everyone on Team FCPS who has helped illuminate the path forward for our young people! 

Dr. Reid congratulates a student at the Key Center Class of 2024 graduation

Graduation season is upon us, and I couldn’t be more excited! Last week I attended graduations for Key Center, Pulley Center, and Cedar Lane — go Class of 2024! I’m so proud of our graduates’ hard work and excited for all of the opportunities that this next chapter of their lives will bring them. And a big thank you to our families and to Team FCPS for all that they do and for the countless ways, big and small, that they’ve supported, guided, and uplifted our students. This work matters!!

There was also the Signing Day Event celebration for students hired through our Trades for Tomorrow (T4T) youth apprenticeship program. Since 2019, T4T has offered apprenticeship, trade, and industrial education opportunities for students. Our Office of Facilities Management (OFM) currently employs four staff members who are recent 2023 high school graduates, who were retained as part of T4T and who are pursuing the completion of an HVAC Apprenticeship. During the celebration, OFM also recognized eight students who were moving on to their next chapter, including college, the Air Force, and trade school.

 Dr. Reid with students at the Trades for Tomorrow Signing Day Event

There are six new student hires for school year 2024-25, including three electricians (to be assigned to the Merrifield Support Satellite and Edison Support Satellite), one structural/carpenter (to be assigned to the Herndon Support Satellite), and two automotive technicians (assigned to the small-engine repair shop located at the Woodson Grounds Complex). 

OFM’s Senior Manager of Facilities Management Training Programs Andrew Smith shared that “The inaugural Signing Day Event was an important way to recognize these students/former students for both their achievement and their participation in the Trades for Tomorrow program. Certificates were presented to all Trades for Tomorrow participants as a way to celebrate all that they have accomplished.”

Andrew shared that the program is a unique opportunity which allows students to “not only acquire theoretical knowledge but also gain hands-on experience, equipping them with practical skills highly sought after by employers in the trades industry. This fusion of academia with real-world application not only enhances students' employability but also empowers them to thrive in their chosen fields.”

Congratulations to our T4T students! And thank you to Andrew and the rest of the T4T team for helping equip our young people with the tools of the trade ;>) for bigger, better, brighter futures!

On Thursday afternoon I met with the core planning team for the 2023-30 Strategic Plan, which consists of more than 150 members, including employees, members of the community, and students. The group meets regularly to provide me with feedback and to help ensure the division is on track to meet the plan’s goal of excellence, equity, and opportunity for every student. This group will continue to provide guidance as we implement our bold new strategic plan. 

Thursday evening I attended the Occoquan Regional softball championship between Lake Braddock Secondary School and Robinson Secondary School, which was held at West Springfield High School. On a beautiful night, both teams played hard and with great sportsmanship with Lake Braddock winning. However, both teams will get to play in the state tournament. Go Bruins! Go Rams!

On Friday, I attended the Occoquan Regional finals for girls soccer at Thomas Jefferson High School Science and Technology, with TJ playing Woodson in the girls final. As with softball, both games were thrilling and all teams will advance to the state tournament. Go Colonials! Go Cavaliers!

Later Friday evening, I attended the Deer Park Elementary School production of "Finding Nemo." It was a great performance with energetic sixth graders and a packed house of parents, staff and community fans.  There were also a great number of fabulous musical numbers with many a positive message ;>) In particular, I appreciated the sharks singing the message that fish are friends and not food ;>)!! Learning happens best in community and our community is amazing!!

Deer Park ES production of Finding Nemo

I want to give a shout out to the Office of Transportation Services, which worked collaboratively with the Office of Safety and Security, Department of Information Technology teams, the Region 3 office, and Hollin Meadows Elementary School’s principal, Jon Gates (who’s retiring in June, congratulations Jon!) to review the walking path between Mount Vernon Square Apartments and the school.

Hollin Meadows ES students boarding a school bus

The apartment complex accounts for over 60% (approximately 350) of the students who attend Hollin Meadows. As a result of the review, students residing in the apartment complex now receive bus transportation to and from school. Four buses began operating on Tuesday, May 28, under the guidance of the Area One transportation office and its supervisor, Sabrina Sims. Way to go Team FCPS! This work matters! 

On Saturday I attended the Summer Extravaganza at Woodson High School. It was a wonderful kickoff to another fun and educationally engaging FCPS summer with students and families (and an alpaca!).

Dr. Reid with staff at the FCPS 2024 Summer Extravaganza

Thank you to our families, Team FCPS, our family liaisons (see above), and our community partners for a fabulous start to the summer; together, we can keep our kids curious and help them start next school year rested and ready to keep learning!

My fun in the sun didn’t stop there, as Saturday was also the end of year celebration for FCPS’ Global Exchange Program! We met at Lake Fairfax Park for a barbeque picnic to celebrate the program and our ambassador teachers. Each of our experienced ambassadors have committed to teaching at FCPS for five years. During their time with us, they help fill critical educator shortages and provide a cultural window to the world for our students and for our division. Thank you to Team FCPS for helping facilitate this important partnership! Such a beautiful day to nurture community.

Finally, on Saturday afternoon, I visited Thoreau Middle School to attend their musical "42nd Street." This was a great show that was very energetic and athletically performed. The crowd appreciated the singing and dancing as well as the story that unfolded on stage. It was also fun to share experiences with Principal Teresa Khuluki. Turns out that Principal Khuluki has experience tap dancing!! I enjoyed knowing that her talents in that area far exceed mine ;>) It was also a great opportunity to visit with her daughters as we were all so excited to be at the show this weekend. It also is such a great reminder of the importance of family and community; they matter so much. 

Thoreau MS musical production of 42nd Street

It is hard to realize that it is now June. The year is flying by and we are now upon the season of graduation and transition from grade to grade and school to school. These are joyful times and also can be stressful for many. It is important to remind one another that change is in many ways a constant and energizing part of each of our life's journeys. Together we can celebrate all things and make all things possible. “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” — Vincent van Gogh.

Take good care,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.

Fairfax County Public Schools