Superintendent's Weekly Reflections

By Dr. Michelle C. Reid
Superintendent's Messages
July 01, 2024

Hello Team FCPS!

Well, it is our first full week of July upcoming. It is so important that we take time to pause and reflect on our work together and take the time to rest and renew. I trust that you and yours are having an opportunity to do just that, or will have that opportunity soon ;>) I know that there are yet many tasks ahead of us, both large and small, and also recognize the change in routine can be so energizing. Let’s do this!!

Last Monday I met with Fairfax County Supervisor Dalia Palchik and members of Team FCPS for an early childhood discussion. Programs such as Head Start provide our very youngest learners, including students with disabilities, with valuable learning opportunities which develop their social, emotional, and academic readiness for kindergarten. These skills help set a solid foundation for a successful trajectory through public education and beyond. We have so many opportunities to support our youngest learners.

Summer is well underway, but our work to support students and prepare for the next school year continues. Last week I met with a group of retired teachers, the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, and connected with staff from Real Food for Kids. Together all things are possible!

On Wednesday morning, I attended a board meeting for the Northern Virginia Technology Council with Senator Mark Warner. One area of focus was our region’s challenges and considerations as technology continues to shape the future of education, business, and manufacturing. I learned that the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) will be presenting a study on this sector. 

I’ve mentioned before that JLARC released a study last year about Virginia’s K-12 funding formulas. While the findings of the study were clear about state underfunding for Virginia students (which would equate to over $500 million to annually support students at FCPS alone), Virginia school districts have yet to see any meaningful change as a result of the study. I trust that continued advocacy may make a material difference moving forward; together all things are possible. 

I believe it will take all of us as a division to help make a difference for students across the Commonwealth, including here at FCPS. I encourage staff, families, advocacy groups, PTAs, and community partners to get involved and engage with our delegates at the local and state level. We can make a difference together!

Last Tuesday I met with T-Mobile about digital equity, which is increasingly important as our young people need access to hardware, connectivity, resources, tools, and skills in order to learn to navigate and innovate within our interconnected digital world. Our division is committed to providing equitable access to technology for our students through our FCPSOn program and promoting digital citizenship to support safe, responsible, and ethical technology use.  There are so many opportunities to explore.

Dr. Reid at a Community Conversation about limited early release Mondays

On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, I hosted Community Conversations about our limited early release Mondays for elementary school students during the 2024-25 school year. There were a lot of great questions and considerations, which will be passed to the Steering Committee (comprised of teachers, principals, central office staff, and parents) working to develop and implement the plan. The committee’s first order of business will be to gauge how many students will need supervision and support during early release days, so that we can determine how to best allocate our resources. A survey will be developed and distributed in the next several weeks — keep an eye out! We’ll communicate on this initiative throughout the summer and continue to update our Early Release Mondays webpage. You can also email [email protected] for more information. I’m grateful for the spirit of teamwork from Team FCPS and from our community as we work to provide our students, families, and teachers with the support they need to have a strong, successful school year. 

Last week I attended the summer 2024 meeting for the Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium, a network of school districts across the nation focused on educational outcomes, policies, and advocacy across diverse student populations and needs. One area of focus was chronic absenteeism, which continues to be a post-COVID challenge nationwide. I’m so proud of Team FCPS’ hard work on a number of recent attendance initiatives (targeted interventions, support systems, emphasizing school connections, a credit recovery pilot, and engaging with students and families to communicate the importance of regular attendance), which have resulted in 188 of our schools improving their attendance over the last year — wow!! A deep and heartfelt thank you to all engaged in this important work; it matters. 

During the Academic Matters segment of last Thursday’s School Board meeting, I presented on the Global Classroom Project (GCP). The GCP is built around the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), involves 73 FCPS schools, and spans 48 countries. It connects to many of our 2023-30 Strategic Plan goals, including Goal 2: Safe, Supported, Included, and Empowered; Goal 3: Academic Growth and Excellence; Goal 4: Equitable Access and Opportunity; and Goal 5: Leading for Tomorrow’s Innovation.

Goals of the Global Classroom Project

Through this program, students across FCPS have engaged in authentic learning experiences using Portrait of a Graduate skills to address global challenges while reflecting on and learning problem-solving approaches. At Lewis High School, 9th and 10th grade students collaborated with a partner class in Poland to address hunger issues while honing their reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills through hands-on activities. Fifth and sixth grade students at Kent Gardens Elementary School enhanced their collaboration and communication skills by partnering with a class in Italy to explore the interconnectedness of quality education, clean water, and sanitation. They created infographics and dioramas to raise awareness about the impact of problems on local water resources.

On April 30, the 7th annual Global Classroom Project Showcase highlighted student ideas for collective action impacting the SDGs. Kindergarten to 12th grade students from each FCPS region presented their work, which you can see in this video.  This last school year, we had more than 3,500 FCPS students who participated in the GCP! I’m excited to see this program continue to grow and empower even more students to develop global cooperation, deepen their content knowledge, and understand globalization's impact on their lives! 

I also presented an update on our 2023-30 Strategic Plan’s Goal 5: Leading for Tomorrow’s Innovation. My presentation focused on the Davis and Pulley Career Centers, which support work-based learning opportunities and transition readiness for students with disabilities between 18 and 22 years old. 

Program goals of FCPS' Davis and Pulley Career Centers

The Davis Step Program is a secondary transition to employment program where students go to class in the morning and then go out into the community for the rest of the day. Students work in the Tysons Corner area in hotels, houses of worship, retirement facilities, and schools within our division. The Pulley Career Center serves students with disabilities from the southern part of Fairfax County. Students gain career and independent living skills working in FCPS elementary schools and centers; the culinary, hospitality, and retail industries; retirement communities, and other settings. Expanding access to and increasing family engagement with these programs is important to bolstering the self-determination of our students and strengthening their postsecondary possibilities. 

Be sure to watch the video I presented during the board meeting to hear in our students’ own words the ways in which these opportunities help them develop the independence, workforce readiness, and confidence they need to thrive in whatever future they choose. 

Student artworks on the ceiling of Hunt Valley ES

Students pointing at artwork on the ceiling of Hunt Valley ES

You may remember Hunt Valley Elementary School’s collaborative art project involving painting ceiling tiles, which I shared in Weekly Reflections this time last year. Hitomi Sato, sixth grade teacher at Hunt Valley, recently shared the photos above, along with this update: “This year we continued our new tradition, and 11 new ceiling tiles were added to our hallway! Our 6th graders (well now, 7th graders!) worked together using Portrait of a Graduate skills and I am so proud of them!” Thank you for the update and for sharing the fabulous artwork, Hitomi! Go Hawks!!

Last Friday morning I visited Woodson High School, which hosted the AP Summer Institute (APSI). Over 400 teachers spent 30 hours learning about their AP course — there were 28 different subjects in action! Teachers learned how to engage students with the content and prepare for AP exams. They also shared best practices with their colleagues. It is inspiring to see our educators preparing for the coming year and continuing to give their all for our students; this work matters. 

FCPS AP Teachers Assistants

I first met with the dedicated group of FCPS AP teachers who assisted the presenters all week in their sessions. Amy Andrews, our High School Advanced Academics Program (AAP) specialist and APSI director, and I enjoyed popping into sessions to see how our teachers were engaging with AP material. I observed the AP Precalculus groups learn about resources available in their AP classrooms. AP Biology teachers were in the midst of an osmosis lab (pictured below), where teachers were measuring changes in the mass of potatoes to see the rate of diffusion. AP Environmental Science teachers were analyzing soil samples.

FCPS AP Biology teachers performing a lab

AP Statistics teachers were engaged in an activity to introduce inference (hypothesis testing and confidence intervals) with the age-old debate: Which is better, Coke or Pepsi, and can you tell the difference between the two? While some teachers were determining whether they could detect the difference between Coke and Pepsi by taste test, others were simulating with dice to determine the probability of correct detection by random chance alone. What a great real-world problem to practice statistics — or should I say fizz-ics? ;>)

During the APSI I also met with Crissie Ricketts, who has taught math at McLean High School for 22 years and has also worked as an AP Precalculus consultant for the College Board since February 2023. Crissie shared, “My fellow consultants and I, including Becky Barnes of West Springfield HS, have been working to implement the brand-new AP Precalculus course. Both McLean and West Springfield ran a pilot of “AP Precalculus for all” this past year. 

“During the 2023-2024 school year, McLean HS taught AP Precalculus to 480 students, and over 450 students took the AP Precalculus exam. Based on our huge numbers of AP Precalculus students, College Board representatives came to visit both McLean and West Springfield in March. After the visit, the College Board asked to come film my class and talk with students in the McLean HS AP Precalculus program, and they filmed in April.”

Here is the video, which was sent to all AP Precalculus teachers nationwide this week as a “year in review.” As you’ll hear from the students (and from Crissie herself!), an important part of this course was providing support — not just academic resources, but also boosting students’ confidence to get to the finish line. Go Team FCPS! And thank you for sharing, Crissie!

Andrew Sheldon, Safe Routes to School specialist, recently shared an update on the Fairfax County Public Schools Puzzle Hunt, which kicked off on June 15 and runs through September 15. Each puzzle (which builds creative thinking, logic, and wordplay skills) takes solvers to a different park in Fairfax County — a wonderful way to get outside and stay academically engaged during these summer months!  It also provides an opportunity to get outdoors and experience our parks :>)!!

Andrew says, “In the first two weeks, thousands of FCPS families have visited their region’s webpage and have been busy flexing their solving skills, as you can see below. The Fairfax County Public Schools Puzzle Hunt is in full swing and has been incredibly successful, with thousands of participants already solving! Solvers across the County are riding, walking, and exploring as they uncover the hidden gems in our local parks. Dive into this free unique activity adventure and join the fun all summer long by visiting”  We have had thousands of participants already!!

Participant feedback from the 2024 FCPS Puzzle Hunt

Thank you for the update, Andrew! And good luck to all of our solvers!  I am planning to participate as well and look forward to seeing you out and about in our parks!!

In reflecting about the meaning of Independence Day and all it represents, I am reminded that the fiercely independent will of the people will not be denied. I am grateful for the patriot spirit that trusted one another and gave birth to this amazing democracy. What we have been handed, we can never take for granted. Today we celebrate the 248th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. On July 4, 1776, there were only 2.5 million people living in the newly independent nation; today, America’s population is more than 325 million. While our country continues to grow and change, we still hold these patriot values close in our thoughts and deeds.

Finally, one of my favorites and her thoughts: “You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” -- Erma Bombeck.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July celebration holiday weekend ahead,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.

Fairfax County Public Schools