Superintendent’s Weekly Reflections | Fairfax County Public Schools
Hello Team FCPS,
Well, another fantastic winter week is flying by. I find it incredulous to realize that February is just around the corner. While winter is often thought of as a reflective season and one of anticipation given that spring will no doubt come sooner than we think; It is also a time that can be stressful for students, staff and families. The end of the first semester and final exams, grades and other accountability events certainly generate more anxiety than we might otherwise experience. I so appreciate the care and compassion each of you share with our students and each other during these winter days. Spring will come…
This week, I saw the power of the possible when our students take advantage of the amazing leadership opportunities that exist within Fairfax County Public Schools, and our broader community.
First, congratulations to the 26 FCPS participants in the Fairfax County Youth Leadership Program! I had the honor of speaking at their graduation event earlier this week. Students in the program participate in monthly learning sessions, complete a three-week paid internship in a Fairfax County department, and act as “ambassadors” for the program, speaking to middle school civics classes. Students learn about local government’s role in their everyday lives and are given an opportunity to interact with county leaders and policy-makers. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about civic engagement, to develop leadership skills, and to consider a future career in public service! We are truly blessed here in Fairfax County to have these types of meaningful learning experiences for our students!
Tuesday, at Woodson High School, I joined the Student Advisory Council’s monthly meeting. Students asked me important questions about the school calendar, health and wellness, school lunch, equity, and grading practices among other topics. The 104 students from our high schools are engaged in research topics and I look forward to hearing them present their findings to me at their March meeting. The support that we provide to our students stretches far beyond academics. We must continue to support their critical thinking, their collaboration, communication, and identity as global and ethical citizens. Students must be involved in the conversation about school safety and other topics, as we prepare them for futures yet to be imagined.
At the South Lakes basketball game this weekend, I met Nithya Ramani, the COO of Ink Children’s Books. This non-profit, student-run company is based out of South Lakes High School. Ink’s mission is to normalize diversity in children’s literature by creating multicultural children’s books. Ink’s stories are authentic, and are told by the student authors and illustrators of our diverse community. To learn more about Ink’s mission, you can visit their website. Our students will continue to lead us!
Back in October, I mentioned an event led by the student-run STEAMOLOGY, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting STEM education in underserved communities. The group, led by Akul Dixit, has launched a new initiative called FCPS STEM Connect. This initiative connects schools with student-run organizations that provide hands-on STEM learning experiences. If you, or anyone you know might be interested in volunteering, you can visit their website to learn more. Learning happens best in community and our community continues to be well!
Thank you to our Career and Technical Education (CTE) leaders for inviting me to speak to their team at the CTE Teachers of the County event on Thursday morning. The unique programs that we offer, and our educators’ commitments to our students, is why FCPS is a leader in Career and Technical Education. Did you know that FCPS offers more than 145 different CTE courses in a multitude of career pathways? Our students earned more than 16,000 industry credentials last year and we currently have 16 students serving in state-level officer positions for their Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSO) with two of the eight CTSO state presidents coming from FCPS! February is CTE Month and I couldn’t think of a better way to kick it off than to acknowledge our talented and hard-working teachers and instructional staff across all of our CTE programs. Your work matters!
Did you know that FCPS employees may be eligible to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) if specified applicant criteria is met? More information can be found on this website. Employees who believe they meet the criteria can access the application on this website. Employees submitting a PLSF application form should complete, sign, and date page 1. Employees can then submit the form to [email protected] and the FCPS verifications team will complete page 2 and will return the form to the employee. Due to a higher than usual volume with these requests, please allow 7-10 business days for a response. If you have questions, feel free to contact [email protected]. I encourage you to look into this opportunity!
Thursday afternoon, I had the pleasure of perusing the FCPS Parent Resource Center (PRC) currently located at the Dunn Loring Center. I was so impressed with the breadth of services this knowledge team provides to help families to help their children! The PRC curates more than 10,000 books, DVD’s, and community resources for their library. The library is available online, you can visit in person or you can arrange to have books sent to your school! The PRC also offers confidential consultations in areas that include special education, mental health, parenting and behavior, among others. The goal of the PRC staff is to provide these resources so that families can work together with schools with a shared goal of student success. The PRC also provides a robust schedule of webinars for families, school staff and the community. All webinars are virtual and you can see the upcoming schedule and register here. The sessions are also available on the PRC YouTube Channel. All services and resources at the PRC are provided free of charge. Check out their website for additional information and resources. I encourage you to take the time to explore how these resources can help you, or the families that you support in our community! So inspiring!!
Friday morning, I stopped by Willow Oaks to open the School Communicators Conference, hosted by our Office of Communication and Community Relations. More than 100 school staff who support communications including newsletters, social media and websites came together for a morning of networking, best practices, and professional development led by subject-matter experts. Meaningful communication creates engagement, engagement leads to trust and trust ultimately gives our community a deeper sense of belonging. This work matters!
Later Friday, I spoke at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College, where the school was hosting the Annandale Campus Counselors Luncheon and Information Event. FCPS and NOVA have a longstanding partnership that supports more than 2,500 FCPS students annually who plan to attend NOVA after graduation. In fact, NOVA is the college of choice for the majority of FCPS students who plan to attend a two-year college, and our partnership allows us to support students in making a seamless transition into college. In the Class of 2022, 20% of FCPS seniors reported on our senior survey that they plan to attend a two-year college. Thank you to all of our school counselors who, along with our college and career specialists, career experience specialists, directors of student services, employment and transition representatives, and the NOVA high school outreach specialists, work closely together to ensure that each and every one of our students is aware of this opportunity. Your work also helps families through a complex process and ensures that navigational barriers do not impede our students’ ability to pursue their educational goals.
I am very excited to share that our strategic planning process is moving into the community engagement phase as our community forums launch next week! Check out the schedule of community forums and consider attending to help influence the direction of FCPS’ Strategic Plan, prior to its completion and formal adoption by the School Board. Strategic planning materials continue to be updated on the Strategic Planning website. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the strategic planning process!
in a Fairfax Connects moment, I want to thank Micheline Lavalle, a family literacy specialist, for sharing the following about a program called Beyond – Más Allá:
“Through a more than ten year collaboration between the FCPS Family Literacy Program, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (NPG), and the Smithsonian Office of Educational Technology, the Beyond workshop expands families’ access to the museum experience, raises awareness of their own contributions in their families and to their communities, incentivizes them to reflect on their own immigrant experiences, and to think about what “beyond” might mean for them. Through the examination of specific portraits at The Outwin – American Portraiture, participants were given the opportunity to reflect on each portrait and make meaningful connections to their lives. During the third workshop, all participants created their own portrait using Bertha I’d like to know where you got the Notion as an inspiration. Family Literacy will work with NPG and the Smithsonian’s Office of Educational Technology to create a Beyond Learning Lab Collection for educators. The Smithsonian Learning Lab is a platform available to educators globally. Micheline shared these photos and her belief that arts-based programming is a powerful community-building approach and an effective way to celebrate families and meet them where they are. I am so grateful to our community partners, our staff and our families for coming together to find these opportunities to bridge understanding and to build relationships.”
in a Fairfax Inspires Moment, I am inspired to share the story of Courtney White, Coordinator of Grants Programs here in FCPS. Courtney told me that she is president of a nonprofit doing prevention organization called the Love Like Adam Foundation. The foundation was established in honor of a recent hazing victim, Courtney’s cousin, Adam Oakes. Adam died at Virginia Commonwealth University after pleading to a fraternity. The group’s mission is to educate high school and university students on hazing, its psychological and physical impacts, bystander intervention, and alcohol intoxication. It is so important to teach our students about the dangers of bullying and hazing as well as how to stand up to it. The foundation is currently scheduled to present at Virginia Tech, Longwood, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Ferrum college in February. In March, they will present to juniors and seniors at five local high schools in our neighboring school division, Loudoun. There is a form you can fill out if you are interested in inviting Love Like Adam to present to your community. Courtney, I am truly blessed to have met you and I am inspired by your family’s strength to take your tragedy and create something that will serve and protect future generations. Thank you. This work matters.
Finally, as I close my thoughts this weekend, I would like to share a thought with you; “You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.” –Brene Brown. I wish each of you an abundantly joyful winter week ahead…
Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Fairfax County Public Schools