Superintendent's Weekly Reflections (2024)

Hello Team FCPS,

What another great spring week we have had and what another great week to look forward to in the coming days.I so appreciate all that each of you do to support our learners and leaders of today and tomorrow; it matters.

According to Andrea Ullmann, a resource teacher at Hollin Meadows Elementary School, this past week “we celebrated the first ever National Schwa Day (April 7th). We celebrated during Community Meeting with Instructional Coach Francesca teaching the students about the very special phoneme Schwa and her special guests Banana aka Kimberly Martin (Reading Specialist), Pizza AKA Andrea Ullmann (Reading Specialist) and Bacon, AKA Brian Welfle (Music Teacher) surprising the students!”

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If you’ve never heard of the phoneme Schwa, it’s the most common sound in spoken English. It sounds like short u or short i and takes the places of another vowel sound in an unaccented syllable. Its helps our speech sound more relaxed and is often referred to as a “lazy sound.”I continue to learn so much each and every time I visit one of our schools.These are also a few favorite food groups of mine ;>)

This past week, I joined Principal Shawn DeRose, Emmy Award winner Bernadette Bascom, and Orchestra Director (and recent GRAMMY winner!) Annie Ray at Annandale High School. Principal DeRose shared that “we visited Annie’s Crescendo Orchestra class, which provides students with significant developmental or intellectual disabilities to access the orchestra curriculum. In conversations with Ms. Bascom, her passion to connect with students of all abilities and develop meaningful opportunities for them to engage in music education was inspiring. We look forward to learning more and collaborating with her organization, The Music Project and the Speak! App.” Well said! Thank you to Shawn, Bernadette, and Annie for the inspiring visit! So many great examples of partnerships that support our young learners and leaders; together all things are possible.

This week I attended meetings for the Middle School Principals Association and the Fairfax Association of Elementary School Principals, as well as a central office leaders roundtable. I appreciate the opportunity to get together with our division leaders on a regular basis. It’s often a wide-ranging and cross-departmental discussion. We talked about the coming state changes to accreditation, expanding opportunities for our teachers to be credentialed for ESOL instructional practices, and the Baldridge Award, which I think will be a valuable opportunity for us to collectively look at what we’re doing right, what we could do better, and ensure what we are doing matters – in this most important work of educating our future generations!

On Monday I attended an Employee Conversation at South County Middle School, one of several held this spring. Lots of discussion around the use of technology in the classroom, both in terms of teaching responsible use by students and in terms of using it to augment learning, as well as grading policy improvements and tutor retention. This week at Frost Middle School will be the last of our spring 2024 Employee Conversations. Thank you to everyone who shared their ideas, questions, and experiences with me over the last few weeks; it matters!

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Our Community Conversations are up next, starting with Graham Road Elementary School on Tuesday. I encourage you to register for one of the events below to share your perspective from a family or community member viewpoint:

On Tuesday I joined a discussion hosted by the Brookings Institute about how social media and smartphones impact our young people and their mental health. It was an interesting conversation and one that I expect we are all having in one way or another. I also met with Tannia Talento from Senator Mark Warner’s office as we discussed legislative agenda topics that we expect will benefit our students, staff and families. It is so important to stay connected to these topics as we support our young learners.

During Thursday’s School Board meeting, I presented the baseline report for Goal 5 of our 2023-30 Strategic Plan: Leading for Tomorrow’s Innovation. The highlight was on graduation equity through a focus on FCPS’ on-time graduation rates, dropout rates, and post-secondary plans.

Though our on-time graduation rate is higher than the state average (94% compared to 92%), there is a 21 point difference between the student group with the lowest on-time graduation rate and the Division rate. Additional support is needed, especially for our multilingual and economically disadvantaged learners. FCPS is addressing graduation equity with a multitude of current strategies, including those detailed below.

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We also have other strategies under consideration as we innovate on the ways in which students earn credits towards graduation and accelerate their learning. These strategies include:

  • Expand flexible options and pathways for students to earn credits, engage in school, and graduate on time. (ex: bilingual classes, year-round/semester/evening options, self-paced artificial intelligence (AI) powered individualized instruction).
  • Increase efforts to ensure 9th grade students are on track for graduation.
  • Increase the fidelity of academic and career planning activities to support students and families.

You can see the strategies under consideration/development in full on pages 23-25 of the Goal 5 Report. Increasing flexible credit and acceleration opportunities will impact FCPS students who are at risk for dropping out and/or not graduating on time, who are on track for success but would like to pursue additional opportunities, and those who are looking to earn college-level credits, earn industry credentials, and pursue specialized coursework while at FCPS. Flexibility personalizes the FCPS learning experiences, to meet our students where they are and to take them where they want to be.

During the community participation portion of the meeting, we heard from FCPS fourth grader Jude about his participation in the Purple Eagles Club as a military-connected student. It was so special to hear Jude’s perspective and how the club enables him to connect with other Centreville Elementary School students who understand the special challenges and strengths of students like him. At FCPS we’re fortunate to have students like Jude as part of our school community and are thankful for the sacrifices he and his family have made in service to our country! As we continue to celebrate Month of the Military Child, I want to say thank you to Centreville and all our other schools who have created spaces where our military-connected students and families can thrive!

During the Academic Matters segment of the Board meeting, I presented 10 incredible years of Portrait of a Graduate (POG) at FCPS. POG focuses on “future-ready” attributes of success for our students by building communication skills, collaboration, ethical and global citizenship, creative and critical thinking, and being goal directed and resilient. These skills increase engagement, build confidence, and support academic success. We will continue to build on our last decade of success with the strategies seen below.

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Be sure to watch our 10 year anniversary video to hear the value of this program in our students’ and teachers’ own voices!

On Saturday I attended the National Mathematics and Science Competition award ceremony, hosted by the Korean-American Scientists and Engineers Association. Congratulations to all the winners and participants! It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm for mathematics and physics — these types of STEAM opportunities are an important part of preparing our students for our rapidly-changing careers landscape.

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Recent research from MIT has shown that 60% of jobs today didn’t exist in 1940, and that workers without a high school diploma are 25% less likely to be working in new occupations than those with at least some college experience. These new occupations aren’t just in informational technology, but also in categories such as health care services. It’s critical to empower our students with a wide range of career and technical opportunities as they prepare for their postsecondary plans with the strong foundation of a high school diploma!

Thank you to Ellen Reilly, principal of McLean High School, for highlighting the work of our directors of student activities (DSAs) for the Liberty district’s high schools. These DSAs include Marshall’s Joe Swarm, Herndon’s Tzeitel Barcus, Langley’s Geoff Noto, McLean’s Greg Miller, Washington-Liberty’s Justin Bolfek, Yorktown’s Mike Krulfeld, and Wakefield’s Nate Hailey.

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Ellen shared that “On Thursday, the DSAs held a Student-Athlete Leadership Cohort at McLean High School. Each spring sports team’s captain spoke about leadership, communication, and sportsmanship. A few coaches were selected to come talk to the students about what they look for in captains, and their expectations from the student-athletes as leaders on and off the field. At the end of the day, the students worked together to create their own VHSL Sportsmanship Pledge for each individual Spring sport. It was great to see these student-athletes getting to know each other off the field and become friends during the day. The goal of the DSAs is to improve the sportsmanship on the field.” Thanks for sharing, Ellen! And thank you to our DSAs for all they do. This work matters!

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Thank you to the Herndon Middle School orchestra (pictured above) for a wonderful performance at Gatehouse on Tuesday! We’re fortunate to have five additional groups of FCPS student performers (one from each region) from all grade levels scheduled to showcase their talents (including guitar, chorus, dance, and theater) over the next several weeks. I can’t wait to see (and hear!) their talents shine!

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Hayfield Secondary School students, along with their principal Dr. Thompson and their Japanese teacher Kyoko Vaughan recently had an exciting opportunity to attend the “Official Arrival Ceremony” for the Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida, Mrs. Kishida, and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden at the White House! They also enjoyed a poetry workshop mini-lesson and presentation with Japanese American poet Professor Kimiko Hahn. What an incredible opportunity for our students!

On Friday, I joined Principal Kim Greer in attending an energizing performance of “Guys and Dolls” at Langley High School. Wow, I continue to be so moved by the talent of our students and the staff that support them.I hadn’t remembered the story until we were a few minutes into the musical.I must say the lines were delivered with impeccable timing and the talent of the vocalists inspired me.There were some great lines :>) for sure and a tremendous performance turned in by all.Go Saxons!!

It was a double feature weekend, with a riveting performance of “A Wrinkle in Time” put on by Rocky Run Middle School. What a great show and such an interesting story. I so appreciate the energy of our middle school students and their focus on the theater production. Also, a big thank you to director, Meghan Pafumi and her team for supporting such a great show. Go Rams!!

According to Chris Friend, about 1,000 athletes from 20 middle schools competed this weekend. It was incredible to see the energy the athletes brought to the track. The sense of community and support between athletes and teams was palpable. I love track & field because of the depth of opportunity for any student to get involved, connect with their peers, and develop a sense of stick-to-itiveness that is so, so important. We have nearly 2,300 student registered for this season across all middle schools. This is such an important program as we support the mental and physical health of our adolescent learners. I look forward to joining the student athletes in the coming weeks.

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Saturday, I attended Annandale High School’s second annual inclusion track meet, featuring the Atoms Special Olympics team. It was a wonderful turnout, despite the windy weather, and a true showcase of our wonderful athletes! Special Olympics aims to promote inclusion through sports and builds positive relationships between students with and without disabilities. Along with Annandale, students from throughout FCPS and Loudoun County participated. A big thank you to Head Coach Janan Hawthorne, and Assistant Coaches Katie Shaw and Paul Fink, for including me as an honorary Atom!!

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Janan Hawthorne is Annandale’s multiple disabilities math teacher and the coach for both field hockey and Special Olympics. Janan shared that “Annandale High School has a long-standing tradition of inclusion and equity. We pride ourselves in creating opportunities for all students to succeed, Special Olympics is just one of the many programs we offer to our students accessing the adapted curriculum. Our Special Olympics Inclusion Track meet started in 2023 and allows our sports teams, clubs, and class to come together to promote inclusion in the community and be a part of something bigger.” Thank you for sharing, Janan! Go Atoms!!

On Saturday I stopped by the Hollin Meadows Elementary School Wellness Fair. It was great to see so many students, staff and families. It is also a great example of our community in action.Our PTA continues to be a strong support for our students and staff.Our community partners are so integral to the success of our students. Learning happens best in community and our community remains amazing.Go Hornets!!

As we approach another beautiful spring week ahead, I trust you will find time to enjoy the outdoors and its ever evolving moments. As our weeks continue to build on one another, I am reminded of a quote I hold dear; “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” -- Nelson Mandela

Wishing each of you, both a hopeful and joyful week ahead…

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.

Superintendent's Weekly Reflections (2024)
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