Superintendent's Weekly Reflections – Fairfax County Public Schools

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This weekend we celebrated Veterans Day. Across our school division, we have veterans who have served in every branch of our nation’s armed forces, and I would like to thank all of you for your service and sacrifice. After World War I, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
annual Veterans Day Field of Honor last Friday at Marshall High SchoolThe photo at right shows the student-led Military Youth Liaison Club hosting the annual Veterans Day Field of Honor last Friday at Marshall High School. Students and staff planted more than 500 flags to honor the service and sacrifice of our area veterans. Thank you to club sponsor Brian Staton and the students at Marshall and all across FCPS who are recognizing what service before self truly means! I hope you will take time to thank a veteran in the coming days. 
We are nearing the end of School Psychology Week. School psychologists are a critical part of the team that supports our students every day, now more than ever. We have seen how the pandemic has affected student mental health and behavior and without those supports, students cannot be successful in the classroom. We have more than 200 psychologists supporting FCPS in various capacities. Thank you to all of our school psychologists for your dedication and commitment to caring for our students!
Get2Green logoThank you to a staff member who shared that November 15 is America Recycles Day. I was asked to share how FCPS and our schools participate in recycling initiatives. For that, I turned to Donna Volkmann, our Get2Green Manager. Donna shared the latest edition of the “Get2Green” newsletter that showcases recycling efforts across FCPS. I learned while reading the newsletter that starting November 2, FCPS is now recycling Plastic #5. Plastic #5, or Polypropylene, is found in some yogurt containers, syrup and medicine bottles, caps, and straws. You can read more on the Get2Green website, including how trash collected from FCPS is taken to a waste-to-energy plant in Lorton where it is burned to generate electricity!  
Educate Fairfax - “Leaders and Learners: Education is Everyone’s Business” event Wednesday morning I joined Educate Fairfax for their “Leaders and Learners: Education is Everyone’s Business” event at the Fairfax Park Marriott. Educate Fairfax is the non-profit organization that assists FCPS in achieving our strategic goals, through philanthropic gifts and public/private partnerships. Recently, Educate Fairfax announced its fourth round of grants to teachers with $85,000 in direct support to classrooms. Educate Fairfax funds projects that provide connections to real-world career experiences, whether it’s field trips to college campuses, research into different careers, or student enterprises like coffee carts, all of which helps students see a future for themselves. Educate Fairfax began a new initiative this school year: The Innovators’ Fund. The Innovators’ Fund is designed to support STEAM equipment supplies and education in elementary schools, mentoring opportunities for middle-schoolers, and student-led innovations in our high schools. Seeing our community leaders show up to support public education is an important reminder of the value of our work every day. Together, great things are possible!
Chantilly High SchoolOn Thursday morning, I joined School Board member Laura Jane Cohen for visits to Chantilly High School, Chantilly Academy, and Greenbriar East Elementary School. Principal Scott Poole at Chantilly introduced me to Evan Ayars, the choir teacher, who was a former student of Principal Poole! At the Innovation Lab, I saw 3-D printing, robotics, and virtual reality stations. These hands-on STEAM experiences are what will build a love of learning for our students by making meaningful connections to classroom instruction! 
Scott Settar, the Chantilly Academy principal, led us to the auto collision lab, where I met teacher, and Chantilly Academy alumnus, Ryan Byrne. Scott Settar, the Chantilly Academy principalI love seeing so many of our FCPS students coming back to Fairfax to find their passions and careers!
Finally, we visited the veterinary science program taught by McGlensey Antonucci, where I met and engaged with several four-legged friends. I’m excited to hear that our older students act as mentors to students who are new to the program. I will visit the veterinary science program soon to get our dog Rufus groomed. Rufus won’t be as excited as I am! 🙂
On to Greenbriar East Elementary School, where Principal Dave Pietzman took me to see a very special activity. Students were taking part in Glow Mexico, a collaborative ultra violet (UV) light glow event celebrating the colorful culture of Mexico. Many of the classes had the lights turned off and were using black lights and glow in the dark paint to create a wonderful feast for the eyes!
gym was transformed into a glow in the dark cosmic bowling alleyIn Christie Miller’s art classroom, students were learning about Mexican folk art and the work of artist Frida Kahlo, as well as creating their own clay alebrijes, which are brightly colored sculptures of fantastical creatures. The gym was transformed into a glow in the dark cosmic bowling alley where I had a chance to test my bowling skills. It was lots of fun, but my bowling skills need a little work!
Karla Bush, an enhanced autism teacher at the school, was one of many veterans speaking to students about their experiences in the military. The school was also very busy with Veterans Day activities. In Beth Brickhouse’s second grade classroom, Karla Bush, an enhanced autism teacher at the school, was one of many veterans speaking to students about their experiences in the military. It was great to see students so engaged and the many parents who were in the school participating in the festivities. Thank you Karla for your service! 
I am grateful to all of the employees who have self-nominated or nominated a colleague for participation in the Instructional Focus Team. The Strategic Plan Student Survey is about midway through the survey window. As of this morning, we’ve received more than 25,000 responses from students in grades 3-12. The survey remains open until Friday, November 18. 
Looking ahead, our champions of the Family Team will be launching their nomination form to invite parents and caregivers from across the division to self-nominate or be nominated. We are also looking for staff members interested in being a part of the strategic plan process to serve as table facilitators at one of the many convenings taking place between November 30 and April 24. Please keep your eyes out for the Table Facilitator Interest Form to express your interest. 
Thank you to Aer Queen, music teacher at Braddock Elementary, for sharing that they have been presenting across the country on transgender inclusivity at all levels of school, most recently at the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Conference. They will be speaking again next week, the same day that the performers from Woodson and West Springfield high schools will perform. Aer has had two articles published by NAfME this year. You can read one in this blog, and the other in Teaching Music Magazine. In FCPS, we are dedicated to providing a caring climate and culture where each and every student, staff member, and family is welcomed, respected, valued, and supported, as they experience a deep sense of belonging. Thank you to Aer and all of our staff who provide the essential supportive learning environment for our students every day!
Drew Lane, teacher at Cooper MS, and studentsOur Portrait of a Graduate means that beyond the classroom, we show our students how to be global and ethical citizens, who care for our community. Thank you to Gabi McNulty, a teacher at Cooper Middle School, who shared this wonderful story about our students:
“I work with Drew Lane to lead our Student Council and we wanted to brag about our students. Over the month of October, we hosted a sock donation competition called “Socktober.” Cooper Middle students collected over 4,000 pairs of socks! On Tuesday, a few of our students and their parents helped us deliver those socks to Bailey’s Shelter and Supportive Housing in Falls Church. We took this picture attached. We’d love to share this amazing work of our students with our community.”
Mrs. Brooker working with one of the office staff In another Fairfax Inspires moment, the picture at right was sent in by a parent from Oak View Elementary who wanted to share her gratitude for Principal Sarah Brooker and her team:  “Today when picking up my older two from an after school club, I saw Mrs. Brooker working with one of the office staff plus another lady I didn’t recognize. I don’t know what they were doing, but they had wrenches and other tools and appeared to be trying to fix the tables. (Mrs. Brooker is the one in the tie dye shirt, on the ground.) In addition to being at seemingly almost every evening and weekend activity that I’ve attended, she is often pitching in all over the place. Last spring she subbed for the art teacher in one of my children’s  classes, at a time when subs were so hard to find. And I’ve definitely seen her doing other random jobs too. As I’ve said, she really seems to care a lot, so I wanted to pass along this example of that. :)”
This weekend, there were so many opportunities and activities to share with our students, staff, and families.  On Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to spend time with our cross country student athletes as they prepared to run at Oatlands, the State Championship event.  I so appreciate the FCPS spirit the permeates our region; it matters.  I also appreciated the energy and efforts of our Fairfax HS field hockey team as they competed and won the State Championship this weekend.  Well done Lions!!
Finally, on Saturday evening, I appreciated the opportunity to spend time with our art educators in FCPS.  As I attended the 15th Annual Artist Teacher Exhibition in the McGuire Woods Gallery at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, I was so inspired by the talent and passion these educators bring to each and every day.  We truly have an abundance of excellence here in FCPS. 
And from a former Commander in Chief, let’s remember “We are of course a nation of differences. Those differences don’t make us weak. They’re the source of our strength.” — Jimmy Carter
Warmest regards,
Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Superintendent
Fairfax County Public Schools

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