May 28, 2020 - Update from School Board Member Melanie Meren

Dear Community Members,

As the end of this unique school year approaches, I hope you, your children, and neighbors are continuing to stay healthy in body and mind as best as possible.

In my home, we are trying to get through the home stretch of keeping with distance learning for our two students. Spring fever has hit, and it’s hard to compete with fresh air and sunshine on some days. But I feel that’s OK for now, since physical activity and being outdoors is a stress-reduction strategy. I hope you’re able to enjoy some rejuvenating time outside.

I’m very glad to hear your input and requests for help. The best way to reach me electronically is by using this form. Know that I do read every email I receive; however, School Board Members are not assigned a full time staff member, so thank you for your patience as I respond. You can also "Like" and check my Facebook Page.

However, I am happy to virtually attend meetings to listen and share any updates I have, such as at a principal’s coffee with parents and/or staff, PTA meeting, community group, or other groups. I find this is an effective way for me to connect with you and hear you. As PTA leadership transitions now and over the summer, please let me know if you’d like to arrange a call with your incoming PTA board members.

Update on Return to School Planning

I want you to know that much work is happening among the School Board and FCPS staff to identify plans and possibilities for our next school year. Here is what’s known:

  • The state will deliver guidance to all Virginia school divisions in early June. This is critical information for FCPS staff to know to finalize plans for the fall.
  • Dr. Brabrand and staff present the next version of their planning to the School Board on Monday, June 15, beginning at 11am. This work session is viewable live by the public here, and a recording will be posted on that page afterwards.
  • A final, public School Board work session will occur on Tuesday, June 23, starting at 1:30pm.
  • Plans are expected to be finalized at the end of June so that work can be done to prepare for the fall.

I have not yet heard about any changes to the school calendar (i.e., starting school earlier), nor about school open-houses (in-person or virtually). Regarding high school athletics, the Virginia High School League has yet to release information about what will happen for future athletics. FCPS will follow what the League establishes.

A note: I am amazed at the attention and energy that the Instructional Services staff is dedicating to exploring all options for future learning that keeps the safety of students and staff a priority. An incredible amount of thoughtful work is happening that reflects input from parents, educators and staff, community service providers, and others. Please let me share this: we must all consider our own expectations on what we think is possible. While some of us may feel fairly safe and are able to live life close to what we had pre-COVID, the reality is that many needs must be met by others who are living through a pandemic, too, with far different circumstances, needs, and means.

As a reminder, here is what the Superintendent and staff presented to the School Board on May 11, which was the first time plans were shared with the Board and publicly.

Reopening of Schools Task Force

On May 21, FCPS held its first Reopening of Schools Task Force meeting. The purpose of the Task Force is to bring together a variety of stakeholders to help develop action plans that will be presented to the Board at the June 15, 2020 work session based on the three reopening scenarios presented on May 11, 2020. The Task Force is comprised of members of the Leadership Team and departments; principal and teacher association representatives; support staff representation; and representatives from the Fairfax County Council PTA (FCCPTA), the Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee (MSAOC), the Special Education PTA (SEPTA), the Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities (ACSD), Parents of Autistic Children (POAC), and the Title I Parent Advisory Committee. Finally, the task force includes representatives from the health and medical community.

Update on School Board Work

In addition to Return to School planning, the School Board has been working on the following:

Fiscal Year 2021 Budget for Next School Year

The School Board approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget for the upcoming school year. Now the budget is with the County Board of Supervisors who will determine if the budget will be fully funded. The final budget will be voted on in June and will take effect July 1.

This budget development process began in "normal" times; however, COVID meant that strategic investments and priorities that Members and the Superintendent had carefully crafted had to be massively reworked. The School Board provided loads of input to the FCPS staff who actually develop the budget (thank goodness for them!).

Yes, there is always room for improvement, and I feel bittersweet about the priorities that couldn't be funded. Each year is an opportunity to keep growing the investments our community makes in our schools, our children, and our economy. This isn't the end of the story!

I am really proud that what we approved and sent forward reflects so much thoughtful input and dialogue among School Board members, FCPS staff at central office and schools, parents, advocacy groups, and community members.

To see more on the Approved Budget, view the May 21 BoardDocs meeting link and scroll down to see the accompanying documents. Also, see all budget-related information on this page here.

Access to Advanced Academic Programs (AAP)

On May 18, the School Board was presented with a report about student access to FCPS AAP. After a robust conversation and questions, the School Board requested a future work session to continue determining how to use and apply the report’s findings. More information is here.

Student Rights & Responsibilities (SR&R) Review

The School Board is updating the FCPS' Student Rights & Responsibilities (SR&R), which is our discipline policy. A public work session is scheduled for June 22 to ensure the policy reflects best practices in discipline approaches and equity for students, especially students of color.

Child Abuse Reporting Policy Update

I am very proud to be serving on our School Board Governance Committee, which last week finalized staff updates to the Child Abuse Reporting Policy (Policy 2115). This policy clarifies FCPS staff’s responsibility and exact action steps to take if a child is suspected of being a victim of abuse. This is a critical update to help protect our children, as well as our staff from any retaliation for their needed actions. The revised policy next goes to the full School Board for a vote before it can go into effect.

Public Engagement Efforts

The School Board’s Public Engagement Committee, which I chair, reviewed the list of advisory committees and work groups in which the Board and Division staff are involved. Understanding the avenues currently in place for engagement helps us see better where gaps are in School Board and FCPS engagement practices. The Committee also discussed what Board members have experienced during the time of closure in relation to engagement needs from the community.

Finding and Giving Help in our Community

Please Help Families Suffering from Food Insecurity

Here is an update from volunteers at the South Lakes High School Food Pantry:

Thank you to the South Lakes community for continuing to provide much needed food to the SLHS PTSA Food Pantry. As the current conditions continue, including a challenging food supply chain, we are hopeful that our amazing community can continue to make food donations. The pantry is in great need of: pasta, pasta sauce, tomatoes/sauce, dried beans, rice, canned meat and veggies, peanut butter, jelly, cereal, crackers, granola bars, applesauce/canned fruit, cooking oil, feminine products, toiletries, soap and deodorant. You can ship items to: Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at 1133 Reston Avenue, Herndon, VA 20170, or drop off (no-contact) on Mondays from 2-4pm and Wednesdays from 10am-noon. Please see the SLHS PTSA Food Pantry Webpage or FaceBook page for updates and additional information.

The Pantry also accepts monetary contributions, which are tax-deductible.  Also, please be sure to check here for updates on pantry needs.   

Give to Scholarships for Graduating FCPS Latinx Students

For years I’ve supported the Hispanic Leadership Alliance’s (HLA) Scholarship Program for graduating FCPS students. Attending the spring award ceremony is inspiring, emotional, and celebratory as students with incredible strength and heart are honored for their drive to make a difference in their communities and jumpstart their career goals.

Although the ceremony can’t happen this year, $1,000 scholarships still will be awarded to student applicants. Please contribute – any amount - to help these aspiring students achieve their goals for further education and career success! To contribute, please contact HLA President Jane Cruz at

The HLA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization comprised of FCPS employees and residents of Fairfax County that was established in 1997. One goal of HLA is to encourage student participation in advanced academic programs, leadership activities, and higher education. The annual scholarship program for Latino/a learners is for those who are the first in their families to attend a post-secondary educational institution. Over the past 14 years, the number of scholarships offered has grown from two $1,000 scholarships annually to 20! Also,100% of all donations go to the scholarships – there are no overhead costs.

Students’ interests are broad and diverse, from mechanical and electrical engineering with a thought of inventing products that improve people’s lives; to scientific research of issues that will empower people in Third World countries; to medicine, psychology, and social work that will inform them how to work with those in physical or emotional need; to education, which will offer them a way to give back to their communities. Thank you!

See *New* Parent Advocacy Handbook

The Parent Advocacy Handbook is for parents and guardians – a child’s first teacher and advocate. The handbook contains answers to many questions parents may have about the school system and how they can best advocate for their student at the various stages of their school experience. The handbook was created by the Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee (MSAOC), a Fairfax County School Board advisory committee. (I served on MSAOC over 10 years ago and helped with the handbook then, so I’m thrilled to see this latest version available electronically by grade-level bands!).

Get Help for Yourself, Your Family, or Others, with the Department of Family Services

Child Protective Services (CPS) Hotline - (703) 324-7400

We all need help taking care of our children. Please call if you're:

  • Concerned about a child's well-being
  • Want to report or discuss a possible abuse or neglect situation
  • Want advice, counseling, resources, or help

Parent Support Line - (703) 324-7720

A great resource for parents and caregivers. Staff can help with parenting advice, support, and tips to help navigate emotional and relational parenting issues. Language support is available. The support line is open Monday-Friday, 8am-4:30pm.

Community Conversations

Cornerstones Town Hall

Join a public virtual Town Hall on Monday, June 8 from 5:30pm-6:30pm, where I’ll be on a panel with other local elected officials to discuss plans to help rebuild the community’s economic stability in the time of COVID and ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors are connected to resources to regain their independence and security. Questions will be preselected from those submitted by the public. 

See here for more information and free registration!

NAACP Town Hall with Dr. Brabrand about All Students’ Success and Being Antiracist

I was very glad to attend the Fairfax NAACP’s virtual Town Hall on May 26, featuring Superintendent Brabrand. Approximately 1,000 people participated online through platforms (Zoom, Facebook), hosted by NAACP. A recording is available on the Fairfax NAACP’s Facebook page.

Dr. Brabrand responded to many questions from NAACP leadership and members about FCPS’ commitment to addressing head-on the practices and systems that prevent many of our students of color from feeling valued, respected, and successful. The Superintendent stated that he does not want FCPS to be a place where any student experiences racism.

This validation of antiracist work aligns with advocacy I’ve done while on the School Board and also prior – including requesting updates to FCPS’ 4th grade Colonial Virginia instruction to widen the lens beyond a Eurocentric and colonialist telling; proposing funding for educator professional development to expand antiracist practices and content knowledge; and participating in the Justice High School Equity Book Club with teachers and parents.

The Town Hall shared many key points. Here are a few:

  • Dr. Brabrand said that in 2020, it is not OK for FCPS to have schools where there are no teachers of color on staff
  • FCPS' Student Rights & Responsibilities (SR&R), which is our discipline policy, must address implementation inequities experienced by students of color
  • A collaboration between FCPS and Fairfax NAACP will include another NAACP-hosted Town Hall this summer, and connecting as FCPS seeks a new Chief Equity & Academic Officer to replace Dr. Francisco Duran, who becomes the Superintendent of Arlington Public Schools on June 1
  • Piloting and adopting antiracist curriculum across FCPS

Recognizing the Importance of Adult and Continuing Education

May is National Adult and Continuing Education Month. Fairfax County’s Adult and Community Education (ACE) programs, since 1955, have provided adult students with the opportunity to acquire job skills; transition to new careers; learn English and new languages; and grow as workers, citizens, and parents. See the recognition I shared at a recent School Board meeting. 

New Beginnings and Endings

As I think of our graduating seniors – and really, all students, families, and staff – as the school year nears a close, I recall a line from a song that was popular when I graduated high school in the late 1990s - Closing Time, by Semisonic:

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

It reflects bittersweetness, excitement, and new direction. I wish you all the best during this time of beginnings and endings. The only path is forward, so onward as best as we can!

All FCPS Seniors Score Boards




The views contained within this newsletter reflect the views of the individual school board member who is the publisher of this newsletter and may not reflect the views of the Fairfax County School Board.

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