Rounding out January

Dear Community,

Upcoming Meetings and Topics to be Covered

The Fairfax County School Board recognizes that, as an elected Board, it represents and serves the people of the county. To fulfill it obligations, the Board designed a governing process that allows for the freedom and authority to do its work, but also has full accountability for the results of its decisions. 

That governing process is outlined in the Strategic Governance Manual, which was revised in 2019.

These extraordinary times have highlighted areas for improvement in our work management. As such, I am bringing this topic to a Board Forum on Tuesday, February 2, where I will ask for consensus to move this project forward to a Work Session in the coming months. 

View my suggested revisions by opening the attachments at the bottom of this page.

Just after, the Superintendent will present the latest version of the Return to School plan. I support his presented plan and timeline to return students and staff safely as health conditions allow. View the 2/2 Return to School presentation on this link - scroll and click on the PDF attachment.

Accessing Board Meetings

View this link for a comprehensive list of upcoming meetings and associated information.

Click here for meeting logistics, agendas and handouts (to view the slides and materials, scroll down to the bottom of the page). Meetings are live-streamed on the FCPS website and televised on FCPS Cable Channel 99. For more information about signing up to speak at a regular meeting, click here.

Important Update:

Vaccine Available to All FCPS Employees

COVID-19 vaccine graphic

Access to the COVID-19 vaccine is available to all FCPS employees as part of the 1b group of other essential workers. Although the limited supply of vaccines has caused recent confusion and frustration, FCPS still intends to vaccinate all remaining staff who wish to be vaccinated.


Be sure to check your email for updates from Inova, FCPS, or the Fairfax County Health Department. 

Click here for more information.

Advocacy During the 2021 Virginia General Assembly Session

This year’s General Assembly session is short – just 6 weeks, closing on February 27. I’ve presented live, virtual testimony on two bills before our state legislature that are part of the FCPS Legislative Program, as well as submitted public comments. I also made the case to state elected officials to address long-time needs in funding formulas that have short changed Fairfax for decades, which you can read about here. This is a crucial time to advocate, and I’m thankful to the Hunter Mill residents who joined me in advocating. It takes many voices to change and implement new laws!

Prioritizing students with disabilities in the vaccine schedule 

I wrote to the State Senators and Delegates representing Hunter Mill asking that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities be prioritized in the current vaccination schedule.

HB2003 - School Advertising

Introduced on January 11 by Delegate Ibraheem Samirah, HB2003 would prevent false advertising about Virginia's public schools. This bill would ensure that school ratings sites are prevented from publishing disparaging and inaccurate information about the public schools in Virginia. 

I was able to speak and provide comments in support of HB2003, as well as advocate to Fairfax Delegates who are in the committees hearing this bill. 

HB1997 - Virginia Freedom of Information Act; definition of "meeting"

Introduced on January 11 by Delegate Kathleen Murphy, HB1997 would increase the allowable size of informal meetings among electeds on local bodies from 2 to 3. I provided public testimony in support of this bill, as our Board of 12 members experiences extensive difficulties, meeting only 2 at a time.

HB1931- Virginia Freedom of Information Act; public body authorized to conduct electronic meetings

Introduced on January 11 by Delegate Mark Levine, HB1931 would authorize a public body to use increased individual virtual participation due to a family member's medical condition that requires the member to provide care for such family member. 


Other Recent and Upcoming Work:

Looking to the Future

School Board meeting materials from the January 27 Work Session include an update on federal funding and plans for recovery of student learning loss due to COVID. "FCPS Student Support Actions Update" summarizes what FCPS has done and proposes to do to overcome learning disruption and loss during this exceptional time.

Interim Guidance for Re-opening PreK-12 Schools

On January 14, the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education released the Interim Guidance for Re-opening PreK-12 Schools. This new document incorporates and replaces the previously issued Phase Guidance for Virginia Schools. 

FCPS has been working with the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) to review and incorporate this new state guidance into the decision making model (beginning on page 5 of the presentation, located at the bottom of the page) that Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, director of Health for FCHD, shared at the January 5 Work Session on Return to School.

Superintendent Brabrand Presents FCPS Budget for FY 2022

On January 7, Superintendent Brabrand presented a $3.1 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Proposed Budget to the Fairfax County School Board at its business meeting. Overall, the FY 2022 Proposed Budget represents an increase of $0.4 million, or 0.01 percent, over the FY 2021 Approved Budget. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted FCPS in numerous ways,” said Brabrand. “As a result, this budget focuses on our most pressing needs. I have designed the budget to prioritize the instructional and social-emotional needs of our students so they can continue to learn and grow despite the ongoing challenges of this pandemic.” Click here for the full news release.

Revised FCPS Grading Policy Supports Student Wellness

FCPS has heard from many students that they are concerned about the impact of grades on their future, are exhausted from online school, and do not feel that academic expectations have been modified to fit the current learning circumstances. In response, the grading policies have been revised and will take effect January 4, 2021.

The most significant change is to the 100-point grading scale. When using a 100-point grading scale, 50 percent of an assignment’s value will be the lowest possible score, including the score for work that is not submitted. Four-point scales are also appropriate. 

Other steps being implemented to support students with workload and wellness include:

  • Dropping the minimum number of assignments per quarter from nine to six.
  • Accepting late work on major assignments with minimal penalty.
  • Capping the maximum weight of an assignment or assessment at 20%.

These policy changes will be in place the remainder of the school year.

Information on Numerous Topics


FCPS received the following federal funds:

  • Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Elementary Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER I) - $21.7M
  • State Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) - $32.2M
  • Fairfax County Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) - $19.6M

The Federal CARES grant was signed into law on March 27, 2020, and allows spending through September 30, 2022. The State and County CRF grants allow spending through December 31, 2021. 

A brief overview of how this federal funding may be used by FCPS:

  • Providing principals and other school leaders with resources necessary to address school needs;
  • Activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth;
  • Purchasing supplies to sanitize facilities, and training for staff on minimizing the spread of infectious diseases;
  • Providing mental health services and supports;
  • Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students that aids in regular and substantive educational interactions between students and their classroom teachers, including assistive technology or adaptive equipment

View more details on how FCPS is allocating these funds.

Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration

Screenshot of Melanie Meren, from MLK Day video

On January 18,  we recommitted to the work not only of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but of the thousands of individuals who fought for civil rights in the past, and continue doing so today. This day honors the movement towards ensuring that all people have equal and equitable rights.

You can hear more about how this work is happening in FCPS in this video, recorded by the Reston Community Center.

African American History: A New Elective

Any FCPS high school student can register for the new African American History elective. This course teaches students about African American voices, including many not traditionally highlighted, and their contributions to the story of Virginia and America. 

Look for more details in the Course Catalog.

African American History elective

Self-Directed Economics and Personal Finance: Summer Learning

FCPS High School students can register now for the Self-Directed Economics and Personal Finance course. 

Two sessions will be offered:

  • Session 1: Monday, April 19 - Friday, June 18, 2021
  • Session 2: Monday, June 28 - Friday, July 30, 2021
Graphic of books

This course requires students to complete work without direct teacher instruction. However, a suggested schedule will be provided. Beginning in September 2020, the content and material for this course was updated. This is a pass/fail course, recommended for current FCPS students in grades 8-12 during the 2020-21 school year. Students who will be in grade 9 during 2021-22 may enroll with a recommendation to discuss the course with their guardians and school counselor prior to registration.

See the Summer Learning webpage for additional information.

First FCPS Electric Bus Arrives 

FCPS' First Electric Bus

FCPS accepted delivery of its first electric bus on Tuesday, January 12, at the Stonecroft Transportation Center. The bus is the first of eight buses - funded by a grant from Dominion Energy - that will result in an initial deployment of 50 buses across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

A Dominion Energy grant covers the difference in cost so that school districts pay no more for an electric bus than they would for a diesel model. 

Read more.

Application for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Opens February 1

Invitation to apply for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

The online application for students interested in applying for admission to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST), a Regional Governor’s School in Fairfax County focused on science and technology, will be available beginning Monday, February 1, at 8 a.m. The application will be posted on the admissions web page

The Fairfax County School Board approved changes to the admissions process that will be used to select students for the class of 2025. The changes include using a comprehensive review aimed at improving diversity and access.

Qualified applicants will be enrolled in Honors Algebra or beyond, Honors Science, and one other honors course (waivers available for honors requirements this year only), along with achieving a core grade point average of 3.5. Applicants will also complete a Student Portrait Sheet and problem-solving essay, which will be administered later this spring and are not a part of the initial application.

Applications must be submitted by Friday, February 26, at 4 p.m. Visit the TJHSST admissions website for more information

Diversity in STEM Talks!

Presented by the Diversity Committee of TJHSST PTSA

Monday, Feb. 8, 6:00-6:45pm

Students grades 4-8 are encouraged to join and hear from people working in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) field!

Parents register at this link...

Submit questions in advance at this link... 

Hunter Mill Happenings

Cougars Connect Virtually

Our friends over at Kilmer Middle School had some great ideas about how to encourage students to be leaders, by making progress to engage and connect in their classes. 

In a virtual learning environment this can look like...

  • Using the mic or camera in class discussion and breakouts
  • Being responsive in chat discussions
  • Consistently participating in interactive class activities 
  • Going to office hours to connect with a teacher
  • Sending messages to teachers to ask questions

Teachers at Kilmer nominate one (or more) students from each of their classes for the month. There is a monthly drawing from the pool of nominated students. Winners from each grade are recognized, and able to choose a reward from a variety of options.

While camera use makes for the best interactions, it is important to keep in mind that it is not required. 

This article has some ideas for encouraging camera use.

Louise Archer ES Students Earn Honors in WordMasters Challenge


Several teams representing Louise Archer Elementary achieved highest honors in the recent WordMasters Challenge, a national vocabulary competition involving nearly 125,000 students annually.

Way to go Louise Archer WordMasters students and coaches!

Read more.

Carson MS Band Teacher Named to Yamaha’s 40 Under 40

Chris DiMassimo, Carson MS band teacher

Carson Middle band teacher Chris DiMassimo has been named to Yamaha’s 40 Under 40, an advocacy program that recognizes and celebrates innovative and impactful music teachers under the age of 40 who are doing extraordinary things in their classrooms or programs. He says, “Hard work is tough to sell these days, but the pursuit of creating beautiful music together, working diligently toward common goals, and experiencing the payout makes it all worth it! I've found that anything I can do to ensure success and satisfaction along the way makes all the difference for students to remain engaged and committed through the ups and downs in our journey.”

Congratulations, Mr. DiMassimo! FCPS is very lucky to have you.

Read more.

Contacting Me

I prioritize responses to Hunter Mill constituents, so please be sure to identify yourself as such if you contact me. If you are unsure of your county magisterial district, you can look that information up here.

To contact me, it is most helpful to please use the official School Board contact form. This form prioritizes emails to me from constituents, and helps me track communication so I can be sure you receive a response. Thank you for your cooperation.


Please take good care,

Melanie Meren


Was this email not addressed to you? Sign up for my newsletters here!

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.

© 2021 Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County, Virginia