October Community Update

Recent Work

The School Board had a tremendous conversation at its 10/5 public work session, on the topic of how reading and literacy are taught in FCPS. The topic follows a June request by the Board to the Superintendent to present a plan to improve literacy and thus language arts achievement for students. This need was elevated through the efforts of critical advocates in the community, including individuals as well as groups like Decoding Dyslexia VA, the Fairfax Special Education PTA (SEPTA), and the Fairfax NAACP.

We heard from UVA expert researcher, Dr. Emily Solari, about the Science of Reading - a body of work that uses science about how the brain learns language, reading, writing, and speaking as the basis for implementing instruction. While language development is something humans are wired for, *reading and writing* language is not - it must be explicitly taught. Some students pick up the patterns in reading and writing easily: some do not. However, the Science of Reading approach to instruction benefits all students - it reinforces what some pick up naturally, and hones in on where struggling readers and those with disabilities need help.

What was fascinating for me is that my career began at the US Department of Education in 2002, when "scientifically based reading research" was a new aspect of instruction referenced throughout the No Child Left Behind law that was starting to be implemented. To see reading instruction evolve from using “scientifically based research” to the actual “science” of how the brain works - through decades of medical and research discoveries about the brain - is really remarkable.

What was *most* exciting about the meeting, though, was that there was shared interest and commitment among the Board, the Superintendent, and staff for shifting literacy instruction to be based on the Science of Reading!

For sure, this will be a *huge* effort and change, taking many years and needing an investment of resources. In particular, the resource of time is needed for educators to be properly trained to shift their way of instruction - and not only classroom teachers, but all instructional staff (including principals, specialists, and central office staff and division leadership) so that it is *everyone's* responsibility to help students achieve proficiency in reading and language arts. This is a pathway to truly close gaps among students and help struggling readers become strong so that they can spend time on other facets of learning (like career development, the arts, advanced academics, and more!) - rather than on reading remediation.

Just before this conversation, the Board began discussions for developing the annual budget –the Fiscal Year (FY) 23 budget. The Superintendent collects Board feedback in preparation for presenting his recommended budget in January 2022. Investing in the work to transform FCPS’ literacy instruction is my top budget priority, and I said exactly this in the meeting. What gets funded, gets done!

The initial literacy plan and the presentation slides are found on this link. However, I if you'd like to hear more, I suggest you listen to at least the presentation by Dr. Emily Solari at the 10/5 session. It's brief, but is followed by questions and discussion. The next steps are to continue discussing progress on this topic at public meetings, and see how to incorporate it into the proposed budget.

New FCPS Position to Support Public Health

On October 7, the Fairfax County School Board approved my motion to direct the Superintendent to establish a staff position in the Department of Special Services to support the Assistant Superintendent in managing public health related work.

Community Vaccination Center Open Now

Vax up image with student

Widespread vaccination is working to keep our students learning in person. As of last week, 0.004% of FCPS' approximately 180,000 students are impacted by quarantines. A multi-agency effort to move into the next phase of vaccinations, with booster shots and the potential for children under 12 to be vaccinated, launches the Fairfax Community Vaccination Center (Fairfax CVC) on Friday, October 8. This large-scale COVID-19 vaccination clinic will open at the former Lord & Taylor store at Tysons Corner Center.

The center will offer:

  • First and second doses of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines
  • Booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine to individuals eligible for the vaccine booster
  • An additional dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for individuals who are immunocompromised 

The Fairfax CVC will operate Monday to Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Appointments are encouraged but walk-ins are welcome. Individuals seeking a booster of the Pfizer vaccine or an additional dose of either vaccine are asked to bring their vaccination card showing the dates of previous doses. 

Read more about the Fairfax CVC online. To find an appointment visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA. 

School Board Honors National Dyslexia Awareness Month

Dyslexia awareness month graphic

I was proud to help author, and present, a resolution receiving unanimous Board consent to recognize October 2021 as Dyslexia Awareness Month.

The resolution encourages all residents and FCPS staff to learn more about dyslexia, including identifying dyslexia; knowing supports available for use by educators and families; and highlighting the success that individuals with dyslexia can have in their careers and life.

Opening of Schools 2021 Report

Opening of Schools Report presentation cover slide

Superintendent Brabrand presented the 2021 Opening of Schools Annual Report to the School Board at our Regular Meeting on September 23. 

Highlights of the presentation include: 

  • FCPS remains the largest school division in the state of Virginia with approximately 180,000 students. 100% of our schools are open for in-person learning.
  • The FCPS on-time graduation rate for 2021 was 94.6% - up three percentage points from 2019.
  • Average daily meal participation has increased by more than 25% this school year compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. This year, no-cost breakfasts and lunches are available for every child.
  • Summer learning participation increased 66% over the previous four-year average as FCPS expanded its programming to ensure students were supported during the pandemic.
  • All schools have received funding to support family liaison outreach to connect families to resources and tools and help the smooth transition back to school.
  • Significant technology enhancements included network upgrades to triple school bandwidth capacity and reliability.
  • The Foundation for FCPS received $1.4 million in contributions in 2020-21. 

You can view the entire presentation on the FCPS YouTube Channel.

Bus Drivers Receive Pay Increase 

FCPS bus driver giving a thumbs up

Also at our September 23 meeting, the Board voted to accept a recommendation to apply a 2.5% market scale adjustment (MSA) to the schedule H transportation salary scale. The 2.5% MSA approved will benefit any bus driver whose salaries were not increased when the hourly salary was raised to $22.91 in August. The MSA approved by the School Board will be applied to the salary scale effective for the pay period from October 9 to October 22 and reflected on paychecks starting November 5.

These salary adjustments recognize the amazing work that all of our bus drivers, transportation attendants, van drivers, and bus driver supervisors have done during the pandemic and the work they continue to do each day to safely transport our students. These increases also recognize that FCPS must be competitive in the current market to recruit and retain bus drivers.

Please be aware, that in addition to these adjustments, a market review of bus driver and bus attendant salaries and benefits among Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) school divisions will be completed later this fall.

Update on Teacher Vacancies

As of October 1, 2021, FCPS has a total of 145.3 teacher vacancies.  Of the 145.3 vacancies, 88.1 are elementary school vacancies and 57.2 are middle or high school vacancies.   

On-going recruitment efforts to fill teacher vacancies include:

  • Attend multiple job fairs this fall and spring.  FCPS is scheduled to participate in several upcoming job fairs in October and November.
  • On-going social media ads (Facebook) to recruit special education and general education teachers in targeted regions. 
  • All teacher recruitment ads are running on K12JobSpot.com, EdJoin, and Handshake (college job boards). Targeted ads posted on the Association of Special Education Teachers job board.
  • Retired administrators (hourly) working to connect candidates directly with schools with vacancies (candidate care). 

Special Education Teacher Modified Pathway implemented leading to the hire of 46 special education teachers.

View a more detailed summary of vacancies in the October 8 Brabrand Briefing.

FCPS Receives $18M Funding Commitment From FCC

FCPS submitted a proposal during the first round of the Federal Communications Commission's Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) grant program demonstrating the need for sufficient and age-appropriate devices to support PreK-2 student learning in school and/or at home during the COVID pandemic.

FCPS' application was approved last week in the amount of $18M towards reimbursement of any PK2 devices purchased and received by FCPS by June 30, 2022! The reimbursement program is limited to $400/device and no other program implementation costs are provided.

The IT project team is finalizing the project timelines and logistics for acquisition, support, and implementation of these devices in the coming months.

FCC logo

Upcoming Meetings and Topics to be Covered 

  • Tuesday, October 19 ,11am: Work Session (Gatehouse Administration Center)
  • Thursday, October 21, 7pm: Regular School Board Meeting (Luther Jackson Middle School)
Graphic describing community participation at Board Meetings

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).

Regular Meetings and Work Sessions are live-streamed on the FCPS website and televised on FCPS Cable Channel 99. Meeting recordings can be found on FCPS YouTube. For more information about signing up to speak at a regular meeting, click here.

FCPS School Board Members

Hunter Mill Happenings 

I rounded out September with a weekend filled with performances in the Hunter Mill community! First was the Reston Community Center's Multicultural Festival, filled with arts, foods, vendors and more on Lake Anne Plaza. South Lakes HS students kicked it off with singing and the presentation of flags. Then I shared remarks my work to help FCPS advance diversity and cultural inclusion - including updating social studies content, honoring Indigenous People's Day annually in October, and appointing members to School Board advisory committees who represent diverse backgrounds.

Then it was off to Herndon High School for the Festival of Bands marching band exhibition! Students from South Lakes, Madison, Oakton, and others in FCPS and the region performed. The performances concluded with the McLean Highlands band, under the direction of Mr. Chris Weise, shown below.

Collage of pictures from band festival

Bike Swap Day at Dogwood ES - October 16 

Mark your calendars now for Bike Swap Day at Dogwood Elementary - Saturday October 16, 10am-1pm!

Bike swap day graphic english and spanish

October 23 Free Opportunity to Practice Police Interactions

Practice police interactions flyer

214 FCPS Students Named National Merit Semifinalists

Congratulations to the many Hunter Mill District students that have been named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists!

These students went above and beyond to earn this distinction and show us all that academic standards in FCPS remain high.

All semifinalists are eligible to compete for 7,500 National Merit Scholarship awards worth more than $30 million, to be awarded in spring 2022.

National Merit Scholars graphic

Oakton HS Students Present at Global Health Conference 

Hopkins Global Health Leaders Conference graphic

This past summer, five Oakton High School students—Lucy Kim, Sejal Singh, Emily Yu, Rana Ali, and Sarah Cortez-De La Cruz—presented their research at the highly selective 2021 Global Health Leaders Conference at Johns Hopkins University. The virtual international conference brought emerging health leaders in grades 9-12 together to learn from one another and world leaders in global health, public health, and medicine.

In addition to presenting their own research, the students learned from Nobel Prize winners, CDC directors, and leaders from Doctors Without Borders.

Terraset Librarian Recognized by Time Magazine

Deana Dueno

Terraset Elementary School librarian Deana Dueño has been chosen by Time Magazine as of one of 29 Educators Who Saved a Pandemic School Year!

Read about the story here.

Way to go Deana!

SLHS Grad Named Executive Director of the Park Authority 

Jai Cole

Jai Cole, a South Lakes HS Grad, has been named the new Executive Director of the Fairfax County Park Authority!

Jai is a Reston native and brings more than two decades of leadership experience with recreation and park agencies.

Read more here.

Other Information of Interest 

Test to Stay - CDC & VDH Recommendations

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has researched some of the “Test to Stay” models implemented in other states through participation on national calls and follow up calls with individual jurisdictions. On September 8, 2021, VDH held a call with the CDC School Support Division regarding CDC’s project evaluating Test to Stay strategies in the United States. During that call,  and via email, the CDC was clear that they do not recommend Test to Stay strategies at this time and that the approach is not in accordance with CDC guidelines. However, CDC is actively working with the handful of states who have adopted these models to evaluate their effectiveness. They anticipated being able to share some data with VDH as early as mid-late October 2021. 

VDH recommends that local health departments monitor this evolving information, but does not recommend implementation of Test to Stay strategies at this time in Virginia. The VDH recommendation is based on the  current CDC recommendation, insufficient data on the effectiveness, and potential risk associated with shorter durations of quarantine and modified quarantine (e.g., allowing potentially infectious contacts to remain in school with regular testing).

FCPS will continue to follow the health guidance of local, state, and national health experts when making health decisions for schools and will work with them to explore various ways to limit student time away from instruction.

FCPS Teacher Is Virginia Region 4 Teacher of the Year

Howard Brewer

Howard Brewer, a teacher for Interagency Alternative Schools at Bryant High School is the 2022 Virginia Region 4 Teacher of the Year. Brewer is not just an amazing educator—he’s also a life coach who helps students believe in themselves and achieve their goals. 

The next step for Brewer takes place October 14 when he will meet the Governor and represent Region 4 for the Virginia Teacher of Year award in Richmond. 

Find out what makes Brewer an outstanding educator.

Indigenous Peoples' Day 

Indigenous Peoples' Day graphic

Indigenous Peoples' Day: Monday, October 11, 2021

Indigenous Peoples' Day honors the histories, cultures, and contributions of Native peoples, past and present. It is celebrated on the second Monday of October in the United States. In 2020, I was proud to propose, with community support, that FCPS should pivot from acknowledging Columbus Day, and instead celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day.

This is one way that we as a county can work towards Caring Culture by, as our Strategic Plan states, “...fostering a responsive, caring, and inclusive culture where all feel valued, supported, and hopeful.”  With the number of indigenous people from Central and South America continually growing in Fairfax County and in the DMV area, joining in the celebration of Indigenous People's Day is a step in the process of fostering an inclusive, equitable, and just community for all.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month graphic

Hispanic Heritage Month is acknowledged annually from September 15-October 15. The celebration was created to honor the rich history, culture, and many contributions of Hispanic Americans. Learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month.

Virtual College Week is October 18-21

Virtual College week - stickers

Virtual College Week is October 18-21. Students and their parents may participate in one or all of several live virtual sessions. Participants will learn about the current college admissions process and how to be better prepared for the next chapter of their educational journey.

Advance registration is required. You will receive a unique access link 24 hours before the event(s) that you register to attend.

2022-2023 FAFSA Opened October 1 

FAFSA on clipboard

Parents of current high school seniors—did you know that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opened on October 1? Parents are encouraged to work with their students to complete the FAFSA as early as possible, but definitely before March 1, 2022, as you prepare for your child to begin college in the fall of 2022. Parents and students should start by creating an FSA ID and then begin the FAFSA.

Our partners at College Access Fairfax will offer a number of webinars on completing the FAFSA and finding/applying for scholarships over the next two months. Information on these programs and how to access them can be found at the College Access Fairfax website.

In addition, College Access Fairfax staff are available for virtual one-on-one help sessions to complete the FAFSA. Interested families should email appointments@collegeaccessfairfax.org to request an appointment.

Visit College Access Fairfax and the U.S. Department of Education blog to learn more about the importance of FAFSA and the role it plays as a first step students and families should take to access federal dollars for college or career school.

Assistive Technology Educational Conference - October 23 

Assistive technology

The 2021 Real Assistive Technology for Everyone (RATE) Conference, sponsored by Assistive Technology Services, part of the Office of Special Education Instruction in the Department of Special Services, will be held on Saturday, October 23, from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

This year’s conference will be virtual with a keynote presentation and synchronous (live) sessions via Zoom. The RATE Conference is an educational conference which focuses on strategies for using assistive technology tools and supports to enhance learning for all students, especially those with special needs. 

All FCPS parents are invited to attend. Registration is now open. For more information, the conference schedule, registration, and session descriptions visit the conference website.

AVID is Hiring!

AVID graphic logo

AVID is hiring…AVID tutors work with the students in the AVID elective.  AVID Tutors may work 1 to 25 hours per week, depending on tutor availability and openings in select Fairfax County public schools.  They earn $17.71 per hour.  Candidates must be currently enrolled in college or be college graduates. They should be willing to serve as positive role models for middle and high school students.  Comfort with higher-level math is especially needed, though not required.

Tutors must have reliable transportation as most of our schools are not accessible using public transport.

Interested applicants should send a resume to Bridget Wright.

FCPS Special Education Handbook is Available to Families 

FCPS Special Education Handbook cover

English             عربي                  한국인                  Española          Tiếng Việt

The Special Education Handbook for Parents includes details of the special education process. This process occurs sequentially, over a period of time, with each step building upon the previous step(s).

It is important for families to understand how the special education process works, so they can effectively participate and collaborate with school staff members in making appropriate decisions regarding their child’s educational needs. Families are an integral part of the decision-making team.

Contact the PRC at 703-204-3941 or prc@fcps.edu with any questions including access to these documents.

Outdoor Learning Boosts Academic Achievement & Reduces Stress!

Check out Get2Green’s updated Guidance for Using Outdoor Spaces for ideas, tips, and resources to support you in using your school’s outdoor spaces. Outdoor learning is taking place in (or outside of) most FCPS schools. Over 80 schools have a wildlife habitat on their grounds, and over 75 have an edible garden. FCPS students are working in schoolyard wildlife habitats, growing food in edible gardens, and writing in their outdoor classrooms. I am a strong advocate for this and have asked staff to look at ways to increase the outdoor learning opportunities to re-engage and refocus our students in the joys of learning especially after the year we’ve had! 

FCPS Get2Green is the environmental stewardship program for Fairfax County Public Schools. The website is an amazing resource to engage in environmental stewardship projects at your school, incorporate sustainability in the classroom, find your school's energy and recycling data, and learn more about green initiatives in FCPS.

FCPS Get2Green banner

The Foundation for FCPS is now Educate Fairfax 

Educate Fairfax logo

For over a decade, the Foundation for Fairfax County Public Schools has been investing in programs to help every FCPS student find a path to success. The global pandemic provided an opportunity for it to re-evaluate its mission and improve the organization’s reach in the community. The result is a new name that clearly expresses its purpose and goals to FCPS employees, students, donors, and the community.   

The Foundation for FCPS is now Educate Fairfax.

Educate Fairfax remains dedicated to supporting Fairfax County Public Schools by engaging the community to invest in educational and supplemental programs for all students. With its continued emphasis on three focus areas–teacher grants, employee recognition programs, and Kids in Need–Educate Fairfax believes that strong schools are the bedrock of a vibrant community and that every FCPS student has a path to success.

More information is available at www.educatefairfax.org

What's in a Name?

In 2009, the Department of Communications and Community Outreach (DCCO) rebooted a video series called What’s in a Name, which explores the origins of the names of Fairfax County public school buildings. From 2009 to 2016, staff in the office of Digital Media Productions, working in partnership with DCCO, created What’s in a Name videos for approximately 85 schools and centers. Official production of the series ceased in 2016, but a FCPS staff member, Jeff Clark, outside of work hours, kept the series going with new episodes.

In 2017, on the night J.E.B. Stuart High School was renamed, the Fairfax County School Board passed a follow-on motion directing that students learn about the history of their school and the origin of its name. The Office of Communications and Community Relations was directed to resume production of the What’s in a Name video series and to complete videos for the remaining 100+ school facilities as soon as possible. That work is now complete! The videos can be seen on each school website’s “School History” page, a master list of which is available on the FCPS website.

The completion of the What’s in a Name series involved approximately 14,000 hours of staff time (research, writing, videography, editing) over a 12-year period. A total of 9 hours and 45 minutes of video content was produced.

Click on the pictures below to watch the video on Rachel Carson MS!

Rachel Carson

Plan to Vote by November 2 

Bond Referendum video

Our public schools are a full community resource! This year on Election Day - Tuesday, November 2 – the Fairfax County Electoral Board and City of Fairfax Electoral Board will use 168 FCPS school facilities as polling locations. 

That’s why, no matter if Fairfax residents have students in FCPS currently or not, our schools are a public investment that benefits everyone! As such, the public will vote on a school bond that is dedicated to funding school facility construction and renovation. Learn more about that investment here.

Your Vote Counts graphic

In-person early voting began on September 17, with additional early voting locations opening on October 21.

Polls are open until 7pm on November 2. For information about voting on Election Day click here.

View this helpful page with facts for 2021 voters.

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


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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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