November Community Update

Hello Community Members!

On the brink of Thanksgiving, my hope for each of us is that we recognize the people, circumstances, and opportunities in life for which we can be thankful.

Like so many of you, I was among those families of the over 86,000 students aged 5-11 enrolled in Fairfax County Public Schools who had their children vaccinated, upon recent availability of the medicine!

I’m aware that some families and parents in the community are hesitant to vaccinate their children, for a variety of reasons. Also, in public discussions, some question the role of schools promoting vaccinations for individual and public health, saying that schools should “just focus on educating students”. Please know that I respect the role of parents – you are students’ first and foremost teachers!

However, here’s the thing: students must be physically and mentally ready to receive instruction. If they aren’t, no amount of high quality instruction is going to be effective. Vaccinating children is our way out of the pandemic, and it’s how we minimize the preoccupation with COVID mitigation. Also, schools are where the children are, so if there is an effort to prepare children best for school, that information is going to be shared through schools. If you have questions or concerns about vaccinating students, please seek information from a trusted medical source. Thank you.

Speaking of physical and mental preparedness, the upcoming 5-day student holiday is a wonderful time to rest and rejuvenate. In addition to students and families, I hope our faculty and staff enjoy the down time. Thank you to FCPS employees for all that you provide to students and our public schools!

Recent Work

COVID-Related Mitigation Work

Quarantine Period Reduction

As of Monday, November 15, FCPS has reduced the duration of quarantine from 14 to 10 days for students who are exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting.

The transmission rate in Fairfax County recently decreased from “substantial” to “moderate.” More than 71% of our community ages 12 and older have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Since schools opened in August, we have seen a very low rate of in-school transmission of COVID-19, now at just 0.02%. This good news is complemented by the fact that vaccines are now available for children ages 5-11. As COVID testing and vaccines increase, we anticipate reducing quarantine to 7 days by early December. Please stay tuned for more information from FCPS leadership regarding the details and specific instructions for the revised quarantine policy.

Vaccine Availability

Two convenient locations in the Hunter Mill District to receive a vaccination for the variety of vaccines available are:

  • Tysons Mall, at the former Lord & Taylor location. Sign up here: Note that the entrance is inside the mall. If you are going at a time before the mall is open, like a weekend morning, look for the loading area near the old Lord & Taylor, near the parking garage. It's a bit hard to see the small sign posted on the grey door.
  • North County Government Center in Reston. Sign up here:

Please note that the above links do have other locations available. (I personally found the site easier to sign up on). Also, mass vaccination sites are not accepting walk-ins at this time, so do be sure to schedule appointments.

Transforming Learning for Every Child—Equitable Access to Literacy

Student reading

In October, I shared my enthusiasm for work the school division is doing to ensure that literacy is taught using the Science of Reading – that is, using data about how the brain learns and works to best teach reading and writing to all students. Check out my remarks in this video here, and read more in my last newsletter, here.

Data presented by FCPS and literacy experts show the urgent need for a new approach to literacy education. This is a top priority for me in holding the Superintendent accountable for the school division’s work, and in my advocacy to state elected officials who make policy and funding decisions that could bolster this effort. Strong literacy is critical for students’ overall academic success, economic well-being, health outcomes, social participation, and civic engagement. 

Read more or watch the School Board Work Session presentation to find out why literacy education is so important, what FCPS is doing now, and what’s to come.

Career and Technical Education Launches New Pathway Study


FCPS has partnered with consulting firm FourPoint Education. They will assess current elective classes and career pathways programs. The review is expected to be finalized by Spring 2022.

The study will explore enrollment numbers, subgroups, course offerings, and feedback from school personnel. The study will also examine how we can improve equity and access. The data analysis will also report on how Career and Technical Education programs impact groups used in our strategic plan, such as ethnicity, gender, students with disabilities, English Learners, and free and reduced-price meals. Representatives from FCPS’s Career and Technical Education staff  are working with the vendor to finalize the timeline for engagement, as well as plans to conduct any focus group, small group, or individual stakeholder interviews.

Additionally, at the October 21 meeting, the School Board recognized November as National Career Development Month.

Premier Workforce Updates

Substitute Hourly Pay Rate Increase

As we all know, the substitute teacher shortage is a national problem. It is not unique to Fairfax County. 

To be more competitive with surrounding jurisdictions, the School Board unanimously approved, during its Regular School Board Meeting on Thursday, October 21, the Superintendent’s recommendation to increase the pay of substitute teachers to help attract new people to this role. Pay was adjusted according to the scale shown below: 

Substitute hourly rate table

The Board also voted to direct the Superintendent to provide an analysis of the Instructional Assistant (IA), Public Health Training Assistant (PHTA), and Public Health Attendant (PHA) substitute pay scales. Full details of the vote.

School Board Selects Superintendent Search Firm

The Fairfax County School Board has contracted human resources recruitment firm GR Recruiting to conduct a nationwide search for the next Superintendent of Schools.

In July, Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced that the 2021-22 school year would be his last at FCPS. Dr. Brabrand has served the system for nearly 30 years, starting as an intern and ending as Superintendent. 

Striving for an Inclusive and Compassionate Community 

In the past few weeks, FCPS has experienced several incidents of racial and anti-Semitic graffiti at some of our schools. These acts are not only unkind, but they are completely unacceptable. 

Please know that acts of racism, anti-Semitism, and hate will not be tolerated in our FCPS community. Our division is a place where we strive for inclusiveness and compassion. It is our responsibility to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and humanity. Our schools must be a safe space for every child and adult in the building.

As a school division, our success and well-being depend upon all of us standing united against actions that seek to dehumanize or violate any person or group within our community. If you witness a behavior that does not align with our values, please speak up. FCPS also has an anonymous tip line that can be used for this purpose.

Upcoming Meetings and Topics to be Covered

  • Monday, November 22, 7pm: Regular Meeting (Luther Jackson MS)

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

Madison HS Production of "Almost, Maine"

Madison production Almost Maine

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful and touching matinee production of "Almost, Maine" at Madison HS. 

I talked with students and parents about their desire to go maskless for theater activities. I agree, and shared with them about my advocacy and that of the FCPS Superintendent, to the Virginia State Superintendent, as this is where the mandate comes from. An update is expected this week.

South Lakes HS Homecoming Parade 

Melanie at the South Lakes parade

It has been two years since the last FCPS Homecoming celebrations were held. I was thrilled to attend the South Lakes Homecoming parade before the game, and to see so many South Lakes pyramid students and families along the way!

Read about how FCPS staff and students alike adapted and planned to make sure everyone could safely celebrate.

3rd Annual Winter Clothing Closet

Clothing donation

Staff from Louise Archer and Flint Hill elementary schools are holding a warm clothing drive for families in need, Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, 9 am to 3 pm. Requested donations are noted below and can be dropped off at Louise Archer ES, 324 Nutley Street, N.W. in Vienna. You will see boxes and bins at Door 1 in front of the school labeled, “Warm Clothing Donations”. Please consider perusing your closet and donating new or gently used (in very good condition) youth, teen, and adult winter clothing. Please only donate clean clothes that have been laundered, and place clothing in sealed garbage bags. 

  • Jackets
  • Coats
  • Sweaters
  • Long Sleeves
  • Pants
  • Sneakers in good condition
  • New gloves, scarves, winter hats
  • New socks
  • New packaged underwear or must have tags attached

South Lakes HS Teacher Recipient of FCPS CARES


Congratulations to Jonathan Pruess, a Geosystems teacher at South Lakes HS on being one of six September FCPS CARES of the Month recipients!

Read more here.

The FCPS CARES Program is an opportunity for parents, staff, and community members to recognize FCPS employees for going above and beyond to help others and show they care. Make a submission here.

Other Information of Interest

NOAA Marine Debris Program Art Contest 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is accepting entries for its Annual Marine Debris Program Art Contest! 

Students in grades K-8 are invited to submit their artwork depicting how marine debris impacts the ocean and the Great Lakes environments. Entries are due December 10, 2021.

Marine Debris Art Contest

Shark Tank Tech Challenge Open to All High School Students

Shark tank competition

Calling all high school students! The Fairfax Area 50+ Technology Committee has announced this year’s Shark Tank Technology Challenge, with a focus on new or improved existing technology that will have a positive impact in the lives of older adults, adults with disabilities, wounded warriors, or caregivers. Students are encouraged to consider projects that offer assistance in the following areas:

  • Active free time activities.
  • Participation in the arts.
  • Caregiving.

Students can submit an innovative or creative project as an individual or a team. The deadline to submit the initial proposal is December 6. Final proposals are due February 22, 2022. The Shark Tank event will be held in April 2022. The winning projects will receive a cash prize. 

More details are available by visiting the Fairfax Area Student “Shark Tank” Technology Challenge webpage.

Community Medi-Corps Program 

The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) has received a $700,000 grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia to implement an innovative educational project in the life sciences and biomedical infomatics and expand regional job opportunities for students attending three career academies in FCPS!

A team from GW SMHS, supported by grant funding from the Growth and Opportunity for Virginia (GO Virginia) program, are establishing a Community Medi-Corps Program (Medi-Corps) to benefit high school students studying life and health/medical sciences in Northern Virginia. The centerpiece of the project will be a mobile Immersive Learning Center-- a 45-foot long lab that will provide students with state-of-the-art technology, simulation, and immersive virtual reality and augmented learning experiences.

Read more details in the October 29 Brabrand Briefing.

GW School of Medicine logo

Northern Virginia Needs Blood Donations

Northern Virginia has an urgent need for blood donation. Please consider giving blood at an upcoming Inova blood drive – when you donate blood, you save lives. Visit or or call 1-866-BLOODSAVES to schedule an appointment today.

Blood donation graphic

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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