January Community Update

Hello Community!

This year has begun with much activity, and I want to keep you aware of what I’ve been working on, on your behalf:

First, I realize that the new Governor’s Executive Order about mask wearing has rattled many of you in the community – students, families, and staff alike. I hear your advocacy, and I agree with you – we must continue to require masks per the advice of medical experts, such as the CDC and even the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

But moreover, the ability of the School Board to oversee the local public school division is vested in the Virginia Constitution. Therefore, the School Boards of Alexandria City, Arlington County, City of Richmond, Fairfax County, Falls Church City, Hampton City and Prince William County, filed a lawsuit on January 24 to challenge the constitutionality of Executive Order 2 issued by the governor on January 15, 2022. The legal action, representing over 350,000 students across the state, defends the right of school boards to enact policy at the local level, including policies that protect the health and well-being of all students and staff.

Although we continue to live, learn, and work through a pandemic, I want to share with you some important and exciting areas that I and the School Board are working on:

School Year (SY) 22-23 Calendar

Calendar graphic

I support the proposed calendar shared by the Superintendent and discussed at the Board’s January 18 public work session.

The final calendar, including any additional changes that may be made, can be seen on the agenda for the January 27 public Regular Meeting.

I think this calendar is the result of an “art and science” approach of using data and creating a caring culture for students, staff, and families. This year’s development process was far less fraught than was last year’s, and I think it’s a good model for the future.  This calendar reflects the outpouring of input I’ve received from constituents who want a calendar that honors the traditions of others in the community, and I am eager to vote for it on January 27.

Proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 23 Budget

Budget graphic

This is one of the most important duties of the School Board – to hold the Superintendent accountable for preparing a budget that is needs-based, and balanced. This proposed budget reflects many of the priorities I advocate for, including:

  • Literacy instruction using the science of reading! This will fund the time and materials needed to move the school division towards this best-practice for all students learning to read at any age. The proposed budget requests $32 Million for professional development (PD) for this, and other topics; and $0.9 M for central office staff positions to implement this massive change and coordinated PD – starting with PreK-2, and then moving towards remediation needs in grades 3 and up.
  • Market scale salary adjustments for employees! This underscores FCPS’ commitment to being a competitive employer in Northern Virginia, and acknowledgement of the expertise and commitment of our instructional staff and operational staff.
  • A full time Special Education Lead Teacher at every elementary school! This position would address fidelity of special education best practices for individual students’ needs, as well as compliance, evaluations, and coordination with other school staff. This would help free up classroom teachers’ time, too, so they can focus more on the instruction of their students with special needs and all of their pupils.

The School Board held a Public Hearing on the budget on January 24, and will hold a public budget Work Session on February 8. The Board is scheduled to adopt the FY23 Advertised Budget on February 24 at its public Regular Meeting. The budget process then continues with the County Board of Supervisors.

For more information, visit the FCPS Budget Documents page.

 A note about the budget burden incurred from outside influences:

While the Board strives for the school division to be accountable for the public dollars it uses, I must advocate for broader support from residents and other elected officials to provide the support that will make our public schools the most successful.

The proposed budget includes $0.6 M ($600,000) for supporting Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) work, which by state law grants residents of Virginia and members of the media the right to access public records maintained by FCPS. While the idea of this law when created was in the spirit of offering an additional level of transparency over government when absolutely needed, it is being over-used and in unintended ways by some. It is most unfortunate that the school division now must spend money on the explosion of requests from some individuals and even organizations who seem to be hunting for information for mal intent.

Additionally, the cost of private health care forces FCPS to spend an additional $8 M over what was budgeted and spent last year. 

Technology learning devices for grade PreK-2 students

While I recognize the trepidation that some parents have about young children having devices, technology is a learning tool already being used in our schools to complement teachers’ work. Currently, our youngest students are working with old, slow machines that take the fun out of using digital tools to augment learning. The School Board held two public discussions about the use of technology with students in grades PreK-2, in response to the Superintendent’s proposal to seek grant funding that would not only bring these resources to students, but also save the school division substantial funds. I support this proposal, and will continue to hold the Superintendent and school division accountable for age-appropriate use for students. To hear my comments about this, start at 2:42:30 of the January 18 Work Session.

View the meeting materials.

Additionally, parents can sign up to receive a weekly Parent Report from Lightspeed, the division's internet content filtering service, which will provide a list of the top sites your student visited that week. 

Advocacy in the Virginia General Assembly

Virginia Capitol Building

The Virginia General Assembly convened earlier this month for its 60-day law-making session. Laws (“bills”) have been proposed to support the movement in the Commonwealth toward the science of reading!

Three laws, proposed in a bi-partisan effort, aim to strengthen the state codes and policies which govern instruction of reading. This would be a huge advancement for FCPS, and all school divisions in VA! The bills also propose funding that would foster these changes! To learn more and include your voice to these bills, please visit the Decoding Dyslexia webpage, here. This advocacy reflects that of Hunter Mill constituents and FCPS parents, and I am thrilled to help amplify it!

Superintendent Search

The School Board is committed to hiring the best possible candidate as the next superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools. With that in mind, the Board has contracted a search firm to conduct a national search. The community’s voice is critical in helping define the leadership characteristics and qualifications of our next superintendent. We encourage you to visit the Superintendent Search webpage for additional information and to share your thoughts!

Superintendent Search graphic

Capital Improvement Program Update

FCPS CIP Draft Presentation Cover

The School Board held a public Work Session to discuss the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) on January 11.  The FCPS CIP is a planning and fiscal management tool used to coordinate the location, timing, and funding of capital projects over five years. The CIP is updated annually to reflect changing conditions within our schools and communities and builds upon the previously approved program of capital expenditures. There will be a Public Hearing on January 27 and the School Board is expected to vote at its February 10 public Regular Meeting.

Facts About Title IX Legal Case

You may be aware of a legal case that the School Board is seeking to have heard in the U.S. Supreme Court, to appeal the 4th Circuit decision that involves Title IX.

Please be sure that this case is not about women’s rights. The Board is committed to Title IX rights that offer critical protections – I am personally committed to women’s rights. There is no attempt here to dismantle Title IX rights. Indeed, FCPS has a robust Title IX office that supports students and investigates alleged harassment. FCPS also has a Title IX policy that is modeled on best practices.

This case is about protecting teachers and schools from being held responsible for alleged sexual harassment that they did not cause. Should the 4th Circuit decision stand, public school divisions and taxpayers across the country, and the Commonwealth, will be open to large pay-outs of taxpayers’ dollars for alleged harassment of which school systems have no knowledge.

COVID-19 Related Updates

Since we began school in fall 2021, I have advocated for the public health needs of our students and residents in Hunter Mill and Fairfax County schools. First, I sought action by health officials in Fairfax County to prepare for vaccine roll out of children ages 5-11. More recently, I’ve advocated for adequate COVID testing availability – students who attend FCPS should not be dependent on our public school division to obtain vital public health services, such as COVID tests. As such, I’m included in this article in Virginia Mercury, about the needed testing services in the county to support not only our students, but also families and staff connected with FCPS.

Order Free COVID-19 Home Tests

COVID rapid test image

Every residential address in the U.S. can order 4 free rapid at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests. The tests are completely free—there are no shipping costs and you don’t need to enter a credit card number. The tests will ship within 7 to 12 days of ordering. Click here to order the test packages.

Four tests are provided to account for individuals needing to conduct tests over multiple days if they believe that they have been exposed to the virus, as a positive result may not occur until several days after exposure.

Upcoming Public Meetings & Topics to be Covered

  • Thursday, January 27, 6pm: Public Hearing  
    • CIP 
  • Thursday, January 27, 7pm: Regular Meeting  
  • Monday, January 31, 6pm: Work Session
    • Superintendent Search
  • Tuesday, February 8, 10am: Forum
    • Gun violence prevention
    • Educational Equity Policy 
  • Tuesday, February 8, 11am: Work Session
    • Fiscal Year 23 Budget
  • Thursday, February 10, 7pm: Regular Meeting
    • CIP
  • Tuesday, February 22, 11am: Work Session
    • ESSER Update
    • Community Schools

Please note, times and topics are subject to change. 

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

Volunteering at Marshall Road Elementary School

Melanie Meren helping with Kiss and Ride drop off

I pitched in to help at the Marshall Road Elementary School kiss-and-ride one recent morning. I was so happy to see students, families, and staff at the start of the school day. I then observed a masterful literacy instruction for second grade students, using the science of reading.

Awards of Contract Authorized for Armstrong ES Renovation

On January 13, the School Board authorized (via Consent Agenda) Awards of Contract for architectural and engineering services for several FCPS schools, including Armstrong Elementary.

This authorization follows a Request for Proposals in October 2021, for services and renovations slated for upcoming Capital Improvement Projects.

Armstrong ES

Other Information of Interest

Dual Immersion Program Lottery Opens January 24

Online registration for the county-wide lottery for FCPS dual language immersion (DLI) programs opened on Monday, January 24. Current prekindergarten students may apply for the kindergarten immersion program and current kindergarten students may apply for the first-grade immersion programs for the 2022-23 school year.

Visit the Dual Language Immersion registration site for more information.

Dual Immersion benefits graph

Hispanic Educators Association Career Night January 25

The Hispanic Educators Association Tenth Annual Career Night is being held virtually on January 25 at 7pm. The event will feature a panel of professionals from a variety of careers. At the end of the presentation, guests will have the opportunity to engage with the panel members. 

Link to meeting: https://su.zoom.us/j/99330770587#success

Hispanic Educators Association Career Night flyer

Instruction 2 Industry Career Expo Event

The Office of Counseling and College and Career Readiness is hosting the upcoming Instruction 2 Industry Career Expo event for high school students. Last year this event was known as the Virtual Career Exploration Fair and was limited to just Fairfax and Arlington school districts. In addition to teaming again with Arlington, the following divisions will also participate: Alexandria City, Falls Church City, Loudoun County, Manassas City, and Prince William County. It is a multi-day virtual career exploration fair for high school students to connect with industry professionals from in-demand career fields across the Northern Virginia Region on February 14 - 17, 2022. The registration window opened on January 24.

Instruction 2 Industry flyer

SEPTA Focus Groups on Family-School Partnerships  

Fairfax County Special Education PTA (SEPTA) is hosting virtual focus groups to discuss National PTA's Standards for Family-School Partnerships. Share your experiences and your perspectives on family-school partnerships.

  • How do you want to engage with your child’s school?
  • What are the most important parts of a parent-educator relationship?

Your feedback will be used to make family-school partnerships more inclusive and impactful in FCPS. National PTA will also use your feedback to inform a set of National Standards for family-school partnerships nationwide.  Sessions last 1 hour and 15 minutes, are interactive, discussion-based, and open to all FCPS families. You do not need to be a PTA member to participate.  A small stipend will be given to the first 20 registrants per session who then attend and complete a brief survey.

Register by clicking on these links:

SEPTA listening sessions

Envirothon Competition for HS Students

As we determine best practices for reaching Zero Waste goals in Fairfax County, let's engage our high school students' voices! This year’s Envirothon Special Interest topic is “Waste to Resources” and the Oral Presentation question has just been announced! Visit the VA Soil and Water Conservation District’s Envirothon competition page to explore resources on waste and other competition topics and to learn how to participate in the Envirothon competition. Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD) provides training trunks on aquatics, forestry, soils, and wildlife available teachers to borrow. Each trunk is full of dozens of valuable resources like guides, hands-on tools and equipment, and specimen samples. NVSWCD will also be hosting local training and will be providing more details soon. Contact Ashley Palmer to learn more.

National Wildlife Federation Photo Contest 

National Wildlife Federation logo

The National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Photo Contest is accepting entries through March 27, 2022. Students between the ages of 13-17 may enter in the Young Habitat Photographers category. The entry fee is waived for students at registered Eco-Schools. Learn more about NWF’s National Wildlife Photo Contest and how to get a fee waiver.

Report a Road Problem to VDOT

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is responsible for maintaining most roadways. To report specific issues that need attention or repair, visit VDOT’s simple-to-use webpage: https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/.

I continue to work with Fairfax County Supervisor Walter Alcorn’s office on more complex challenges regarding traffic safety around our schools. Please continue informing me of any such repeat instances. Thank you.

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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