May Community Update

Dear Community Members,

This week I have sought to channel my grief and that of Hunter Mill constituents’ about the murders of children and adults in a Texas elementary school, into action to promote a safe and excellent educational experience for our students and staff. The Board also completed one of its core duties this week - adopting an annual budget for the upcoming school year. The budget reflects the Fairfax community’s values for a robust public education. 

There is much to reflect upon about America during this Memorial Day weekend. I hope you have a peaceful holiday. 

School Board Adopts Fiscal Year 23 Budget

FCPS logo with student images

Last night, the Fairfax County School Board adopted the FY 2023 budget that strengthens student success and security, focuses on staff compensation, and represents hope and help for our FCPS community. 

Please read the full news release.

The budget reflects my work to provide:

Literacy Instruction Using The Science of Reading

This budget supports the priorities defined in the ongoing assessment of FCPS' literacy basal instructional material needs. 

FCPS Instructional Services began the process for new basal instructional materials as defined in FCPS Regulation 3004 in 2020. In October 2021, the School Board approved the Language Arts Basal Instructional Materials Adoption Committee.

During the last months of the adoption process, the Virginia legislature approved the Virginia Literacy Act, which requires evidence-based literacy instruction be implemented in all early learning classrooms, including new and amended requirements for instruction and intervention programs. Staff has been notified that the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will provide a list of approved resources in the coming months.

While FCPS awaits further VDOE direction, the materials found in this link were adopted by the Board on April 28. 

Elementary School Teacher Planning Time

Currently, elementary staff have 300 minutes of weekly planning time, while their middle school and high school colleagues have about 450 minutes per week. The adopted budget funds the addition of elementary monitors, which begins to reduce this disparity. This additional time will build teacher capacity to meet diverse student needs, engage in professional learning to enhance their skills, analyze data from a variety of assessments, make intentional instructional decisions based on those assessments, and provide students and families with targeted and detailed feedback about student progress. 

Increased Access to Environmental Education

FCPS will double the number of staff working centrally to support environmental education in 200 schools instructing 188,000 students! To be transparent, it's going from two to four people ... but it's progress! This is one step in a multi-year approach to expand professional development, outdoor learning spaces, and content including STEM core academics so that ultimately, every student in FCPS experiences the research-proven success of environmental education on learning.

Security Vestibules

I've heard from many constituents since Tuesday's tragedy in Texas, asking about security in our public schools. Here is information that I'd like to share to help us get through these tragic and stressful times and even improve the situation together:

First, FCPS has information posted here. Be sure to scroll down to link to more resources.

Second, as part of the approved FY23 Budget, my proposed follow on motion passed that $15 Million be prioritized to ensure all facilities have what are called security vestibules. You can read about why this is a needed strategy in the Fairfax Now article here. 

Additionally, at it's June 16 public Regular Meeting, the Board is expected to adopt a guns-free school policy

Other Recent Work 

School Board Approves FCPS Trust Policy 

On Thursday, April 28, the Fairfax County School Board approved the Trust Policy, which confirms the School Board’s commitment to providing a safe and welcoming space for all students and their families by aligning Fairfax County Public Schools with Fairfax County’s Public Trust and Confidentiality Policy. This will ensure that FCPS students and families can access FCPS benefits and services without fear that information will be disclosed, directly or indirectly, to federal immigration officials.

The Trust Policy directs the superintendent to conduct all necessary preparations so that it is fully in effect for the start of the 2022-23 school year, and as much as possible for the 2022 summer school session. See the complete policy.

Michele Togbe Selected Student School Board Representative

Michele Togbe

Michele Togbe, a junior at South County High School, has been elected by the countywide Student Advisory Council (SAC) to serve a one-year term as student representative to the Fairfax County School Board, beginning July 1. 

Togbe will participate in School Board meetings as a nonvoting member, filling the position currently held by Pranav Choudhary, a senior at Langley High School. She will be the 52nd student representative to the School Board

Update on Electric Bus Grant Award

Electric bus with FCPS driver Nick Rocha

As the division continues to seek opportunities to expand the electric school bus fleet, FCPS recently accepted the grant award from The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and  Clean School Bus Program for funding to replace ten diesel school buses with ten electric school buses.  This latest grant award will bring our total number of electric school buses to 28. 

FCPS is committed to providing carbon-neutral student transportation by 2035. The division officially launched our first fleet of electric school buses in October 2021. The FCPS fleet is one of the largest in the U.S., transporting more than 141,000 students on more than 1,600 buses each day. Learn the difference between an FCPS diesel school bus and an electric school bus by watching the Battle of the Buses.

To learn more about being a FCPS bus driver, please click here.

FCPS Named Energy Star Partner of The Year

Energy Star logo

FCPS has received the 2022 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year–Sustained Excellence award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. “This 24-year partnership has been one of the longest and most successful relationships the school division has ever had, and we are proud to be making a difference not only locally, but globally," said Jeff Platenberg, assistant superintendent of Facilities and Transportation. Each year, the ENERGY STAR program honors businesses and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through superior energy achievements. ENERGY STAR award winners lead their industries in the production, sale, and adoption of energy-efficient products, homes, buildings, services, and strategies. Read more here.

Animals Helping Students Unwind

Student with alpaca

Chickens, alpacas, and mini horses, oh my! Across Fairfax County Public Schools, animals are helping students destress. Some schools are utilizing ESSER III funds to help pay for therapy animal visits, while others rely on teachers going above and beyond to care for and feed the animals. Students of all ages agree, spending time with animals puts a smile on their faces and helps them relax. As a part of Mental Health Acceptance Month, here are examples of a few FCPS schools connecting students with animals.

Bullying Education for Parents 

FCPS students

FCPS is deeply committed to creating a safe and positive school environment where all students can learn.  Through school-wide positive behavior approaches and participation in K-12 health and guidance lessons students are taught to behave respectfully and to resolve conflicts in positive ways.

The FCPS Bullying Prevention and Intervention website has been updated to include a video for parents, to education on what bullying is, per the SR&R, and what to expect when a bullying allegation is reported to a school administrator.

FCPS High Schools Ranked Among the Best in Virginia and the Nation by U.S. News and World Report

Fairfax County Public Schools high schools have been ranked as some of the best high schools in Virginia and the nation according to U.S. News and World Report. The rankings evaluate more than 17,800 schools at the national, state, and local level and are based on six factors, including college readiness, reading and math proficiency, reading and math performance, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth, and graduation rates. 

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) was named the number one high school in Virginia and the United States for the fourth consecutive year, and several other FCPS high schools were ranked among the nation’s best.

Hunter Mill Happenings

Dogwood Community Shines at Multicultural Night

Melanie Meren with Dogwood staff and community members in front of mural

I spent a joy-filled evening at Dogwood Elementary School for their first annual Multicultural Night! The kids were proud of their heritages and interested in others’. The kids know. Let’s follow their lead of being kind, curious, and joyful! Thanks to Principal Beckner and her team of faculty and staff. Thanks also to artist Hamilton Glass for an inspiring mural!

Hunter Mill Spring Musicals

Throughout May, I spent my weekends seeing spring musicals at South Lakes HS, Madison HS, and Oakton HS.

I’m grateful that our public schools, with tremendous support from the staff and volunteers, provide these opportunities for us all. Bravo!

Collage of Hunter Mill musicals
Legally Blonde Musical production poster

Thoreau students will be performing Legally Blonde Jr. June 2-4, with three evening shows at 7:00 pm and one Saturday matinee at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $12 each and on sale at

Brightspot Volunteers Support Aldrin Elementary School

Brightspot volunteers at Aldrin ES

What a team of volunteers from Brightspot, a Reston-based technology services company that models community engagement. The company regularly schedules with Aldrin Elementary School to bring volunteers to help - when I visited they were preparing the schoolyard for play and learning, but at other times also helping with mentoring, or providing school supplies for students. Volunteers have even helped distribute laptops during the pandemic to connect students! A true local leader! Thank you!

Visiting the Walker Nature Center in Reston

Melanie Meren at Nature House

I had a very productive meeting with Reston Association leadership and staff to learn about the incredible programming at Walker Nature center, and brainstorming about how to further connect students with this environmental education resource!

Improving Pedestrian and Transit Safety

I continue to work with FCPS and Fairfax County staff, alongside community members, to improve transit safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles. 

The picture on the right shows where the FCPS Office of Facilities Management repaired a damaged school zone light on an existing power pole.

Additionally, VDOT completed a new high visibility crosswalk and ADA compliant ramp to provide centralized crossing for all students accessing the Lower and Upper McNair Elementary Schools.

School speed limit flashing sign

Hunter Mill School Board Office Accomplishments

My Hunter Mill School Board office is committed to collaboration, continuous improvement, and excellence in Fairfax. As such, I'm proud to share with the community news of accomplishments of my Staff Aide, Emma Heisey. Ms. Heisey has completed the year-long FCPS Supporting the Mission initiative, a prestigious experience for FCPS staff seeking leadership opportunities and to cultivate the best of what FCPS provides. Her commitment nurtured her own knowledge as well as mine, as we discussed high-level leadership topics and work throughout the year. And, just this week, Ms. Heisey was appointed by County Board Chairman Jeff McKay to serve on the Young Adults Advisory Council. I'm eager here, too, to elevate related work in my office with forthcoming information and connections she will garner. Congratulations and thank you, Ms. Heisey!

Hughes MS Wins VA Odyssey of The Mind Tournament

Congratulations to Hughes MS for placing first in Odyssey of the Mind Virginia Virtual Tournament! Shout out, too, to Louise Archer ES and Westbriar ES for being in it to win it!

Hughes MS Odyssey of the Mind

EcoRise Grant Awarded to Lake Anne Elementary School

Eco-Adit Grant

Congratulations to Consuelo Bachelet and her students at Lake Anne Elementary for securing another EcoRise Grant award for $1,200 to help restore their edible garden!

This project will:

Rehabilitate 2,200 square feet into functioning edible gardens!

Grow up to 300 pounds of food for the school community!

Donate food to the local food bank!

Madison Freshman Men's Team Wins VA State Championship

Madison Freshman Crew team

Congratulations to the Madison HS Crew’s Freshman Men’s 8 who won the Virginia State Championship at Sandy Run Regional Park!

South Lakes Cyber Program Wins First in Virginia

South Lakes HS CyberPatriot team

South Lakes HS CyberPatriot Team Zer0Day won the first place Virginia State Award! Congratulations to students Christopher Zhong, Gideon Morrow, Justin Vogel, and Gang-Mu Liu. 

The team-consisting of 3 seniors and 1 junior-competed each year in the CyberPatriot .  The team improved each year with personal records and last year’s team was in the top 100 out of 2500 teams. The students wrote scripts, completed their International Baccalaureate projects using cybersecurity subject matters, and at the same time, mentors the middle school cyber club students and assist our sister school’s cyber club.   The current team is currently writing curriculum for a Summer cyber camp which will encourage STEM learning to under-represented minorities.

Langley HS Student Wins Award at VA History Day Contest

Virginia History Day logo

Langley HS student Mansi Bhardwaj received recognition for her Virginia History Day exhibit: “World War Zero: Diplomacy in the Treaty of Portsmouth”

Altogether, students from FCPS won 20 category awards in the 2022 Virginia History Day competition, held at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond, and based on the theme, “Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences.” 

Learn more.

Students Selected for VA Band, Chorus, and Orchestra

One hundred ninety students from FCPS high schools have been named to the 2022 All-Virginia Band, Chorus, and Orchestra. The students performed with other premier musicians from across the state April 20-23.

Additionally, seventy four FCPS students were named to the 2022 All-Virginia Middle School Honor Choir.

Congratulations to all the Hunter Mill musicians! 

Auditorium with piano onstage

6th Annual Student Shark Tank Technology Challenge

Fairfax Student Shark Tank Tech Challenge winners with the Board of Supervisors

Oakton HS student, Sampriti Muthuswamy, was recognized by the Board of Supervisors as one of the 6th Annual Fairfax Area Student Shark Tank Technology Challenge.

This year's contest encouraged students to develop an innovative device or app that enhances the independent enjoyment of life for older adults and adults with disabilities, including wounded warriors. Students were also encouraged to consider projects that may offer assistance in such areas as active free time activities, participation in the arts, and caregiving. 

Thoreau and Oakton Counseling Programs Recognized 

Thoreau Middle School and Oakton High School were two of five FCPS school counseling programs that have been recognized by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) as model programs and were awarded the Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) designation for 2022 for successfully demonstrating how their comprehensive school counseling programs benefit all students. 

Learn more.

Students Take Top Honors at FBLA State Conference

Students from twelve Fairfax County public schools won first place awards at the 2022 Virginia Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) State Leadership Conference held recently in Reston. More than 90 students placed in the top four in their event and qualified to compete in the FBLA National Leadership Conference in Chicago in June. See who won FBLA state awards.

Congratulations to all the Hunter Mill winners!

Future Business Leaders of America

 Hispanic Leadership Alliance Awards 26 Scholarships

The Hispanic Leadership Alliance—a certified employee group of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) employees—presented scholarships to 26 students on Tuesday, May 3.  Scholarship recipients were recognized for leadership and mentoring skills in their educational and social activities. Candidates are committed to furthering their education while improving their communities. Each of the applicants will be the first in their families to attend a postsecondary institution.  See the list of winners.

Armstrong ES Teachers Shows That Math Is All Around Us

Damien Ettere video


Damien Ettere, a math teacher at Armstrong Elementary School, is one of three finalists from Virginia for the Presidential Math and Science Teaching Awards.

Watch this video to see how Ettere builds community and context in his classroom

2nd Annual Liberty Amendments Month Celebration in Vienna

The Town of Vienna's second annual Liberty Amendments Month (LAM) will start on June 18 and run through July 19, 2022.  Each week focuses on one of the Constitutional amendments that extends rights and liberties to U.S. citizens who originally were excluded from the Constitution.

Click here to learn more and view the calendar of events.

Liberty Amendments Month logo

Get School-Required Immunizations in Reston

New students, transfer students, kindergarteners, 7th graders, and 12th graders need vaccinations for school - the Fairfax County Health Department provides school-required immunizations for free!

Visit the Reston location at 1850 Cameron Glen Dr., #100. Be sure to call 703-246-7100 to make your appointment.

School vaccination flyer

Apply for Pre-K and Early Head Start Today

Young students

FCPS PreK and Early Head Start is now accepting applications for School Year 2022-23!  PreK and Early Head Start is an income eligible program serving children ages 3 or 4 by September 30 in multiple classrooms across the county and ages 6 weeks to 2 years in the Reston, Herndon and Springfield areas.  Please watch this video to learn more about the program and to see if your child may qualify. English video, Spanish video.

To Apply Online visit our website here: PreK and EHS Application

For more information you can reach us via the English Line: 703-208-7900 , Spanish Line: 703-208-7901 or PreK email at:

May is...

Jewish American Heritage Month

Jewish American Heritage Month

May is a national month of recognition of the history of Jewish contributions to American culture, acknowledging the diverse achievement of the Jewish community in the U.S.

The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of Jewish Americans who helped form the fabric of American history, culture and society. Learn more here and find upcoming events.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrating the histories of Americans hailing from the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia, and across the Asian continent. People with ancestral roots in Asia and the islands of the Pacific have been integral to the story of America. To celebrate their heritage and contributions, in 1992, May was designated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.  Visit to learn more about the many contributions and achievements of individuals within this diverse and varied group.  

Mental Health Acceptance Month

Mental Health Acceptance Month

May is Mental Health Acceptance Month. “The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a serious toll on the mental health of children in Virginia as young people continue to face physical isolation, ongoing uncertainty, fear, and grief,” says the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (VA-AAP). “Even before the pandemic, mental health challenges facing children were of great concern, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated them.” 

For resources to support the students in your life, click here.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

global graphic

Thursday, May 19, marks the 11th Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Our families and students rely on our websites to engage with the division and learning. These are essential tools for a public school system.

Providing an accessible website experience for all users strengthens our caring culture and reaffirms our commitment to equity. Within the last few months FCPS has:

  • Conducted routine accessibility checks of our web pages.
  • Added accessibility checks for web pages and web-based applications as part of standard workflows.
  • Updated requirements for FCPS’ online web accessibility training.

Upcoming Public Meetings & Topics

  • June 14 at 10am - Forum
    • Trauma informed school practices
    • Educational Equity Policy
  • June 14 at 11am - Work Session
    • FY23 Office of the Auditor General Risk Assessment and Audit Plan
  • June 16 at 6pm - VHSL sport recognitions
    •  The School Board will be holding a student awards night on Thursday, June 16. The Board will hold the event on this date because it is after student activities and athletics conclude for the school year and the board wants to honor as many students in person as possible.
  • June 16 at 7pm - Regular Meeting

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.

School Board Members sitting at dais

Other Information of Interest

Upcoming Pride Events

Pride prom poster

Tickets are on sale now for Once Upon a Prom (and Party) at The St. James in Springfield oFriday, June 24thSafe Space NOVA’s Pride Prom is an opportunity for LGBTQIA+ students from all over the DMV to attend a prom with pride, dress however they are most comfortable, and dance without fear with whomever they choose. LGBTQIA+ Student Ambassadors have selected Once Upon a Prom as their theme because, after a 2-year Pandemic hiatus, the idea of being able to hold a queer prom almost seems like a fairy tale dream come true. In truth, no matter the year, even for repeat attendees, the night remains magical. 

Reston Pride logo

Along with School Board Member Frisch, I am excited to be speaking at the upcoming June 4 Reston Pride event!

Webinar on Opioid Use Trends and Support Set for June 7

Opioid overdoses are on the rise in the Fairfax Health District, which is consistent with national and state trends. 

Fairfax County Public Schools is partnering with Fairfax County Government to provide an educational webinar on substance use trends and supports June 7 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Register for the June 7 webinar

The webinar will cover topics including:

  • Most Commonly Used Substances.
  • In Depth Opioid Information.
  • Reasons Why Youth Use Substances.
  • Ways Parents Can Support their Children.
  • Available FCPS and Fairfax County Resources.
  • How to connect with support providers.

Language interpretation will be available in Spanish, Arabic, Amharic, and Korean. American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting by an ASL/Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) Team will also be provided.

Learn more about what you can do to help and prevent overdoses in our Healthy Minds blog.

Educate Fairfax Inducts Inaugural Class to FCPS Hall of Fame

FCPS Hall of Fame 2022

On Wednesday, May 4, Educate Fairfax (formerly the Foundation for Fairfax County Public Schools) inducted the inaugural class of eight members of the FCPS Hall of Fame, established to honor distinguished alumni of Fairfax County Public Schools.

The inductees for the FCPS Hall of Fame’s 2022 class include:

  • Elizabeth Moore Aubin (Langley High School), U.S. ambassador to Algeria.
  • Christian Burbach (Langley High School), decorated military veteran and business leader.
  • David Guernsey (Falls Church High School), business owner and non-profit leader.
  • Shea Megale (Westfield High School), an author, film director, and advocate.
  • Paul Misener (Annandale High School), business leader, engineer, and inventor.
  • Jeffrey Platenberg (West Springfield High School), assistant superintendent, FCPS Department of Facilities and Transportation.
  • Lynn Symansky (James Madison High School), an international equestrian, trainer, and Olympian.
  • Les Williams, Jr. (Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology), an entrepreneur, engineer, and nonprofit leader.

Educate Fairfax is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that works to make a positive difference in the lives of FCPS students and teachers. For more information, or if you would like to donate, visit the Educate Fairfax website.

May 2022 Issue of The Audit Buzz

The May 2022 issue of Audit Buzz is available. This issue summarizes the status of current engagements, the upcoming Internal Audit Awareness Month in the Knowledge Hive, and highlights a recent peer review (i.e. "auditing the auditors") performed by Auditor General, Esther Ko. Stay up to date with OAG's current and future work by subscribing to Audit Buzz. 

Bumblebee for Audit Buzz

FCPS Family Return to School Survey Is Coming Soon

Now that FCPS has transitioned back to a more typical school experience, the school division is interested in hearing from parents/caregivers about how the school year has gone for their students. You will have an opportunity to provide your feedback on our Family Return to School Survey which will open Tuesday, May 31, and close Friday, June 10. 

The survey is being administered by the FCPS Office of Research and Strategic Improvement, which provides objective research and data-based information back to the school division’s leadership. The survey is part of the office’s continuing evaluation of the pandemic’s impact on our school division. We encourage all FCPS parents/caregivers to respond to the survey and share their experiences whether positive or negative. The information you and other families provide will be used, along with other data, to inform FCPS leadership about the return to five days a week of in-person instruction, and support FCPS’ efforts to make improvements that support schools, students, and staff. It will also be included in ESSER III reporting.

In-person Tutoring Options

For families interested in in-person tutoring, FCPS’ Parent Resource Center maintains a list of tutors who can be hired by families.

The tutor list contains the names of current FCPS employees who hold a valid and current teaching license in Virginia. These employees have contacted the Parent Resource Center to offer their services. The tutor list is updated monthly during the school year.

For a list of tutors, please email The Parent Resource Center (

This list is a resource offered by the PRC, but parents are responsible for contacting and working directly with the tutors.

For more information about tutors, click here to visit the Parent Resource Center website.

Job Opportunities

Interested in joining FCPS? Explore opportunities for:

Visit Current Job Openings for all posted positions.

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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