Mid-February Community Update

Dear Community Members,

What a week! I was thrilled to welcome dozens of community members to the strategic planning community forum I hosted on Thursday - nearly 100 registrants expressed their interest in attending! 

Data and input from the multitude of community meetings these past few weeks will be consolidated and shared, and used to inform the strategic plan. The plan is expected by the end of this school year, and will be the foundation for how investments of time and funding are made in FCPS.

Thanks to Principal Emily Cope and her staff at Hunters Woods Elementary for hosting us all. And thank you to the dozens of FCPS staff - including many principals - who stayed into the evening to moderate and participate in these small group conversations among community members. And, I was able to highlight the work of just one student group, Inc., a South Lakes HS-based student business that is soon publishing its first children book, written and illustrated by students. Pre-order your copy here! (I have already!). 

Collage of Hunter Mill Community Forum
Strategic Plan Feedback Survey QR Code

Individuals can also contribute to the conversation by answering a few questions and providing comments using the Strategic Plan Feedback Form. All feedback provided will remain anonymous.

For those unable to attend the February 16 meeting, virtual opportunities to participate will be available in March. Dates and registration links will be published soon on FCPS' Strategic Planning webpage

On a somber note, however, our students continue to face threats of drug use and gun violence. It is sobering to hear of these instances happening in our schools; however, to impact what happens in our schools, we must look to what is happening outside of our schools. 

The mission of our schools is to educate children; however, the number one priority is to keep students and staff safe.

Regarding gun violence prevention: adults have a responsibility to keep firearms away from children, and discuss with children the lethal danger that guns pose. The school division has resources to support this, and has many mitigating strategies in place to prevent gun violence. However, school safety actually begins at home.

Our students are already doing lock down drills, and being taught curriculum about gun violence prevention. It's the reinforcement and practice of this information by adults outside of school that is needed. And, our children must be taught that joking about violence to others, spoken or in writing, is never funny, and will be met with full investigations per FCPS policy. The Fairfax County Police Department will always be contacted in these matters and students have the potential to be criminally charged.

Since speaking with many concerned adults, and students, recently, what I'm trying to help us identify is what we are to do as adults. If those who are like-minded about gun use, whatever opinion is held, don't engage with others of differing opinions, then how can we really address what's happening in our community? While some parents are choosing to keep their children home from school due to alleged threats of violence, what if another option is that adults with different opinions talk to one another and come to agreements on how to prevent gun violence? Or become partners? This is the hard work before us, that requires courage. We can do hard things together, though. 

Regarding the escalating dangers of fentanyl and drug use - this is again, another area where adults must be talking with their children about the sky rocketing threats and overdoses happening right here in Fairfax, playing out in our schools. FCPS has resources to help parents talk to children and prevent access to drugs. I've heard some students say they are surprised when a peer overdoses, because they wouldn't expect that from the person they know as their friend. They think peer pressure is resulting in these risky trials of drugs that can be laced with fentanyl, and offer no mercy just because it's a child's first use. Please don't assume it can't be your child. 

Thank you for considering how as individuals and as a community, we can keep our children safe so they can succeed in school and live a healthy life. 

Recent Work 

School Year Calendar Approved 

FCPS School Year Calendar Development

I was pleased to vote for a three-year school calendar, something I heard was desired by Hunter Mill constituents. I also advocated for as many 5-day weeks as possible to limit disruptions of students’ and families schedules; and honoring educators’ planning time with designated Teacher Work Days.

The first day of the 2023-24 school year will be Monday, August 21, and the last day will be Wednesday, June 12

Developing a school year calendar is a balancing act, involving multiple factors that must be considered. Community input is one of those factors, and I appreciate the community for being involved in the calendar development process.

Fiscal Year 2024-28 Capital Improvement Plan Approved

Construction site

I voted Yes to approve an annual update to the Fiscal Year 2024-28 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) on February 9. The CIP outlines plans to build three new elementary schools and to acquire land that will be used for a new high school. Other projects include three new and/or repurposed school facilities, the renovation of 25 schools based on the existing renovation queue, and the relocation of modular buildings. 

At the School Board's next Regular Meeting I will be proposing a follow-on motion to improve FCPS' ability to deliver fresh and diverse food options.

Project webpages will keep the public informed of the details and progress of the project, including engagement opportunities, project details and timelines, progress updates, and more. View timelines for each approved project.

Crossfield ES

Crossfield ES is included in those projects! During the same meeting, the contract was awarded for the Crossfield ES renovation.

Fairfax County Public Schools relies on taxpayer-approved bond referendums to fund its Capital Improvement Program. The next school bond will be on the ballot for voters in November 2023.

Collaborating on Improving Safety and Security 

Leadership from the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) and leadership from FCPS recently met to better collaborate on trends the FCPD has seen over this school year. Specifically, crime trends associated with youth and educational facilities, traffic safety enforcement and initiatives, narcotic overdose activity and trends in the county, and responsibilities for the notification process between FCPD and FCPS. 

Read the letter detailing this meeting, here. 

Speed Camera Pilot Program is Underway

Fairfax County Speed Camera Pilot Program

The new Speed Camera Pilot Program is now in effect for eight school zones! Two additional cameras are forthcoming.

For the first 30 days following the launch of the pilot program, no fines will be in effect. Motorists will receive a warning only.

Read more about the program and see the list of current camera locations here.

Academic Matters 

Equitable Access to Literacy

During the January 26 School Board regular meeting, Superintendent Reid unveiled our Equitable Access to Literacy Plan (EAL), which outlines the school division’s ongoing work to align literacy practices with science-based reading research. In 2021, the Board committed FCPS to this approach.

Data presented by FCPS and literacy experts show the urgent need for a new approach to literacy education. This conclusive research provides us with a foundational understanding of how students learn to read, what sequential skills are involved, and what professional learning is necessary to ensure access to evidence-based literacy instruction in each classroom. A strong foundation of these skills will ensure high levels of reading and writing across a variety of genres and a variety of disciplines. The ability to read and write is a fundamental contributor to understanding our world, creating empathy within and among communities, and engaging fully as a global citizen. 

Watch the presentation.

Federal Grant Will Support School-Based Mental Health Staff

Mental Health Matters shirt

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the first year of a five-year grant to Fairfax County Public Schools for $13.5 million, to support a School-Based Mental Health Services Grant project. The goal of the grant program is to increase the number of credentialed mental health service providers delivering school-based mental health services to students with demonstrated need. With the funding, FCPS will focus on enhancing the division’s recruitment and retention practices for mental health professionals, including school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers. Watch Dr. Reid’s Academic Matters segment from the February 9 School Board Regular Meeting discussing this grant.

Upcoming School Board Meetings 

  • February 21 at 1:30 pm: Work Session
    • Governance
  • February 23 at 7:00 pm: Regular Meeting
  • February 28 at 11:00 am: Work Session
    • Collective Bargaining
  • March 7 at 1:00 pm: Work Session
    • Policy Governance
  • March 9 at 7:00 pm: Regular Meeting
    • Collective Bargaining
  • March 28 at 11:00 am: Work Session
    • Strategic Plan
    • Governance

Please note that 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.

QR code for School Board meetings in Spanish  

For Spanish speakers -- to watch recorded School Board meetings or live Regular Meetings on YouTube, you can visit the FCPS en Espanol YouTube channel or scan the QR code.

School Board dais photo

Hunter Mill Happenings 

Hughes MS Recognized for Tobacco Prevention Campaign

Congratulations to Langston Hughes Middle School on being awarded a $1,000 grant for a Healthy Lifestyles - Tobacco Prevention Campaign. I'm especially thrilled because I've been able to help with this initiative as the parent of a LHMS student and a PTA member!

12 FCPS schools received National PTA grant funding. Hughes is the only school in the county to receive the tobacco awareness grant and only one of two middle schools to receive something.

Stay tuned for a week of awareness March 27-31.

Campaign for tobacco free kids button

Madison HS Student Directed One-Act Plays

Madison HS one act plays

There are two more chances to catch student directed one-act plays at Madison HS

Saturday, 2/18, 7:30pm

  • The Fernsby Theatre
  • Hide the Body
  • Bobby Wilson Can Eat His Own Face

Friday, 2/17, 7:30pm and Saturday, 2/18, 2:30pm

  • Here Boy! Hide the Body
  • Rapunzel Uncut
  • Cash Monet

For more information visit the Mad Drama website.

Scholastic Art Awards Ceremony - March 1 

Congratulations to all the Hunter Mill students that submitted pieces and were recognized in the 2023 Regional Scholastic Art Awards!

The Gold Key and Silver Key artworks will be displayed at Northern Virginia Community College’s Ernst Community Cultural Center in Annandale from Friday, February 9, to Thursday, March 23, with an award ceremony on Wednesday, March 1.

See the full list of award winners here.

Scholastic Art Awards Ceremony


Reston Native Recognized by the Board of Supervisors

Nate Mook at the Board of Supervisors

Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Jeff McKay, alongside Hunter Mill Supervisor, Walter Alcorn, presented a Resolution to recognize Reston native (and South Lakes HS grad), Nate Mook, for his accomplishments and contributions as CEO of World Central Kitchen.

World Central Kitchen provides chef-prepared meals to communities after they have been impacted by natural disasters and during humanitarian crises. Under Nate’s leadership, World Central Kitchen has served over 60 million meals while also helping communities to build sustainable food systems.

You can watch the recognition presentation here.

Congratulations, and thank you, Mr. Mook!

Apply for an FCPS Magnet School

Hunters Woods ES is one of three FCPS elementary magnet schools that provide programs that enhance learning in science, technology, and performing arts. 

FCPS will be accepting applications for its elementary magnet school programs on Wednesday, March 1, through Wednesday, April 12, at 4 p.m. Get more information about the schools, their programs, and locations.

February Is...

Black History Month

FCPS Black History Month  

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. 

The School Board passed a Resolution honoring Black History Month at our January 26 Regular Meeting. 

Read the Resolution here. 

Honoring Black History Month

Six New Historical Markers Chosen

Board of Supervisors Historical Markers Contest Recognition

Six Historical Markers were chosen to honor our county's Black/African American experience. The project (a partnership between the School Board and the Board of Supervisors) launched in 2022 and engaged students to shine a light on the past by advocating for stories underrepresented in history books.

The Board of Supervisors recognized the following six new markers at their February 7 meeting:

  • Louise Archer, an educator, who supported numerous students over her time.
  • Lillian Blackwell, who sued successfully to ban segregation of movie theatres and public schools.
  • Annie Harper, who challenged the constitutionality of Virginia’s poll tax.
  • Robert Gunnell, a freedman who conveyed land for Gunnell’s Chapel, a 19th century African American Methodist Church.
  • Colin Powell, who was a long-time county resident, four-star general, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, founder of America’s Promise and the first African American secretary of state. There is an elementary school named after him in Centreville.
  • December 20, 1856: The 16, which recognizes 16 enslaved individuals named in an 1856 property inventory for the land on which West Springfield High School now stands.

Performances by Discovery Theater

Discovery Theater Performance

The PTA's Cultural Arts Committee at Wolftrap ES will be welcoming Discovery Theater to perform for students on February 22!

Discovery Theater’s original touring production introduces us to young heroes – and calls us to join them in changing the world. Meet Ernest Green of the Little Rock Nine, the first student to graduate from an integrated high school; Claudette Colvin, the 15-year-old who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus (nine months before Rosa Parks); and Ruby Bridges, who won equal rights before she could read. Moving archival musical recordings accent these scenes of struggle and hope.

The Smithsonian Discovery Theater was founded in 1964 as the Smithsonian Puppet Theater and is now called Discovery Theater.

National Career and Technical Education Month 

National Career and Technical Education Month

I was proud to read the School Board's Recognition of National Career and Technical Education Month at the February 9 meeting.

Career and Technical Education or “CTE” Month is a public awareness campaign held every February to celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of such programs nationwide. 

A core program of CTE courses is offered in every middle and high school including Business and Information Technology, Family and Consumer Sciences, Health and Medical Sciences, Marketing, Technology and Engineering Education, and Trade and Industrial Education. Since this is an elective, course offerings may vary by school. Learn more on the CTE website and click here for a video on FCPS' CTE programs.

National School Counseling Week

National School Counseling Week Recognition

The School Board recognized February 6-10, 2023, as National School Counseling Week. 

The theme for the 2023 National School Counseling Week is "Helping Students Dream Big". 

Read the full Recognition, here. 

Other Information of Interest 

Complete the FAFSA by March 1 


It’s time for high school seniors and their families to complete college financial aid forms. Most colleges require that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) be completed by Saturday, March 1, to receive the maximum financial aid possible in fall 2023. Some schools have earlier priority deadlines, so check the individual college’s financial aid office website for deadlines and specific forms to complete. To begin the FAFSA, you will need to create a FSA ID.

A funding opportunity is available for students who are unable to complete the FAFSA—the Virginia Alternative State Aid (VASA) program. Visit the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia website for help in determining which aid option is right for you.

College Access Fairfax's website offers recordings, virtual workshops, and other resources. Their Financial Aid Champions also provide help completing the financial aid forms. To request a one-on-one appointment, please email appointments@collegeaccessfairfax.org.

Families can also contact their high school's college and career specialist or school counselor if they need additional help.

Kindergarten Registration

FCPS is excited to begin our thinking about 2023-24! Do you have a child at home who will be five by September 30, 2023? If you have any neighbors with little ones, please send this information to them as well. Please contact your local school's registrar to start the registration process. Determine your local school. Here is the registration information for Kindergarten or any new students. Many schools have scheduled their Kindergarten Orientations for the next several weeks.

School Board Student Representative Application Open

Student Representative to the School Board video

Each year, FCPS students have the opportunity to apply for the position of the student representative to the School Board. The student representative is not a member of the School Board but serves in a nonvoting, advisory capacity, representing FCPS students’ interests. The Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council (SAC) student delegates will vote to elect the representative to the School Board in April.

To be eligible, students should currently be in grades 9, 10, and 11; be a resident of Fairfax County or Fairfax City; and be an FCPS student. Students do not need to be current SAC members to apply. However, students are required to provide a written application by Friday, March 17, and a 30-second candidate statement via Flip video, which is due Friday, March 31

Watch the video above to hear from current Representative Michele Togbe, as she describes the demands, expectations, and rewards of the position. Learn more.

Eating Disorder Awareness and Resources

The Code of Virginia, 22.1-273.2, requires Virginia public schools to provide, on an annual basis, parent educational information regarding eating disorders for pupils in grades five through twelve. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA 2022):

Eating disorders are serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights. While no one knows for sure what causes eating disorders, a growing consensus suggests that it is a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. Eating disorders are not fads or phases, and can have serious consequences for health, productivity, and relationships.

FCPS has created a webpage, in collaboration with the Fairfax County Health Department, containing detailed information and resources about eating disorders.

Schools Respond: Teens and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse panel presentation


Hispanic Leadership Alliance Scholarship Program

The Hispanic Leadership Alliance (HLA) scholarship is for first-generation Latino senior students from FCPS. The student must be the first one in his or her family to attend a post-secondary educational institution. HLA is a non-profit organization of Fairfax County Public Schools employees, retirees, former students, and residents. 

Apply by February 27.

Camp Fairfax Registration Opens February 21

Camp Fairfax, a full-day program run by Fairfax County for rising 1st through 7th graders, features exciting opportunities in outdoor adventures, performing arts, sports and recreation, visual arts, science, technology, engineering and math exploration, and much more. Registration opens Tuesday, February 21.

Introducing the 2023 Inductees into the FCPS Hall of Fame

FCPS 2023 Hall of Fame

Twelve amazing FCPS alumni will be recognized in April as the newest inductees in the FCPS Hall of Fame.

This year’s class of Hall of Fame members include an Army general, an ambassador, entrepreneurs, a scientist, a doctor and philanthropist, and two non-profit leaders in Fairfax. Meet them all at this link.

We are so proud to recognize them, and know you'll want to be there to cheer them on. 

The celebration will be April 19, and tickets are available here!

Office of the Ombuds: At Your Service

Office of the Ombuds

Do you have questions or concerns about Fairfax County Public Schools? If so, reach out to the Office of the Ombuds, an independent, impartial, informal, and confidential resource for employees, parents/caregivers, students, and the community. Ombuds staff members are eager to listen and assist with navigating the school division. They will also offer options and resources to help resolve challenges.

Contact the Office of the Ombuds at 571-423-4014, ombuds@fcps.edu, or via the “Submit a Question” button on their webpage. The team looks forward to serving you!

Department of Education Call for Student Performing Artists

The U.S. Department of Education is seeking student performing artists (such as bands/marching bands, choirs, color guards, dancers, drumlines, poets/spoken word artists, soloists, theatrical performers) currently enrolled in institutions of elementary, secondary, or post-secondary education or accredited trade schools, who exemplify resilience, diversity, and excellence and are interested in showcasing their talent, virtually or in-person, at internal and external Department-hosted events, as well as awards and recognition ceremonies, and professional development trainings that support the Department’s programs, priorities, and initiatives and social media campaigns. No formal training or experience is necessary.

For additional information including Frequently Asked Questions, submission instructions, and other related guidance visit their website.

Girls Who Code Artificial Intelligence Challenge

Girls Who Code is challenging students and the community to create a project that explores how AI may be used for good. You may record a song about algorithmic bias, animate a short on automation, or code a game. The sky's the limit! Learn more about eligibility and how to enter. Submit your project by March 28, 2023

Sorensen Institute High School Leaders Program

The Sorensen HSLP provides a wonderful opportunity for high school students to experience a university environment, engage with peers who have an interest in public service and public policy, and develop leadership skills. Participants connect with peers of different backgrounds and philosophies from around the state. The students also interact with outstanding instructors,
curriculum, and Virginia policymakers and stakeholders who visit as guest speakers.

HSLP is a two-week summer program. The 2023 program will be held July 15-29. Admitted students reside in dorms at the University of Virginia.
The program is open to current sophomores, juniors, and seniors who live in or attend high school in Virginia. Upon completion of the program, students will earn 3 graded college credits from UVA.

Online applications for the 2023 HSLP are open now through Monday, March 20th, 2023.

Sorensen Program Flyer

Job Opportunities

Clerk to the School Board

The Fairfax County School Board is looking for a highly qualified candidate to serve as Clerk to the School Board. Please view the job posting and share it with others who may be interested.

Interested in Tutoring?

FCPS is now actively recruiting qualified tutors to provide academic support in-person to small groups of students. These new FCPS tutors will be paid an hourly rate of $47.17. The position is flexible, and the number of hours worked and location will be based on the tutor’s availability and qualifications, as well as the needs presented throughout FCPS. Apply now! Contact tutor@fcps.edu for more information. 

Note: Current FCPS staff can only apply to tutor outside of their contracted hours.

Explore other 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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