Recent School Board Work, Updates to Leadership, Student Opportunities, and More!

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ይህንን ዜና መፅሄት በሌሎች ቋንቋዎች ለማንበብ፤ እባክዎን ድረ ገፃችንን ይጎብኙ

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Dear Community Members,

Well, the first week of school is on the horizon! Maybe you feel it’s bittersweet to have summer days ending, or you’re eager for your students to get back into the academic calendar of learning – or both – there’s no doubt that change is in the air! My family’s summer, with my students who this fall will be in 8th and in 5th, respectively, had a fortunate mix of downtime; nearby summer travel (including one day at the ocean that will be among my all time favorite family memories!); and many reinforcements to keep reading and limit the screen time.

I look forward to seeing you at upcoming back to school events. I aim to visit as many as possible so I can be available for your input and questions, though I know that greeting students’ teachers and learning about the year ahead is the priority.

Thank you, parents and families, for being partners with educators and the school community. Students can best succeed when they have the support of the adults in their lives. Thank you also to Fairfax residents who may not be current FCPS parents, for their unwavering support of our public schools as community investments - hubs for a vibrant and healthy place to live. 

Updates to Division and Board Leadership

School Principals

Dr. Herman Mizell: Langston Hughes Middle School Principal

Dr. Herman Mizell

Dr. Herman Mizell has been named the new principal of Langston Hughes MS!

Dr. Mizell is an accomplished instructional leader, communicator, and relationship builder who has a record of success in leading schools. He previously served as principal of Swansboro Elementary School in Richmond, Meadowland Elementary School, and Sterling Middle School in Loudoun County. With each school, Dr. Mizell led significant positive improvements in students’ academic achievement. He built strong, instructionally focused, and caring leadership teams that elevated the school culture, decreased student discipline referrals, and increased teacher efficacy.

As a leader, Dr. Mizell is passionate about education and the success of all students. He is a relationship builder who is known, respected, and loved by students, staff, and parents. Dr. Mizell enjoys being a principal that can be found among the students he leads. He believes in developing relationships with staff and students, communicating his high expectations for himself and the school he leads. Most importantly, he wants students and staff to know he cares about them and their success. 

Ms. Elizabeth Watson: McNair Primary Elementary School Principal

Elizabeth Watson

Ms. Elizabeth Watson has been named the new principal of McNair Primary ES!

Ms. Watson has 5 years of experience serving as the assistant principal of Bailey’s Upper Elementary School (2018-2022), and Woodburn Elementary School for the Fine and Communicative Arts (2022-2023). Prior to becoming an assistant principal, Ms. Watson served as a Lead Special Education Teacher and Lead Kindergarten teacher at Fairfax Villa ES and Olde Creek ES, respectively.

During her time at Bailey’s, Ms. Watson facilitated the use of EDSL, and other important tools, to efficiently analyze data from common formative and summative assessments. This work helped teachers make informed instructional decisions resulting in significant student achievement gains on the Reading SOL and other assessment tools.

In addition to her administrative experiences, Ms. Watson has served the district in various capacities. She currently serves as a member of the Fairfax Association of Elementary School Principals (FAESP). Ms. Watson has also served as a panel member for the FCPS School Based Administrator Induction Program I Cohort and has been an instructor for various professional development sessions and teacher education programs here in FCPS and for West Virginia University.  Ms. Watson has been recognized by her colleagues for her leadership capabilities.  She was the recipient of the Outstanding Leader Award at Woodburn Elementary School (2022-2023) and Bailey’s Upper Elementary School (2021-2022).   She was also a nominee for the Outstanding Teacher Award at Olde Creek Elementary School (2018). 

Dr. Cheronda Farrish: Cedar Lane School Principal

Cheronda Farrish

Dr. Cheronda Farrish has been named the new principal of Cedar Lane School

Dr. Farrish’s committed work as a special education teacher, her experiences leading special needs programs, her accomplishments as the assistant principal of the Comprehensive Services Site at Madison High School, combined with her warmth and caring nature, make her an ideal candidate to lead Cedar Lane School. 

Dr. Farrish currently serves as the Co-chair to the Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee.  In this School Board appointed committee, Dr. Farrish works with the Chief Equity and Academic Offices to identify, review, and assess challenges affecting under-represented students and works to promote policies, curriculum, practices, and procedures that will enhance minority student achievement and close achievement disparities in FCPS.  

Read Dr. Farrish's welcome letter to Cedar Lane families.

Division Leadership

Dr. Geovanny Ponce: Chief of Schools

Dr. Geovanny Ponce

Dr. Geovanny Ponce was named to the role of Chief of Schools.

The Superintendent established the position of Chief of Schools as a redesigned role of the previous position of Deputy Superintendent, last held by Dr. Frances Ivey, who retired this summer after an illustrious career in FCPS and public education. The Chief of Schools provides leadership, oversight, and direction for operational and academic management of schools in accordance with School Board policy and strategic initiatives. The Chief directly supervises the Region Assistant Superintendents (RAS), and student activities and athletics programs, as well as additional key responsibilities.

Dr. Ponce most recently served as the Assistant Superintendent of high schools for Houston Independent School District, the eighth-largest public school system in the nation. He has extensive leadership experience using data to raise student achievement in a large school division.

Dr. Nardos King: Chief Equity Officer

Dr. Nardos King

Dr. Nardos King was named to the role of Chief Equity Officer, effective July, 2023. Dr. King has served as the interim Chief Equity Officer since November 2021.

The Office of the Chief Equity Officer examines the greatest opportunities to achieve FCPS goals and the policy commitments made as part of the One Fairfax Policy, with a focus on raising student achievement, closing achievement and attainment gaps, and supporting equitable opportunities for all students.

The Chief Equity Officer supports and leads efforts by FCPS to align actions around the shared value of equity by expanding perspectives, creating the space for courageous conversations, leveraging and building upon strengths, helping all staff to understand the difference between symptoms and root causes, challenging the status quo, clarifying and focusing attention on core purpose, and ensuring that FCPS does all that it can to unlock the potential of each student.

Prior to her current position, Dr. King served as the Assistant Superintendent for Region 3, an Executive Principal for Region 1, Assistant Superintendent for secondary schools in Baltimore County, and as Principal of Mount Vernon High School.

Throughout her career, Dr. King has expanded opportunity and access for all students. Most recently, she has provided system-wide leadership to build organizational capacity to provide excellence, equity, and opportunity for each and every student, co-championed a community team during the strategic plan process, and led the development of the FCPS Equity Policy.

Dr. Terri Edmunds-Heard:

Interim Assistant Superintendent of Special Services

Dr. Terri Edmunds-Heard

Dr. Terri Edmunds-Heard was appointed Assistant Superintendent (interim) for the Department of Special Services, effective July 2023.

Dr. Edmunds-Heard is filling the position formerly held by Dr. Michelle Boyd, who has taken a new role in FCPS – please see just below for more information. Special education instruction and procedural support are included under FCPS' Department of Special Services. Dr. Edmunds-Heard now leads work on the special education enhancement plan and implementation of compensatory services to meet federal Office of Civil Rights findings, as well as the portfolio of special services that include student health and wellness, substance abuse prevention, student discipline, and other procedural supports.

Previously, Dr. Edmunds-Heard was the Executive Principal for School Improvement for Region 5 where she reviewed and monitored school achievement data, coached and developed principals, and served as an instructional leader and advocate for all students and schools.

Edmunds-Heard brings a wealth of experience to the Department of Special Services. She taught special education in several schools, has served as a special education department chair and as the administrator over the school’s special education department.  

Dr. Michelle Boyd: Region 6 Assistant Superintendent 

Dr. Michelle Boyd

FCPS has been arranged into five “Regions” for several years, led by Regional Assistant Superintendents (RAS) who provide leadership, direction, and accountability for principals. As the Hunter Mill representative on the School Board, I mainly represent schools in Region 1, led by RAS Douglas Tyson, (which includes the high school pyramids for Madison, Herndon, and Oakton); and Region 5 led by RAS Rebecca Baenig, (which includes the Westfield pyramid). Learn more about the newly created Region and Region offices here.

The Superintendent has created a new Region 6, to further focus support as needed across the county. Dr. Michelle Boyd was named to the role of Assistant Superintendent for Region 6 effective July 2023. Dr. Boyd previously served as FCPS’s Assistant Superintendent of Special Services. Region 6 includes the Annandale, Hayfield, and Lewis pyramids.

New School Board Chair and Vice-Chair

Elaine Tholen and Karl Frisch

At the July 13 Regular Meeting, the Fairfax County School Board elected Elaine Tholen (Dranesville District Representative) as chair and Karl Frisch(Providence District Representative) as vice chair for a one-year term. I look forward to their leadership and working with them in the coming year.

Should election results change the representation of the Board, a new chair and vice chair will be elected at the beginning of the new term (January 1, 2024). Read more here.

Recent Work - In Case You Missed It

The School Board finished up important work after the last day of school, so here is a round up of items in case you missed them at the start of summer:

Equity in Education Policy

I voted to adopt an Equity Policy to codify and elevate the educational equity beliefs held by Fairfax County Public Schools. The School Board unanimously approved the Equity Policy which defines and guides the work in schools and central offices to ensure alignment with our values, vision, and commitment to academic excellence, inclusion, and opportunities for all. This policy is an extension of the 2017 One Fairfax Policy and will be in alignment with and enacted through the FCPS Strategic Plan, other policies, and all actions under our purview. Read more about the policy.

Annual Student Rights & Responsibilities Regulation

The School Board approved changes to the Student Rights and Responsibilities (SR&R) document. Updates include a revision of dress code expectations, bystander expectations for students witnessing harmful or unsafe behaviors, bullying, and substance abuse responses. FCPS’ SR&R document, Regulation 2601, explains expectations for student behavior, parent/guardian engagement, and adult responses. With a focus on promoting positive, prosocial behavior, the SR&R enhances school safety and creates an equitable, supportive school environment. Read more about the changes to the SR&R.

FCPS Staff Prepare for a New Year

School Board Member Meren with FCPS Staff

The FCPS Equity symposium, “Forward. Fearlessly.” hosted over 800 staff at Herndon High School. The focus was learning about the different, multi-dimensional ways that we can use equity to meet students’ needs.

I attended a staff presentation on Restorative Justice Practices, which are research-proven to help elevate all perspectives to be heard and considered when altercations and disagreements happen. The approaches seek to supplement punitive responses to discipline challenges with pre-emptive approaches that build relationships to prevent future instances.

Equity Quote

I also observed how middle school staff would guide students through a reading about Native Americans, and use “Project Zero” thinking techniques that students can apply to be critical investigators of what they are reading, particularly to identify biases in the text and in their own thinking. And more!

Equity asks, “What do people need to experience well-being?” This is something we can all agree is essential for student - and human - success!

Hughes MS Admin Team with School Board Member Meren

The following week, FCPS principals and school leadership teams kicked off the 23-24 school year, by convening at FCPS’ Hayfield Secondary School (Alexandria), to center on the work to guide every student to their potential. I was delighted to be there in support and to learn what will propel the school year ahead.

"Water the Bamboo", a Ted Talk by Greg Bell was one of several videos that Superintendent Michelle Reid selected to inspire our school leaders, and put the work ahead into context. I found it really aligned with the work of education, and life in general. I hope you’ll take a watch - it’s entertaining and insightful.

Upcoming School Board Meetings

  • Tuesday, August 29: Work Session
    • Policy Governance
  • Thursday, August 31: Regular Meeting
    • Fiscal Year 23 Year End Budget Vote

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

Madison HS Athletics Named Best in Northern Virginia

Madison HS Girls Basketball Washington Post Image

Congratulations to James Madison High School for receiving the Washington Post award for the best high school sports program in Northern Virginia!!

"The Madison Warhawks, long a consistent Class 6 power, top our rankings for the best public program in the Northern Virginia suburbs. The Warhawks were boosted by their success in several sports. They finished with three state championships (baseball, boys’ lacrosse, girls’ basketball), and six of their programs finished their respective seasons in our top 10 or top 20 rankings. Among those programs was the football team, which reached the Class 6 final for a second consecutive season."

An incredible example of the program's successes, 2023 Madison HS graduate, Bryce Eldridge, is headed to the West Coast to play with the San Francisco Giants, after selection in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft!

Bryce Eldridge Madison HS Baseball


South Lakes HS Student Selected for Elite STEAM Conference

South Lakes HS student Oaklen Kalinichenko was selected to participate in a science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) experience - the annual National Youth Science Camp. Less than 100 applicants are accepted from across the Western Hemisphere and one the camp's Assistant Directors shared that "Oaklen epitomizes what we look for in our NYSCamp delegation."

Way to go, Oaklen! I know the South Lakes community will greatly benefit from the lessons learned at this amazing program.

2023 National Youth Science Camp Group Picture


Cedar Lane Graduate Receives School Board Award

Callahan Rogers and School Board Member Meren

Callahan Rogers, a 2023 graduate of Cedar Lane School, has been selected as recipient of the 2023 Fairfax County School Board Character Award.

I was delighted to visit Cedar Lane to inform Callahan of this award and present it to him on behalf of the School Board at the July 13 Regular Meeting

Rogers is recognized by nominators as an “exceptional student, who is known as a leader and is a source of inspiration for his fellow students,” and who during his time at Cedar Lane School “demonstrated a positive attitude, strong integrity, and was someone who was always willing to help others.” Learn more here.

Addressing Food Insecurity in Hunter Mill and FCPS

Starkist "Charlie" and School Board Member Meren

Food insecurity is being addressed here in the Hunter Mill district in part by professionals and volunteers from a partnership of local entities. For a second year in a row, the coordinated efforts of Cornerstones, StarKist (who's headquarters is in Reston Town Center), Feed The Children, and St John Neumann Catholic Church hosted a drive-up food distribution event located at the church. The volunteers distributed boxes of shelf-stable food and personal hygiene essentials, Avon products, and new storybook sets for young readers.

I was pleased to be invited to share remarks about how food insecurity is a true crisis for our FCPS students and families - one third of FCPS students qualify for the federal Free and Reduced Priced Meals program, which is a proxy for living in poverty. That equates to over 60,000 K-12 students countywide!

There to help were South Lakes pyramid students! Upon arrival I was greeted by high school student Henry, volunteering to direct traffic. I recognized him from his award-winning roll in the school musical, Bright Star!

Then, I chatted with Dogwood student, "T", who I met when he and classmates shared their research with me about world hunger, at the school's 6th grade IB presentations. I was thrilled that he could attend this event to be part of actions to alleviate food insecurity here in his community!

Other Information of Interest

Free Artificial Intelligence (AI) Youth Summit: August 12

Are you interested in attending a professional-level summit covering the field of Computer Science and AI and meeting pioneering authorities in the AI ecosystem, including leaders covering AI's intersections with fields from Government to Healthcare for free? If so, join me at this upcoming event!

The Girls Computing League is hosting an in-person AI summit on August 12th, 2023 at Capitol One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Rd, Tysons, VA 22102), open to all students from grades 6-12 to attend at no cost! Younger students are also welcome by emailing

The summit provides a significant opportunity for local Northern Virginia students to be inspired by AI leaders around the nation.

To register for the summit, view the schedule or learn more information, visit the Girls Computing League website. You may also contact if you require any further information.

AI Summit August 12


Free Summer Meals

Drink, paper lunch bag and apple graphic

The Office of Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) is hosting the Summer 2023 Summer Meal Service at schools throughout Fairfax County. FNS will offer no-cost breakfast and lunch to all children 18 and older. No registration is required, and everyone is welcome! Check out the school sites, dates, and times here.

Virtual Therapy Services for High School Students

Hazel Health Virtual Therapy

Teletherapy services continue to be available for all FCPS high school students at no cost. Sessions can be scheduled Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Caregivers must first opt in their students to access Hazel Health. Then, a caregiver or school counselor, social worker, or psychologist can refer the student for services.

Unified Champion Schools Workshop: August 16

Unified Champion Schools Workshop

A Unified Champions Schools Workshop will be held on Wednesday, August 16 in Fairfax from 10am-2pm. This workshop is FREE and teachers will receive a certificate documenting continuing education hours.

This workshop will empower administrators, teachers and students to transform your school into a community that welcomes and advocates for people with intellectual disabilities. Learn how to launch inclusive sports programs, form inclusive clubs, and educate the entire student body about the value of people with intellectual disabilities. Students and teachers who have transformed their schools will share their stories and provide tools needed to be successful as well. Special Olympics Virginia staff will work with educators and school partners during the school year to provide the supplies and support needed to transform schools into communities that celebrate diversity and embrace inclusion.

Lunch will be provided! The registration deadline is Sunday, August 13. Learn more and register online

School Bond Referendum on Ballot: November 7

FCPS Bond Video

The $435 million School Bond Referendum — which supports the division’s and county’s commitment to provide safe and up-to-date learning environments for all students — will be on the Tuesday, November 7, general election ballot.

The funding provided by voter-approved bonds is expected to provide planning, design, or construction funds for 16 schools; funds for three modular relocations; security vestibules; and inflation adjustments for prior bond projects. These projects are identified in the FY 2024-28 Capital Improvement Program, which was approved by the School Board in February. 

The building and renovation of our schools is not funded through the division’s operating budget. Voter-approved bonds allow payment for these projects over time. 

Read more about the 2023 Bond Referendum. Learn about registering to vote.

Watch the "What is a Bond?" video here.

Special Education Parent Involvement Survey

FCPS colorful people graphic

All parents of school-aged children and youth with disabilities who receive special education services in Virginia are requested to complete the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) annual Parent Involvement Survey.

This survey will remain open through December 15, 2023. Please complete one survey for each of your children who is currently receiving special education services during the 2022-2023 school year. If you have any questions regarding this survey, please contact Chiquita Seaborne, Family Engagement Specialist/Special Projects Coordinator via email at, or call (804) 225-3898.

Fairfax Food Council Seeks Youth Representatives

Fairfax Food Council logo

The Fairfax Food Council is seeking two youth representatives to serve on the Fairfax Food Council Steering Committee. 

The Steering Committee is charged with overseeing the work of the Council, setting priorities, and raising resources, among other duties. As a member of the Steering Committee, the youth representative will: 

  • Attend the Steering Committee and work group meetings or review meeting minutes, as school schedule allows. 
  • Meet monthly with the Fairfax Food Council Project Manager and other designated  members of the Steering Committee. 
  • Assist the Steering Committee in overseeing the work of the Council, and in setting the Council’s priorities. 
  • Represent the interests of youth who live and go to school in Fairfax County, Fairfax City, and Falls Church. 

The youth representative position is considered a volunteer position. However, youth representatives will be granted monthly stipends in the amount of $25 per hour of service. The time commitment is approximately 6 hours of service each month.

Applicants should both live and attend school in Fairfax County, Fairfax City, or Falls Church, and be a rising high school junior for the 2023-2024 school year. Representatives will serve a one-year term, with the ability to extend to a two-year term.

Applications are due by September 15, 2023.

 First-Ever National Environmental Youth Advisory Council

EPA Youth Advisory Council

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the formal establishment of the agency’s first-ever National Environmental Youth Advisory Council (NEYAC). The NEYAC will provide independent advice and recommendations to Administrator Michael S. Regan on how to increase EPA’s efforts to address a range of environmental issues as they relate to youth communities. Applications to the NEYAC are due by August 22, 2023 at 11:59PM ET. Visit the EPA NEYAC webpage for more information on the council and to apply.

Soil and Water Conservation Poster Contest

National Association of Conservation Districts One Water Stewardship Week 2023

Calling all student artists! The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD) is seeking students to design posters to submit to the 2023 Youth Poster Contest. The theme for this year is ‘One Water.’ This contest is open to all K-12 students in Fairfax County, and scouts are eligible to earn a poster contest patch. Additionally, this year will feature a new digital poster contest open to students in grades 7-12. Learn more about both poster contests and download your entry form on the Conservation Poster Contest website. Entries are due by September 30, 2023

Library of Congress Video Game Challenge 

Library of Congress logo

The Library of Congress is calling on video game developers to create fun and lightweight video games related to civics that incorporate Library resources. This challenge is part of an effort to improve public knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of American citizens. Winning video game entries, to be announced early next year, will receive $35,000 in cash prizes. The deadline for all entries is November 27Learn more.

Low-Cost Internet for Eligible Students 

Adult with student wearing headphones

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program to lower internet costs for families with children who have been eligible for free or reduced-price meals within the last 12 months. A qualifying household will receive $30 per month toward internet services and a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. Check your eligibility and register at or or by calling 877-384-2575.

Job Opportunities

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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