FCPS School Board Update, Shout out to Parents and Families!

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ይህንን ዜና መፅሄት በሌሎች ቋንቋዎች ለማንበብ፤ እባክዎን ድረ ገፃችንን ይጎብኙ

이 소식지를 다른 언어로 읽으려면, 우리 웹사이트를 방문하시기 바랍니다.

.يرجى زيارة موقعنا الألكتروني لقراءة هذه النشرة الإخبارية بلغات أخرى

Dear Community Members,

As I’ve visited over a dozen schools in this back-to-school season – with still more to go – I’m overwhelmingly hearing from parents, families, students, and staff that the school year is off to a smooth start.

I’ve heard input that includes not only satisfaction but naturally, concerns and requests, on a range of matters including: grading practices being clarified in high school; desired school security equipment; class size concerns; appreciation for clarified dismissal procedures in middle school; athletics including excitement for middle school cross country this fall, and more.

I’ve also attended numerous meetings of Parent Teacher Associations/Organizations (“PTA/PTO”), including when invited to provide a brief overview of the School Board’s role in ensuring students receive an excellent education, and answer some questions. Please see below for more information about the work of schools’ PTA/PTO.

Speaking of parents – the School Board and Superintendent believe that the adults in children’s lives outside of school hours are the most important adults helping students thrive! Always has been, always will be! And, we know that for many of our students, this extends beyond “parents” – and indeed, may in addition to or instead include other trusted adults and legal guardians. As such, the term “families” captures the breadth of those adults at home supporting students' success. So when you see the term “families”, please know that it encompasses parents, caregivers, and legal guardians. At times I use the terms interchangeably in writing and when speaking to bring attention to this variety in our community.

I want to briefly follow up with you about the study shared this summer about inadequate education funding in Virginia from the Virginia General Assembly, which I shared in my July newsletter, here. On Wednesday, lawmakers adopted revisions to the 2022-2024 budget. I am still reviewing the adoptions and what they mean for us in Fairfax. However, I am disappointed to see the state set a deadline of November 2024 to study the results of the JLARC report to determine how to address the pervasive problems and disparities with state funding formulas. While I recognize time is needed to prepare next steps, our students have already been impacted by these disparities for decades – waiting another year to identify action is unwelcome and frankly, unacceptable. 

In relation to state work, FCPS just issued this statement about school accreditation and SOL data remaining steady for school year 2023-2024.

Recent Work

School Board Actions on August 31

Funds to be encumbered from the prior year’s budget:

Although this school year (SY) 23-24 is Fiscal Year 2024, the School Board annually publicly reviews the prior fiscal year’s final quarter, in a “year-end review” agenda item and financial action. This is an opportunity for the School Board to fund adjusted or additional needs identified by the School Board and Superintendent since the prior budget was adopted. So, the FY 23 budget was adopted in May 2022, and implemented July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023.

I am particularly glad that this action encumbers nearly $1 Million for Fine Arts Stipends, in response to advocacy from such secondary and high school educators who shared data about their extensive hours at performances, camps and dress rehearsals, competitions, and more that are critical for a full student experience. Further details are included in the agenda item, “FY 2023-24 Year End Review.”

School Board Members’ assignments to public committees:

The Board approved the annual assignments for School Board Members, to be liaisons on Board standing committees, Board Public Advisory Committees, and other community-hosted committees and commissions. These assignments are updated annually at this time, and led by the Chair and Vice Chair of the Board. You can view here the SY 2023-24 liaison and committee assignments. I’m eager to serve in my roles this year, which are:

School Board Annual Work Calendar adopted for this school year:

All meetings of the School Board must take place in public, except for some topics that are by law allowed to be discussed in what’s called a “Closed Meeting”. Closed Meetings are held only for consideration of certain student, personnel, property, and legal matters. Even so, the Board publicly announces when such Closed Meetings will occur, and gives a general topic of what is being discussed.

The schedule of meetings where the majority of the Board is needed to convene (at least seven Members), was adopted in this SY 2023-2024 Annual Work Calendar. Agendas for meetings are posted publicly in advance. Please note that this schedule may be changed, in which case public notice will be given. The public can watch recorded, full Board meetings on the FCPS YouTube channel.

Academic Matters

 Grading Policies for Middle and High School Students

FCPS’ Grading Policy was updated for the 2023-24 school year. The following changes were based on input from students, teachers, parents/caregivers, principals, and staff:

  • FCPS will maintain the current late work policy. Teachers must accept major assignments up to two weeks late. The maximum deduction for that time period is 10%. The current policy, when applied correctly, balances accountability and flexibility.
  • A rolling gradebook gives students more chances to show they understand material. Teachers must use the rolling gradebook along with reassessment policies. These policies let students improve grades on major assessments across quarters. Replacement policies allow later assessments to replace the scores of earlier assessments.
  • Teachers may now give zeroes for assignments that are not turned in. Students who make a reasonable effort to finish an assignment will get a minimum grade of 50.
  • For teachers using a traditional gradebook, the minimum quarter grade that can be issued is 50%. Teachers on a rolling gradebook must use reassessment practices.

In the 2024-25 school year, all grades will be on a 100-point scale, with 50% as the lowest passing grade for submitted assignments. All high school credit-bearing classes will use the new scale next school year.

For more information, visit the Grading Scale webpage.

2023 Summer Learning Highlights

Summer 2023 Program by the Numbers

At the August 31 School Board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid presented data from learning programs that took place during the summer of 2023.

Nearly 34,000 students took part in 23 programs at 87 sites across the county. Programs included Extended School Year, High School Credit Recovery, Institute for the Arts, Career and Technical Education summer camps, and others. 

Watch the presentationView the slides.

Strategic Plan Update

Dr. Reid also shared an update about FCPS' 2023-30 strategic plan, our North Star for aligning on excellence, equity, and opportunity for each and every one of our learners. FCPS’ Department of Strategy, Planning, and Learning was established to lead the work around our strategic plan and other division-wide efforts.

In the coming months, the Superintendent will be reporting the division's progress towards our student-centered goals. The tentative timeline is as follows:

  • October ‘23: Goal 3 - Academic Growth and Excellence
  • November ‘23: Goal 2 - Safe, Supported, Included, and Empowered
  • December ‘23: Goal 1 - Strong Start
  • February ‘24: Goal 4 - Equitable Access and Opportunity
  • March ‘24: Goal 5 - Leading for Tomorrow’s Innovation

Learn more by visiting the strategic planning webpage

Upcoming School Board Meetings

  • Tuesday, September 12, 10:30am: Work Session
    • Woodson High School Renaming (Forum)
    • Policy Governance
    • School Board Annual Work Calendar Norms
  • Thursday, September 14, 7:30pm: Regular Meeting
    • Virginia School Boards Association Business Honor Roll
    • Opening of Schools Presentation

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 County Fair

Madison HS County Fair - School Board Member Meren with Two Students

Madison High School hosted its pyramid-wide County Fair just before Labor Day, welcoming students, families, and staff from Vienna’s schools. It was a gorgeous evening out on the athletic fields, with games, food, and fun (I saw Principal Liz Calvert subjected to the dunk tank!!). This was the precursor to the evening’s football game. I enjoyed chatting with student leaders who helped produce this event, especially about the first few weeks of school. Overwhelmingly, students told me that they were enjoying the start of the school year and their courses. Yes!

South Lakes Athletes Recognized as Hometown Team 

The South Lakes High School Field Hockey student athletes were recognized as the Hometown Team during FOX 5's recent field trip to Reston! Way to go, Seahawks!

Click here to see the video!

South Lakes Field Hockey Team with Fox 5

Learning Blooms at Marshall Road ES

Marshall Road ES Educator

Marshall Road Elementary School is growing so much learning, outdoors! This year, with the additional funds and training dispersed to all schools for outdoor, hands-on learning, Marshall Road is amping up the work of staff member Ms. Hendon who already was working on this aspect. Now, Ms. Hendon is able to help educators who teach on the spectrum of grades, abilities, and specials areas to align standards and curriculum in a way to integrate those concepts into learning outdoors – especially to align with science content! Watch this video to view a "Year in the Life of the MRES Gardens". 

Marshall Road ES Bench Dedicated to Jennifer Heiges

During my visit to Marshall Road recently, I heard how students who may be challenged to connect with science content, embrace that content and understand it when learning is happening outdoors, with all their senses! Students are seeing the fruition of their work, from seedling to delicious fruit; and that nature requires patience and accepting the unknown (will that potato actually grow underground, unseen?). A beautiful, colorful bench has also been installed by the PTA in honor of recently retired Principal Jennifer Heiges. This is such a joyful place to be and learn!

Louise Archer Renovation

Dr. Reid and Dilip at Loise Archer Elementary School

Superintendent Reid recently visited Louise Archer Elementary School, where Dilip, the project manager, showed how the renovations will add more than 104,000 square feet to the school. The modular will be removed, and the library and classrooms will be modernized. Thank you to Principal Michelle Makrigiorgos and her staff for their resilience and flexibility in starting the school year under renovation. 

Louise Archer is one of the FCPS facilities currently being renovated through our Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The CIP, which is funded through taxpayer-approved bond referendums, will enable FCPS to break ground on three new schools and renovate 25 others through 2028. The next school bond will be on the ballot Tuesday, November 7. The projects in this bond package include Armstrong Elementary School and will ensure that each and every FCPS student has an opportunity to learn and grow in world-class facilities. You can learn more about by checking the progress of our currently funded projects and watching this video explaining how school bonds help keep our schools safe, healthy, and up-to-date.

Connect With Your PTA/PTO

Melanie Meren with Fox Mill PTA President

Parents and families are students’ first teachers, and being involved with your school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is a fantastic way to seek and build support alongside other parents and community members. The acronyms of your school’s parent/family organization might vary from “PTA”, such as: Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA); Parent Teacher Organization (PTO); or Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO). The “student” participation is most common in high school organizations. While the name or organizational model is just slightly varied, the goals among these groups are the same: to build community and support students! To learn more about the differences of PTA/PTSA and PTO/PTSO, check out this article that summarizes it well.

Fox Mill ES PTA President, Stephanie

I’m a member of the PTAs of my students’ schools. Being a member doesn’t necessarily mean hours of volunteer commitments. I like going to PTA meetings to hear regular updates from the Principal, hear about investments and opportunities happening at school, and to connect with other families. I hope you’ll check out your PTA!

Melanie Meren with Carson MS PTA President

Carson MS PTA President, Joy

Additional Information of Interest

Leadership Opportunities in FCPS: Apply Today

Apply now graphic

There are two key leadership opportunities on the FCPS Facilities team, under the direction of FCPS’s new Chief of Facilities Services and Capital Programs, Janice Szymanski. Here links to the job description and a link to apply online:


Lightspeed Parent Report on Child's Device Activity

Lightspeed sample parent report

FCPS has tools to help parents know more about their child’s activity on any FCPS device. These tools are provided at no cost to families by Lightspeed, the school division’s internet content filtering service.

Parents may sign up for a weekly Parent Report, which will provide a list of the top sites your child visited. The report also offers parents the ability to sign up for free access to the Internet Use Parent Portal. Through the portal, parents may pause their child’s access to the internet on their FCPS device during non-school hours.

Learn more about Lightspeed Parent Reports.

Helping Prepare Young Children for School

Young students playing in classroom

Families play an important role in helping children prepare for kindergarten and having a successful school year.

Visit these pages to learn how to actively support your kindergartener:

September Workshops for Families

Put this on your calendar graphic

The Family Resource Center is already scheduling a helpful series of webinars for the 2023-24 school year.

Save the date for the following discussions in September. Click on the title to register for each event: 

Be the first to learn about new workshops by signing up for the FRC newsletter.

NatureFest: September 24

NatureFest is a free, family-friendly, hands-on nature event, which spotlights the animals, plants, and insects that live in Runnymede Park.

The event will be held on Sunday, September 24, from 1-5pm at Runnymede Park (195 Herndon Parkway). All participants are encouraged to bring a water bottle. The Friends of Runnymede Park co-sponsor this event with Herndon Parks & Recreation.

NatureFest Flyer


FCPS Hosts Ambassador Teachers

FCPS Ambassador Teacher (Global Exchange Program)

FCPS is hosting 31 ambassador teachers this year through the Participate Learning Global Exchange program. The 31 ambassador teachers working in FCPS this year come from eight different countries (Argentina, Barbados, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Philippines, South Africa and Zimbabwe). In order to participate in the program, ambassador teachers must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in teaching or education, two years of teaching experience, a driver’s license, be fluent in English, and commit to teaching here for five years. Combined, the teachers have 274 years of teaching experience between them!

“The goal of the Global Exchange Program is to provide a diverse workforce as well as differentiated and culturally responsive learning environments which align with the pillars of our strategic plan. The program also supports FCPS Portrait of a Graduate objectives, such as helping students to be ethical and global citizens", says Felicia Hamilton, an FCPS diversity, equity, and inclusion employment specialist. 

Overdose Awareness and Understanding the Dangers of Opioids

In Northern Virginia, consistent with national and state trends, the opioid epidemic continues to impact communities, including young adults and school-age children. Opioids are a class of drugs used to treat pain and can include prescription medication and illegal drugs. 

Tragically, their misuse can lead to devastating outcomes. Fentanyl is an extremely fatal and especially powerful opioid, even in small doses. Most fatal overdoses in Fairfax County in recent years have involved fentanyl.

There are three things you can do now to support student wellness and increase understanding of the dangers of opioids and fentanyl:

  • Talk with children and loved ones in your life about the dangers of drug use, especially opioids. For more information about substance use among youth, tips on how to recognize and prevent substance abuse, and available support services, please watch this webinar.
  • Safely store and dispose of medications, including prescription pain medications, to prevent drug misuse.
  • Sign up for a Virtual REVIVE! training class to learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of opioid overdose and administer naloxone nasal spray to reverse an opioid overdose.

Learn more about the dangers of opioids and available resources. Visit the Student Safety and Wellness webpage for more information on topics related to student well-being.

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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