December School Board Updates

To read this newsletter in other languages, please visit our website.

Para leer este boletín en otros idiomas, visite nuestro sitio web.

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, 

The end of 2023 is upon us, and yet the year continues to be filled with accomplishments, planning, and exciting news.

First, I’ve yet to acknowledge in my News You Choose the outcome of the November 2023 election, which determined the membership of the next School Board that will serve from 2024-2028. I am humbled and honored to have retained the support of Hunter Mill constituents, and will return to serve a second term on the Fairfax County School Board. Thank you! The new School Board will be sworn in publicly on December 13, 2023, and assume office on January 1, 2024.

Thank You Voters 2023 Bond Approved

I also want to thank Fairfax voters countywide, for overwhelmingly voting (67%) to approve the FCPS School Bond that was on the ballot! This year’s bond referendum is expected to fund future construction, renovation, enhancements, and planning for 16 schools across the division, including enhanced safety and security features, improved technology access, and environmentally responsible features, among other benefits. Information on construction and capital improvements can be found on this Capital Improvement Project webpage.

The School Board met with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to review the joint fiscal forecast based on economic data, as we move into developing budgets in the new year (to see just FCPS’ forecast, view it here). Frequently discussed was the chronic underfunding of public education by the Virginia General Assembly and Governor, as uncovered by the state’s requested report released this summer – see here for my summary of the state’s underfunding of public education. The Governor publicly releases his budget on December 20; the Virginia General Assembly convenes on January 10, 2024, to work on the state budget and legislation; and our FCPS Superintendent presents her budget at the public School Board meeting on January 25, 2024.  

Best wishes to those who will be celebrating holidays this week: Chanukah begins at sunset on Thursday for eight days, and Bodhi Day is observed on Friday.

Recent Work 

Elected Vice Chair of Northeastern Region (VSBA)

I’m excited to share that I have been elected to serve a two-year term as Vice Chair of the Northeastern Region of the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA)! I will be serving alongside newly elected Chair, Ms. Jacinta Greene, of the Alexandria City School Board. Thank you to my colleague on the Fairfax County School Board, Ms. Karen Corbett Sanders, for serving as the Regional Chair for the past two years and to outgoing Vice Chair, Ms. Michelle Rief (Alexandria City).

As the Northeastern Regional Vice Chair, I will represent all School Boards in the region, which can be seen here. Duties include, but are not limited to, assisting the Chair in regional meetings and networking sessions, encouraging VSBA membership and promoting activities and services of the Association, and appointing a jury to judge submitted student art at the Regional Spring Network Forum.

I look forward to this role and supporting VSBA’s mission of promoting excellence in public education through leadership, advocacy, and service.

School Board Members at VSBA Conference


Strategic Plan Updates

Myself and my colleague, School Board Member Keys-Gamarra, served as meeting managers for the November 14 Work Session to discuss the baseline report for Goal 3 - Academic Growth and Excellence. The baseline report provides a tremendous amount of data on the selected measures of the current achievement of our students, explores underlying reasons for the data and explores strategies to address growth for our students. It is an important foundation for achieving the goals described in our Strategic Plan.

Fiscal Year 2025 Fiscal Forecast

Following the Goal 3 report discussion on November 14, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 Fiscal Forecast was presented by Chief Financial Officer Leigh Burden. The forecast included projections for key financial areas that drive the budget development process, such as revenue assumptions and expenditure assumptions, including employee salaries and benefits, and student enrollment. 

On November 28, the School Board and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors held a joint budget meeting to further discuss the FY25 Budget Forecast. View those presentation materials here

FCPS continues to navigate the chronic underfunding of public education by the Virginia General Assembly and Governor. The study produced this year by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) verified that Virginia school divisions receive less funding per student than the 50-state average and the regional average.

Commitments made at the federal level continue to not be realized in funds provided and FCPS must work diligently to identify solutions. Unfunded mandates include the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Impact Aid - a federal program designed to minimize the fiscal impact caused by the presence of tax-exempt federal property. Impact aid has not been full funded for decades. 

JLARC Study Budget Slide

Changes to Secondary Course Offerings

At the November 9 Regular Meeting, the School Board approved secondary course changes recommended by the FCPS Course Review Committee. These changes include new courses intended to introduce students to explore possible career paths, such as aircraft and remote piloting, healthcare, AI, and welding. The changes also include increased GPA weight for certain courses that have rigorous curriculum. In addition, Cybersecurity Fundamentals will become a standard offering that will be available at all high schools. See the full list of changes and the rationale.

W.T. Woodson High School Renamed 

The School Board unanimously voted to rename W.T. Woodson High School at the November 9 Regular Meeting. Starting in school year 2024-25, the school will be known as Carter G. Woodson High School. The vote comes after two months of public engagement. Read more about the name change.

Academic Matters 

Student Attendance and Engagement

student raising hand

During the Academic Matters segment of the November 9th School Board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid discussed student attendance and engagement. Attendance and absenteeism rates are one measure of Goal 2 of our Strategic Plan. Chronic absenteeism — which is defined as a student missing 10% or more of school for any reason — is a concern across Virginia school districts. Although FCPS continues to outperform the state average in attendance rates, we are tracking chronic absenteeism closely and stressing the importance of attendance to students and parents while providing a multi-tiered system of intervention. 

Attendance is critical for academic success. Data shows that:

  • Missing just 10% of school — just two days a month — negatively affects a student’s academic performance. 
  • Only 17% of students who were chronically absent in both kindergarten and first grade were reading proficiently in third grade, compared to 64% of those with good attendance.
  • Students who fail to read at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely than students who achieve proficiency to drop out of high school.

By sixth grade, chronic absenteeism becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.

Upcoming School Board Meetings 

  • Tuesday, December 12, 10:30am: Work Session
    • Strategic Plan Goal 1 Baseline Report 
  • Thursday, December 14, 7:30pm: Regular Meeting
    • Outgoing School Board Member Proclamations 
    • Action scheduled on the Fiscal Year 24 Midyear Budget Review and on the Strategic Plan Goal 1 Report 

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 


Future of FCPS Student Food Show

Hughes MS students at food showcase

Hunter Mill students participated in the Future of FCPS – a showcase for potential new school foods! A small number of students attended this event on the western side of Fairfax, including from Aldrin Elementary, Langston Hughes Middle, and South Lakes High. I was delighted to join them! Our students were among the about 200 who attended, hosted by FCPS’ Food & Nutrition Services led by its new Director, Shawn Sauko!

Students were offered 30 new “food concepts” provided by 19 potential vendors. Each vendor was essentially proposing a sample of what it could provide if ultimately awarded a competitive contract with FCPS. Students and attending adults provided over 2,000 survey responses about everything they tried, to help FCPS decide next steps. Changes in lunchrooms are planned for this spring or next fall.

The food options included better tasting, more culturally relevant, and made-from-scratch options in our schools: vegetarian, vegan, Halal, Kosher, cultural dishes (arepas, masala, tacos, bánh mì, street noodles) plus improved favorites like grilled cheese with tomato soup, veggie lasagna, chicken wings, and smoothies. And lots of taco ideas!

Madison HS Football Wins North Region Championship

The Madison High School football team has secured their fourth straight North Region championship title! The next stop is State Championships, which begin on December 2. Go Warhawks!

Madison HS Football Team


Vote Oakton Marching Cougars for Metallica's Fan Favorite

Oakton Marching Band Fan Favorite Voting

The Oakton High School Marching Cougars have entered their fall marching band show into the Metallica Marching Band Competition! To see the video submission check out the QR code or click here and vote by texting #HSOAKTON to 833-609-0330!

Known for their exceptional musicality and precision, the Oakton Marching Cougars have submitted their 2023 show, titled “Parade to Black”. Band Director, Dr. Jamie VanValkenburg, selected the show to align with his vision of the Marching Cougars as a band that engages both performers and the audience through thrilling visuals and dynamic sound. Metallica's iconic tunes offer a unique and memorable experience for everyone involved. The Marching Cougars will be competing for $15,000 in prizing in the category for high school bands with less than 75 members.

Student Musicians Selected to Represent the Commonwealth

Congratulations to the many Hunter Mill high school students that have been selected for the 2023 All-Virginia Jazz Band and VMEA Senior Honors Choir! Students throughout Virginia went through a rigorous audition process for positions within these ensembles. Student musicians will rehearse with nationally recognized conductors. 

See the full list of students selected for these ensembles and a list of concerts that are open to the public.

Herndon HS Coach Voted District Coach of the Year 

Coach Nicole Kimtis

In her first year teaching and coaching at Herndon High School, girls field hockey coach Nicole Kimtis was named Liberty District Coach of the Year! 

Thank you to the Reston Letter for highlighting this amazing achievement and congratulations, Ms. Kimtis! 

Cedar Lane Gym Renamed to Honor Tom Lundy 

I was pleased to bring forward the Cedar Lane School Gym Renaming proclamation on November 9. The School Board approved changing the name to the Tom Lundy Gym, in honor of Mr. Thomas Lundy, whose legacy at Cedar Lane spanned over 20 years, starting as an intern and returning to lead the school through the pandemic as its principal. 

Thank you, Mr. Lundy, for your unwavering dedication to Cedar Lane and to the community as a whole! 

School Board with Tom Lundy at Cedar Lane Gym Renaming

Student Opportunities 

Disclaimer: Opportunities offered by organizations other than Fairfax County Public Schools are neither sponsored nor endorsed by the Fairfax County School Board, the Superintendent, or a specific school. These opportunities may utilize technology tools that have not been assessed by the Fairfax County Public Schools Department of Information Technology. Students should gain permission from their parent or guardian before engaging in any non-FCPS enrichment opportunity and families should review the Terms of Service, User Agreements, and Privacy Policy for any technology platform that the enrichment opportunity may use before participating

NOVA Community College Fab Lab Design Challenge

The Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Fab Lab Design Challenge is a competition that is open to middle school, high school, and post-secondary students. This year’s challenge is to create a one-of-kind musical instrument. Designs may be handcrafted from everyday objects or new materials, manufactured through 3D printing or laser cutting, including electronic components, or any of those in combination. Cash prizes will be awarded at each division along with $1000 for the overall Grand Champion. Students may participate as individuals or in a team of up to 3 members. 

Find more information on the NOVA Fab Lab website. Submissions are due by Sunday, December 10, 2023.

NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest

NOAA student art

Get your art supplies ready because the NOAA Marine Debris Program Art Contest is almost here! Students in grades K-8 from the United States and U.S. territories can submit their artwork that answers how marine debris impacts the ocean and Great Lakes and what you are doing to help prevent marine debris. Submit your artwork and you could see it featured in NOAA’s 2025 Marine Debris Calendar! Learn more about the NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest and apply by Friday, December 15, 2023

In 2022, Ella, a Floris Elementary School student earned a spot for this current year's calendar!

8th Annual Student "Shark Tank" Technology Challenge

The 8th Annual Student "Shark Tank" Technology Challenge is open and details about this year's competition are now available online here. This contest is open to all high school students in Fairfax County. Participants will be tasked with developing an innovative device or app that could positively impact the lives of older adults and adults with disabilities. The initial project proposal must be submitted by December 15, 2023, and the final submissions are due April 3, 2024.

National Institutes for Health Youth Art Challenge 

The National Institutes for Health Office for Disease Prevention (ODP) is holding a youth art challenge to encourage teens and young adults ages 13–22 to share their ideas—through art—about how prevention can help to improve the health of people in the United States, no matter who they are or where they live. One way to help people have better health is through prevention. Prevention means taking action to keep people from getting sick or injured instead of trying to treat them after these problems happen. All entries are due by January 31, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Email questions to

December Is...

National Special Education Day

National Special Education Day

National Special Education Day is recognized each year on December 2 and commemorates President Gerald Ford’s signing of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975. We celebrate our teachers and staff who serve and support our students with special needs, as well as our families who are partners in the education and support of those students! 

Learn more about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.


Chanukah graphic

Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, is a holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple and the miracle of a small quantity of oil that lit the Temple’s menorah for eight days. 

This year, Chanukah begins at sundown on Thursday, December 7, which will be an evening-only observation day. 

Learn more about Chanukah in National Geographic Kids.

Bodhi Day

Bodhi Day, Friday, December 8, is the Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni), experienced enlightenment, also known as "bodhi" in Sanskrit and Pali. Learn more about Bodhi Day in this video from the Miami Children’s Museum. 

The school calendar recognizes Bodhi Day as a religious observation day. There is school on this day, however, the School Board has directed that certain events will not be held on these observance days.

Additional Information of Interest 

Share Your Thoughts on Expanding FCPS World Languages 

Your Voice Matters graphic

FCPS is considering expansion of the division's Dual Language Immersion programs to include new languages and school sites, as well as an expansion of new languages for the Foreign Language in Elementary Schools program.

Please take this survey to share your thoughts about expanding World Languages elementary program offerings. The survey is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Urdu, and Vietnamese. It should take less than 10 minutes to complete, and all responses are anonymous.

The survey is optional and will close on Friday, December 8

Virginia Special Education Parent Involvement Survey

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 received special education services during the 2022-2023 school year.

If you have any questions, please contact Chiquita Seaborne, Family Engagement Specialist/Special Projects Coordinator, call (804) 225-3898 or email

Special Education Resources for Families

Fairfax County Public Schools has the following resources available to help assist families of students with special needs: 

  • The Office of Special Education Procedural Support helps staff, families, and students with the implementation of and compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended. 
  • Kathy Murphy, the assistant ombuds for special education, provides information and support to caregivers and students regarding special education and Section 504 services. Contact the Ombuds Office by submitting a question, calling 571-423-4014, or emailing

The Virginia Department of Education has updated the Virginia Family's Guide to Special Education. This state guide was developed to help those involved in special education including families, teachers, school administrators, advocates, and students.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The FAFSA is needed to determine a student's eligibility for financial aid. Families of current seniors should be thinking about completing financial aid applications in order for students to be eligible to receive financial help to cover the costs of post-secondary education. With the late opening (in December) of the FAFSA, there are some things families can do now

A funding opportunity is available for students who are unable to complete the FAFSA — the Virginia Alternative State Aid (VASA) program. Find out which aid option is right for your family on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia website.

Submit a Nomination for FCPS Hall of Fame

Do you know an FCPS alum who has made significant contributions to their chosen field and/or our local, national, or global community? If so, nominate them for the Spring 2024 FCPS Hall of Fame!

Educate Fairfax believes FCPS alumni are something special, and they’re excited to share alumni stories. Over the past two years, Educate Fairfax has recognized leaders from business, education, community service, entertainment, military, sports, and government.

FCPS Hall of Fame nominations will be accepted through Friday, January 12, 2024. Visit Educate Fairfax's website for more information

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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