Students Studying Arts, Robotics, Culinary, and More; New School Board; Grading Policy; See You in 2024!

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,

FCPS Winter Break Graphic

Recent Work 

2024-2028 School Board Sworn In

Thank you again to Hunter Mill District voters for entrusting me to represent you for another four-year term on the School Board. 

I took my oath of office alongside the 11 other recently elected members of the Fairfax County School Board on December 13, at Jackson Middle School. The new term begins on January 1, 2024. 

Learn more about the incoming Board. 

Melanie Meren shaking hands with judge following oath of office

Updated FCPS Grading Policy 

The School Board has adopted into FCPS policy the use of the 100-point scale, with 50% as the lowest passing grade for submitted assignments, for all high school credit-bearing classes, at its December 14 public Regular Meeting. This codifies into policy the Superintendent’s plan announced earlier this year, to implement this scale beginning for all schools in the 2024-25 school year.

Information about the vote and the policy is found here

Please know that I opposed the change to this policy based on the process by which the matter came to the Board. Namely, the process was not in the spirit of policymaking that allows for public Board discussion and consideration of constituents’ input. Furthermore, as Chair of the School Board’s Governance Committee that reviews policy changes, I am disappointed that the proposed change did not come before the Committee. This policy had not been substantially reviewed since 2009, and despite last week’s update, a thoughtful revision remains overdue. You can read more about my concerns in my News You Choose sent prior to the 12/14 Board meeting.

I am eager to strengthen the Board’s policy-making process in 2024, particularly as a new Board comes into service. I am also looking forward to having fuller and public discussions with the Board, students, staff, and families about grading practices. Thanks to those of you who have already shared feedback and experiences with me. This input helps me advocate for the practices that best serve our students.

Can Middle Schools Start at Later Times?

School bell graphic

The School Board and Superintendent are exploring the answers to this question, and will have a public presentation in January for consideration.

In September, FCPS awarded a contract to Prismatic Services, Inc., to develop a plan for potentially changing middle school start times. The plan will explore starting the middle school day no earlier than 8 a.m., without changing high school start times or impacting FCPS’ budget.

Prismatic will present their findings to the School Board in January. The Board will decide in the spring whether or not to proceed with changing middle school start times. Read about the middle school start times project.

School Board State and Federal Legislative Program

The School Board annually adopts a legislative program and legislative priorities to inform local, state, and federal public officials and others of its positions on legislative policy and budget issues of potential importance to FCPS students, teachers, staff, parents, and the broader Fairfax community. The program contains the School Board’s positions on state and federal issues of both current and ongoing significance and facilitates Board input to policymakers as they debate various policy options, sharing the possible programmatic and financial impacts of legislative and policy actions. At the December 4 Regular Meeting, the School Board voted to adopt the 2024 Fairfax County School Board State and Federal Legislative Program.

Reports on Employee Separation

Retaining our FCPS employees is critical for the success of our students. Understanding why employees depart the school division is helpful to inform retention efforts. As such, the School Board voted to approve a direction to the Superintendent to revise the Monthly Report on Employee Separation and the associated attachment to present disaggregated data in context to include subgroup percentages. Additionally, on a quarterly basis, the Superintendent will provide operational impacts; impacts by FCPS schools and regions; trends and analyses; and potential strategies to address findings, if applicable.

Academic Matters

Results of the 2022-23 Fairfax County Youth Survey

At the December 4 School Board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid presented findings of the Fairfax County Youth Survey during Academic Matters. The survey provides insight into the behaviors and attitudes that affect the health and well-being of Fairfax County youth. 

The percentage of students who reported considering or attempting suicide were at their lowest rates since 2015, as were the reported rates of alcohol and substance use.

Dr. Reid stressed how the Youth Survey isn't just a snapshot of how students are doing, it also serves as a barometer for the efficacy of our programs and how well FCPS and the community are serving our youth. 

Read more about the report’s findings, and view the full report on the county’s website.

Strategic Plan Updates

Goal 3 -  Academic Growth and Excellence

The School Board held a Work Session on November 14 to review and discuss baseline data for Strategic Plan Goal 3 - Academic Growth and Excellence. At the December 4 Regular Meeting, the School Board voted to approve the Goal 3 Baseline Report as the division's baseline data that will serve as a starting point for the work toward achieving the goals in our Strategic Plan 2023-30. See the presentation and the report.

Goal 1 - Strong Start: Pre-K-12

The School Board held a Work Session on December 12 to review and discuss baseline data for Strategic Plan Goal 1 - Strong Start: Pre-K-12. At the December 14 Regular Meeting, the School Board voted to approve the Goal 1 Baseline Report

Pre-K helps prepare students for kindergarten and provides them with a strong foundation that impacts their academic trajectory for years to come. 

Percent of Students Meeting Expectations by PreK Experience


Goal 1 of the strategic plan also targets language progress for English Learners. There are several division-wide initiatives around this metric that are currently being developed. As you can see below, this includes additional communications with and for EL families, summer programming opportunities, a basal resource, and professional development. 

Divisionwide Work to Improve Language Process for English Learners

Staffing and Leadership Updates

Katie Aldridge Named Principal of Terraset ES

Katie Aldridge

Katie Aldridge has been selected as the new principal of Terraset Elementary School. Ms. Aldridge has over 19 years of experience as a teacher, assistant principal, virtual program administrator, special projects administrator, and program manager. She is an energetic instructional leader who has extensive experience in schools working collaboratively with teachers to support all students.

Ashley Younger Named Principal of Sunrise Valley ES

Ashley Younger has been selected as the new principal of Sunrise Valley Elementary School. Ms. Younger has extensive experience as an elementary special education teacher and school based administrator at a total of three FCPS schools. In her most recent position as assistant principal at Sunrise Valley, Ms. Younger has demonstrated a passion and commitment to this community.

Ashley Younger

Tom Vaccarello Named Chief Safety and Security Officer 

Tom Vaccarello

The position of Executive Director, Safety and Security, has been reclassified to the Chief Safety and Security Officer. A recent security assessment recommended that the Office of Safety and Security have a direct channel of communication and responsibility to the Superintendent. Tom Vaccarello will remain in this role and will be our new Chief Safety and Security Officer.

Mr. Vaccarello has been employed with FCPS in the Office of Safety and Security (OSS) since 2015, serving in the roles of director and executive director. In addition to managing the daily operations of OSS, he has overseen the systemwide expansion of critical safety and security programs, as well as the development of innovative programs and practices.

Ray Lonnett Named Assistant Superintendent of Region 3

Ray Lonnett

Mr. Ray Lonnett has been named the new Assistant Superintendent for Region 3. Ray has served as an Executive Principal in Region 1 and Region 6 and played a pivotal role in supporting schools across multiple pyramids. His experience has provided him with an in-depth understanding of the diverse needs within the region and a track record of fostering improvements among students and schools. His experience as one of the seven Executive Principals for School Improvement demonstrates his ability to provide robust support, coaching, collaboration, and guidance to school leaders in the Division and Region 3.

Megan Vroman Named Assistant Superintendent of Region 2

Megan Vroman

Megan Vroman has been named the Assistant Superintendent for Region 2. Ms. Vroman agreed to temporarily fill this role in an acting capacity this summer. Prior to that, she served Region 2 as an Executive Principal. Her familiarity with the region and previous experience will continue to be a tremendous asset to our students.

Upcoming School Board Meetings 

  • Tuesday, January 9, 12:30pm: Work Session
    • Capital Improvement Program 
  • Thursday, January 11, 7:30pm: Regular Meeting
    • Capital Improvement Program 
    • Fiscal Year 25 Budget Resolution (action scheduled)
  • Thursday, January 18, 6pm: Public Hearing
    • Capital Improvement Program 
  • Thursday, January 25, 7:30pm: Regular Meeting
    • School Year 2025 Proposed Budget

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 

Marshall Culinary Academy Shines

Marshall HS Culinary Academy Program

I visited the Marshall High School Culinary Academy program, where students - including some from Madison High School - prepared an outstanding meal for the Fairfax County School Board and the City of Fairfax School Board, the Superintendents and Leadership Team members of each school division. Madison HS student, Brittain Fehd, was on-hand to help serve, and the bruschetta she made was delicious! I’ve known her family since she was in preschool and now she’s planning for a career in hospitality after she graduates this school year!

Google Staff Visits Hughes Robotics Club

Google Visit to Hughes MS

At Langston Hughes Middle School, I observed an event with the Robotics Club, who hosted staff from the Google office in Reston, who are known as “Googlers” . This event cane to fruition through connections I made with the Reston Chamber of Commerce - business people in our community want to energize students to explore careers in their fields!

And Google did not disappoint - after students displayed their blossoming skills and curiosity to build robots for competition, Googlers answered questions about careers in software engineering and cybersecurity. Students wanted to know how to best prepare for such endeavors, and Googlers recommended having a variety of STEAM experiences (academically and as hobbies), working on communication and collaboration skills, and following one’s passions - because even those without computer science experience have found success at Google. For instance, a recently-hired college graduate with an English degree is now an “ethical hacker”, who gets paid to perform planned hacks of companies and institutions to identify vulnerabilities before wrong-doers. So cool!

Madison Hosts 1st Annual All-Girls Wrestling Tournament

Madison HS Girls Wrestling Tournament

Earlier this month, Madison High School hosted their first annual All-Girls Wrestling Open Tournament!

Girls wrestling is currently an emerging sport in the Virginia High School League (and a new Olympic sport) and Madison’s Wrestling coach, Shawn Hutchison, and his coaching staff were excited to put together this opportunity for girls in the area.  According to Andrew Baird, the Assistant Director of Student Activities, the event saw 110+ wrestlers from 26 different high schools from FCPS and surrounding jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia.  Madison High School and Warhawk Wresting are looking forward to hosting this event again next year and hope to expand our participation numbers.  Go Warhawks!

Oakton Marching Cougars Selected as National Finalist 

The Oakton High School Marching Cougars have been selected as a national finalist in Metallica's "From Whom the Band Tolls" competition!

If Metallica selects them to win in their category, they will win $15,000 worth of equipment for their band. The results of the competition are expected in January and voting is open until December 31. Vote by texting #HSOAKTON to 833-609-0330! 

Oakton HS Marching Band

Latin Language Students Receive Honors 

FCPS students at VA Junior Classical League State Convention

Congratulations to Hunter Mill students from Madison and Oakton High Schools who successfully competed at the 71st annual Virginia Junior Classical League (VJCL) State Convention in November in Richmond! Read more about the winners.

Walk In My Shoes Program Flourishes at Floris 

Walk In My Shoes is a program that teaches empathy by providing kids with information about a variety of challenges, shifting their perspectives, and teaching inclusion skills that they can put into practice the very next day. Floris Elementary School began using the program in 2015 and has kept with it ever since (taking a break during COVID). 

Thank you to the volunteers that help support this program!

Walk in My Shoes program at Floris ES

FCPS Students Recognized in National Arts Competition

FCPS students received 10 awards in the National YoungArts Foundation Competition. These students are part of a group of nearly 700 winners that were selected through a highly competitive process. Congratulations to the following Hunter Mill students selected:

  • Lucas Go, Dance/Hip Hop, South Lakes High School
  • Audrey Goodner, Classical Music/Violin, Langley High School
  • Valerie Lai, Classical Music/Violoncello, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
  • Kian Linam, Jazz/Piano, South Lakes High School
  • Joshua Thrush, Classical Music/Double Bass (Contrabass), Madison High School

Read more about the winners.

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

President’s Environmental Youth Award 

Each year the PEYA program honors a wide variety of projects developed by young students, school classes and clubs, youth camps, and youth organizations to promote environmental awareness and action in schools and communities. PEYA has award categories for grades K-5 and 6-12. Applicants from all 50 states as well as U.S. territories are eligible to compete. Learn more about the President’s Environmental Youth Award and apply by Monday, January 15, 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 U.S. 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

One Water Art Contest

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) is joining regional water utilities to host its annual art contest with the theme of protecting our source water. Local student artists in grades 9-12 can submit their art or short video which captures the importance of protecting our local water sources. The submission deadline is Wednesday, January 31, 2024. Learn more about the One Water Art Contest for high school students and submit your entry.

Additional Information of Interest 

Student and Family Resources During Winter Break 

Snowman graphic

Fairfax County Public Schools has compiled a list of resources for students and families in case they need assistance while schools are closed for winter break. Please visit our winter resources webpage for links to academic support; mental health support; and food, clothing, housing, and other county resources.

FCPS encourages students to take advantage of fun learning opportunities during winter break and snow days. Consider these winter activities to blend education and play for your students during winter break or weather-related school closures.

Although mental health indicators have improved over the past year, Fairfax County Youth Survey (FCYS) data suggest that more than 25% of students in 8th to 12th grade feel sad or hopeless every day for two weeks or more in a row. The holidays can be a time to reduce stress, but they can also contribute to it. Here are some tips for making winter break a positive time for the young people in your life.

Academy Open Houses Begin in January 

Is your child interested in architecture and construction, information technology, or health science? FCPS high school academies will hold open houses for interested students beginning in mid-January.

An academy is a center within a high school that offers advanced technical and specialized courses that can prepare students for postsecondary education and/or career fields. Students enrolling in academy elective courses will be provided with opportunities to participate in a variety of career experiences including shadowing, mentoring, or internships with local businesses. More than a dozen career fields can be explored through FCPS academies.

Learn more and find the calendar of Academy Open Houses.

FCPS Academy Students in Classroom


2024 Gap Year Fair

FCPS School Counseling Services and Go Overseas will co-host the annual FCPS Gap Year Fair on Tuesday, January 30, 6-8:30 p.m., at Marshall High School. This event is for high school students and their families, who are interested in learning about increasing opportunities for the year following high school graduation. Students should register at USA Gap Year Fairs

Twilight Program

FCPS’ Twilight Program provides instruction outside of traditional school hours for students in need of rapid credit recovery and accrual in order to meet requirements for high school graduation or promotion. During the initial pilot program across six schools and centers in the 2022-23 school year, 78% of the 94 enrolled students met the requirements for graduation/promotion. Read more about the success of the Twilight Program.

Virtual Math Week: Begins January 8 

Get ready for Virtual Math Week, Monday, January 8, through Friday, January 12, 2024. Save the date for a week filled with stories, games, and math activities, presented in English and Spanish for families with students in kindergarten through sixth grade. 

This free experience is designed to make math fun for the whole family. Learn more about FCPS Math Week.

Turtle graphic with numbers on shell

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.


Wishing you a very happy new year,

Melanie Meren


Was this email not addressed to you? Sign up for my newsletters here!

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.

© Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County, Virginia