This weekend we celebrated Veterans Day. In our school division, we have veterans who served in every branch of our nation’s armed forces, and I want to thank you all for your service and sacrifice. After World War I, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “For us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with a solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the land. service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it freed us and because of the opportunity it gave America to show her sympathy for peace and justice in the councils nations.”
The photo on the right shows the student-run Young Military Liaison Club which hosts the annual Veterans Day Field of Honor last Friday at Marshall High School. Students and staff planted over 500 flags to honor the service and sacrifice of veterans in our area. Thanks to club sponsor Brian Staton and the students at Marshall and all FCPS who recognize what service before self really means! I hope you will take the time to thank a veteran in the coming days.
We are nearing the end of School Psychology Week. School psychologists are an essential part of the team that supports our students every day, now more than ever. We have seen how the pandemic has affected student mental health and behavior and without these supports, students cannot succeed in the classroom. We have over 200 psychologists who support FCPS in various capacities. Thank you to all of our school psychologists for your dedication and commitment to caring for our students!
Thank you to a staff member who shared that November 15 is American Recycling Day. I have been asked to share how FCPS and our schools participate in recycling initiatives. For this, I turned to Donna Volkmann, our Get2Green Manager. Donna shared the latest edition of the “Get2Green” newsletter which showcases recycling efforts across FCPS. I learned from reading the newsletter that as of November 2, FCPS is now recycling plastic #5. Plastic #5, or polypropylene, is found in some yogurt containers, syrup and medicine bottles, caps and straws. You can find out more on the Get2Green website, including how waste collected from FCPS is taken to a waste-to-energy plant in Lorton where it is burned to generate electricity!
On Wednesday morning, I joined Educate Fairfax for their “Leaders and Learners: Education is Everyone’s Business” event at the Fairfax Park Marriott. Educate Fairfax is the nonprofit organization that helps FCPS achieve its strategic goals, through philanthropic giving and public/private partnerships. Recently, Educate Fairfax announced its fourth round of teacher grants with $85,000 in direct classroom support. Educate Fairfax funds projects that offer connections to real-world career experiences, whether it’s college campus trips, researching different careers, or student-run businesses like coffee carts, which help all students see a future for themselves. Educate Fairfax launched a new initiative this school year: The Innovators’ Fund. The Innovators Fund is designed to support STEAM equipment supplies and education in elementary schools, mentoring opportunities for middle schoolers, and student-led innovations in our high schools. Seeing our community leaders show up to support public education is an important reminder of the value of our work every day. Together great things are possible!
Thursday morning, I joined school board member Laura Jane Cohen for visits to Chantilly High School, Chantilly Academy, and Greenbriar East Elementary School. Principal Scott Poole at Chantilly introduced me to Evan Ayars, the choir teacher, who was a former student of Principal Poole! At the innovation lab, I saw 3D printing, robotics, and virtual reality stations. These hands-on STEAM experiences are what will develop the love of learning for our students by making meaningful connections to classroom instruction!
Scott Settar, the director of the Académie de Chantilly, drove us to the car crash lab, where I met teacher and former Académie de Chantilly student, Ryan Byrne. I love seeing so many of our FCPS students return to Fairfax to find their passions and careers!
Finally, we visited the veterinary science program taught by McGlensey Antonucci, where I met and chatted with several four-legged friends. I am delighted to hear that our older students act as mentors for students who are new to the program. I will be visiting the veterinary science program soon to have our dog Rufus groomed. Rufus won’t be as excited as me! 🙂
Continue to Greenbriar East Elementary School, where Principal Dave Pietzman took me to see a very special activity. The students were participating in Glow Mexico, a collaborative ultraviolet (UV) light event celebrating the colorful culture of Mexico. Many classes had the lights turned off and used black lights and glow in the dark paint to create a wonderful feast for the eyes!
In Christie Miller’s art class, students learned about Mexican folk art and the work of artist Frida Kahlo, as well as creating their own clay alebrijes, which are brightly colored sculptures of fantastical creatures . The gym was transformed into a glow in the dark cosmic bowling alley where I had the chance to test my bowling skills. It was great fun, but my bowling skills need a little work!
The school was also very busy with Veterans Day activities. In Beth Brickhouse’s second-grade class, Karla Bush, an autism teacher at the school, was one of many veterans to speak to students about their experiences in the military. It was great to see such engaged students and the many parents present at the school who took part in the festivities. Thank you Karla for your service!
I am grateful to all employees who have self-nominated or nominated a colleague to participate in the pedagogical guidance team. The Strategic Plan student survey is about halfway through the survey window. Since this morning, we have received over 25,000 responses from students in grades 3-12. The survey remains open until Friday, November 18.
Going forward, our Family Team Champions will launch their nomination form to invite parents and caregivers across the division to nominate themselves or be nominated. We are also looking for staff members interested in being part of the strategic plan process to serve as table facilitators at one of the many meetings that will take place between November 30 and April 24. Please keep an eye out for the Table Facilitator Interest Form to express your interest.
Thanks to Aer Queen, music teacher at Braddock Elementary, for sharing that they have presented across the country on transgender inclusion at all levels of school, most recently at the Association Conference National Institute for Music Education (NAfME). They will talk again next week, the same day the artists from Woodson and West Springfield High Schools perform. Aer has had two articles published by NAFME this year. You can read one on this blog, and the other on teach music Magazine. At FCPS, we are committed to providing a caring climate and culture where every student, staff member, and family is welcomed, respected, valued, and supported as they feel a deep sense of belonging. Thank you to Aer and all of our staff who provide the essential learning environment for our students every day!
Our portrait of a graduate means that beyond the classroom, we show our students how to be global and ethical citizens who care about our community. Thanks to Gabi McNulty, a teacher at Cooper Middle School, who shared this wonderful story about our students:
“I work with Drew Lane to run our student council and we wanted to brag about our students. During the month of October, we held a sock donation contest called “Socktober”. Cooper Middle students collected over 4,000 pairs of socks! On Tuesday, some of our students and their parents helped us deliver these socks to Bailey’s Shelter and Supportive Housing in Falls Church. We took this photo attached. We would love to share this incredible work of our students with our community.
In other Fairfax inspires moment, the photo on the right was sent by a parent at Oak View Elementary who wanted to share his gratitude to Principal Sarah Brooker and her team: with a member of the office staff and another lady I did not recognize . I don’t know what they were doing, but they had wrenches and other tools and seemed to be trying to fix the tables. (Mrs. Brooker is the one wearing the tie-dye shirt, on the floor.) Besides apparently being at almost every evening and weekend activity I’ve attended, she’s often pitching in everywhere. Last spring, she replaced the art teacher in one of my children’s classes, at a time when replacements were so hard to find. And I’ve definitely seen her do other random jobs too. Like I said, she really seems to care a lot, so I wanted to pass on this example of that. :)”
This weekend there were so many opportunities and activities to share with our students, staff and families. On Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to hang out with our cross country student athletes as they prepared to race at Oatlands, the state championship event. I so appreciate the FCPS spirit that pervades our region; It matters. I also appreciated the energy and effort of our Fairfax HS field hockey team as they competed and won the state championship this weekend. Well done Lions!!
Finally, on Saturday evening, I appreciated the opportunity to spend time with our art educators at FCPS. As I attended the 15e Annual Artist-Teacher Exhibition at the McGuire Woods Gallery at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, I was so inspired by the talent and passion these educators bring every day. We truly have an abundance of excellence here at FCPS.
And of a former commander-in-chief, we are reminded “We are of course a nation of differences. These differences do not make us weak. They are the source of our strength.” –Jimmy Carter
Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Fairfax County Public Schools