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Superintendent’s Weekly Reflections | Fairfax County Public Schools | #hacking | #aihp

Well, it has been another fantastic spring week, though it is hard to believe that May is fast coming to a close.  I have long since recognized the wisdom of dear friends (who at the time were older ;>) when they shared that the days are long but the years are short.  This seems especially true at this time of the year.  I trust each of you are maximizing opportunities as our days grow longer…  These are our best days…

During my recent Teacher Town Halls, a number of elementary school teachers shared their concern about a lack of adequate and protected planning time, and inconsistencies of implementation across the division. I truly appreciate the candor and realize that this ongoing issue impacts teachers’ ability to provide the mountaintop learning experiences our students experience here in FCPS. With that in mind, we established several working groups to explore budget neutral ways FCPS can enhance and protect teacher-directed planning time at the elementary school level for the upcoming school year. 

These groups include teachers and specialists (e.g., librarians, school-based technology specialists, advanced academic resource teachers, and school counselors). Principals are participating as well. Last Monday, approximately 350 teachers and specialists provided feedback and ideas during three virtual forums.  And our feedback form has received 1,271 responses. Your voices matter! Thank you! Stay tuned for additional updates regarding our efforts to increase elementary planning time.

Wednesday evening, I attended the Adult and Community Education Advisory Committee meeting.  I learned a great deal about this programming for so many in our community. During the course of the meeting, I also learned a great deal about the FCPS Driver Education program, which is focused on reducing barriers and increasing equitable access to FCPS students and families.  According to Paul Steiner, through onsite permit testing at high schools, classroom Driver Education, and FCPS ACE behind-the-wheel courses students are able to complete all requirements to become licensed drivers.  Each year almost all 10th grade students (15,000 students) participate in classroom Driver Education as part of the Health and Physical Education Program. 

This year over 4,500 students completed behind-the-wheel and permit testing through FCPS ACE courses.  Students who pass the permit test only need to visit the DMV with their parent or guardian to have their picture taken, complete the vision test, and provide documentation of Virginia residency and legal presence.  FCPS Driver education is an asset to public safety by providing students with driver education instruction from highly qualified teachers.  Receiving a driver’s license provides students the tools and independence to take advantage of future opportunities that require being a licensed driver.   More information on Driver Education can be found at the link  What a great program opportunity!!

The School Board held a work session on Thursday where they finalized the pillars of our new Strategic Plan. The Final Feedback Opportunity Survey closed on Wednesday, and we heard from 8,095 participants. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us! Final survey feedback will be reviewed by the Board prior to the May 25 presentation of the Strategic Plan as new business at a regular Board meeting. Please continue to stay up to date on this work by visiting the Strategic Planning website.

Another FCPS program I am learning a great deal about is the Trades for Tomorrow (T4T) program, which is an innovative program that tackles the pressing challenge of the current shortage of licensed skilled tradespeople in the workforce.  Trades for Tomorrow, a partnership between FCPS Office of Facilities Management (OFM), Career and Technical Education (CTE), and Adult and Community Education (FCPS ACE) provides students with invaluable Youth Registered Apprenticeship opportunities.  Students enrolled in CTE courses have the opportunity to receive on-the-job training in their chosen field while working as a paid, part-time OFM employee. After graduation, students transition to Adult and Community Education courses to continue as a Registered Apprenticeship and FCPS employees.  T4T benefits FCPS students by maximizing the opportunity to pursue licensure in a skilled trade through Registered Apprenticeship as paid FCPS employees. 

T4T benefits the Office of Facilities Management by addressing the need for skilled tradespeople to fill part-time and ultimately full-time positions with FCPS.  In the 2022-23 school year, 17 students from electrical, HVAC, automotive technology, and carpentry courses participated in the Trades for Tomorrow program and four of those students earned a full time position with OFM. We currently have 20 students who have applied for positions in the program for the 2023-24 school year.  For more information on Trades for Tomorrow opportunities and successes please visit the following link  Thank you to our staff at the Adult and Community Education program and those that support this important work; it matters.

Thursday night, I journeyed to Arena Stage in downtown DC to watch Luther Jackson Middle School students participate in the annual Voices of Now Showcase. It was a special return to this stage for LJMS, as it was the first Virginia school to participate in this unique theatrical opportunity more than 12 years ago! Voices of Now (VON) is an internationally recognized, devised theater program where ensembles of middle school, high school, and adult artists work together to create autobiographical plays and films. These fast-paced, collaboratively written, physical pieces pose significant social questions relevant to the ensemble of artists and their communities.

Working locally and internationally, VON’s goal is to create positive change within the artists’ communities by engaging in dialogue centered on the unique life experience of each ensemble member. More than 2,000 artists have had their lives changed by their VON experience in the last decade alone. The students did a remarkable job in front of a packed audience to create their piece, “Inside Out,” which dealt with who we are on the inside and how that is not always what is seen on the outside. Fellow FCPS schools, Holmes Middle School, Kilmer Middle School, and Robinson Secondary School were also represented. Thank you to Stacey Jones, theatre arts teacher at Jackson, for inviting me and then sharing the photo and details of the program! 

Friday evening, I joined the 150th anniversary celebration for Vienna Elementary School. Vienna is an amazing school with a mission that focuses on all students achieving excellence while learning the skills necessary for good citizenship in a safe, diverse, and instructionally rich environment. The town of Vienna, formerly known as Ayr (pronounced: Air) Hill, hosts the oldest school building in continuous operation here in Fairfax County Public Schools – Vienna Elementary. The school is a beautiful blend of contemporary and historic, and the community truly embodies what it means to provide excellence, equity, and opportunity to each and every student! It was great to spend time with students, staff, and the community.  Go, Vikings!

I started Saturday with attending middle school basketball at Luther Jackson MS.  There were several great games that excited fans in the morning.  The middle school girls basketball tournament was definitely a precursor to the many WNBA options  :>) I also had the opportunity to run the clock and scoreboard for the championship game between Liberty MS and Stone MS, which was a great game !!  Learning the skills of teamwork is such an important life lesson!!

Later on Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend the Turkey and Syria Charity Chess Tournament at Rachel Carson MS.  I appreciated the invitation from Rachel Carson MS student, 8th grader Ameya, who organized the event to support children in Turkey and Syria who were recently affected by the earthquake. 

Dr. Reid at Turkey and Syria Charity Chess Tournament at Rachel Carson MS

They expected to raise approximately $4,000. I continue to be so inspired by the efforts of our students demonstrating yet again that “our moves matter.”  Their example of care and generosity makes such a difference!!

Sunday afternoon, I joined the closing ceremony for Global Leaders of Fairfax County. This is the third cohort of students who have gone through the program. This year, 110 seniors participated in the program.

Dr. Reid at the closing ceremony for Global Leaders of Fairfax County.

Students engage with national and global leaders to advance their understanding of international affairs and global issues. Students learn more about diverse perspectives and cultures and explore ways to solve global challenges that will benefit the broader community. These students recognize the importance of advocacy and action to bring positive changes to our world. Our students will continue to lead us!

Finally, as we approach our upcoming holiday weekend, please take a moment and pause to remember all those who Memorial Day commemorates and all that it means to so many families in this great country. As we gather with family and friends, we cherish our many blessings and regardless of our challenges, we know that together all things are possible.

Warmest regards,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Fairfax County Public Schools

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