Classes begin next Monday at the five public schools in the City of Falls Church. They started this week in neighboring Fairfax County.
Falls Church Superintendent Dr Peter Noonan, who is entering his sixth year as head of the local system, told News-Press yesterday that all positions, including for bus drivers, have now been filled in time for classes to start next week.
“No need for double runs of anything as far as buses go,” he said. There is, he said, a special education position that opened up last week with the promotion of an existing person, but with the addition of an additional full-time replacement in each position. Planned in this year’s budget, this slot opening will be covered by “someone who is permanently in the building,” he said.
“All relationships will start strong,” he added.
Spearheading the annual convening of all five school campuses of the FCCPS system and the center
office held in the auditorium of Meridian High School on Tuesday, Noonan exclaimed, “This is the year of joy,” at the end of the meeting.
In addition to the good news on staffing, the superintendent made news during his remarks on Tuesday with a new five-year strategic plan that emphasizes “investing in our people” to better retain the best teachers and members of the personal.
“To create a culture of excellence,” the strategic plan states, “FCCCPS will invest in our people by creating structures that foster success and opportunities for professional growth, cultivating intrinsic motivation and mutual trust in a culture of work that values every voice.
Noting that a study ranked the city’s schools as having “the second best working conditions” in Virginia, Noonan said, “We want to be #1, to be the best in the world.” He said he was within reach of goals of offering the highest pay in the state and increasing sick leave pay from $3 to $16 an hour, developing pathways for for staff to become teachers, to offer extended parental leave and even some sabbatical leave options. .
He contrasted his ‘year of joy’ exclamation to the past two years, which he said, with the pandemic and its complications involving him facing ‘my hardest job in 33 years’ in the Public education, and conceding “it hasn’t been joyous for me the past two years.
“But now we’re coming out of two years of really tough times and we’re turning the corner,” he said.
Still, Noonan noted, the FCCPS system “knocked it out of the park” with the state’s highest overall learning standards (SOL) scores in addition to being the second-best place to teach in the state and to be named one of the top school divisions in the state for the fourth consecutive year.
Noonan said the five pillars of the new strategic plan beginning this fall include “wellbeing, equity, and belonging,” where FCCPS “will ensure the shared school community fosters a safe and trusting environment where each person feels supported and belongs” by “prioritizing access to wellness resources, mental health initiatives and equitable practices.
“International Baccalaureate-inspired teaching and learning” will be there for all students. “Using research-based pedagogical best practices and an inclusive global perspective, educators will provide choice and students who are actively engaged in learning and service.”
“As the first public International Baccalaureate K-12 school division,” states a mission statement, the goal is to “personalize learning to meet the unique needs of each child and prepare each student to be a responsible, caring and internationally minded citizen. Added to this is the vision to “nurture the mindset of IB learners to help every child develop the skills needed to succeed in the classroom and beyond”.
One of the goals Noonan presented in an effort to “eliminate learning gaps” was his “10% problem,” which recognizes that approximately 10% of students in the system, or 260 students in grades 3 through Grade 12, 26 per level, must be the object of special efforts to fully engage.
Mary Jo West, honored as the high school’s oldest teacher at 25 and Grammy-nominated for her work with her music students, said she was “bursting with joy” that four students from the FCCPS system are now professors there. She hailed the system’s “rainbow connection” between “lovers and dreamers and me”.
A diverse panel of students gathered to discuss key issues for the new school year, including Turan Ahmad, Belarmino Castillo-Lopez, Brielle Collins, Elijah Pelton, Miles Pierre, Diwata Maria, Katie Rice and Kaethan Virmani.
Pierre said that as the only African-American man in high school, he clearly saw the lack of diversity as a key issue that students had to deal with, while Pelton said his advice to other students was to “be have fun and live your life,” and Virmani added, “do things you love with like-minded people.”
Transportation service worker Charmaine Barr at 30, Mary Jo West of Meridian and Maryel Barry, Kathleen Johnson and Nick Werkman of Henderson Middle School were honored for five-year interval birthdays in the Falls system Church.
Margaret Doubleday of Central Office, Miguel Gonzales and Hafsa Rahman of Oak Street, Sara Henderson of Thackeray, Jed Jackson of Mt. Daniel, Robert Jones and Amanda Ronco of Henderson were also honored on their 20th anniversary in the system . On their 15th anniversary, Lauren Carpel and Liz Stigall of Henderson, Lauren Lauer of Oak Street, Chris Carrico and Valerie Chesley of Meridian, Hilaria Zeballos of Child Care Services, Richard Kane of Food Services and Perry Suthiqul of Food Services and transport.