Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: F.C. Schools Mission: Academic Excellence & Tech Integration

Falls Church City Public Schools is ready to begin another year. After an exciting convocation with talented students performing, mascots celebrating, and staff welcomed back, the journey begins again to reach new heights that will allow us to remain “America’s Premier Small School System.”

Last year, FCCPS was again heralded as among the best in the country by Newsweek magazine and The Washington Post. We received accolades for academics and athletics as well as staff accomplishments. However, our mission is not complete. To stay great, we must continue to invest in our children, our staff, and our school system as a whole.

FCCPS was founded upon the principle that public education should be innovative, progressive, and ahead of the curve. This school year we will mark the 60th anniversary of the first George Mason High graduating class. Throughout those years FCCPS remained a leader: Implemented the first International Baccalaureate program in Virginia, introduced half-day Kindergarten before it was state funded and launched a day care program 8 years before the state legislation. The list of “FCCPS Firsts” is lengthy, but the point is our wonderful “Little City” of Falls Church has been home to one of the most progressive and successful school systems of any size in America. We should be proud of the schools our citizens provide for our children. I take this opportunity to say thank you on behalf of all of our FCCPS staff and students for your many years of support.

This year, we are framing our continued mission along this path to excellence with two priorities: outstanding academic achievement for all children, and technology integration to prepare our young people for the ever-changing world in which they will work and live. Both of these goals include the integration of new state math and reading assessments which now require successful demonstration of ‘enhanced’ technological skills by students. But beyond assessments, technology can bring a voice to a child who cannot speak or offer a 3D digitized model for a student who needs to see Geometry in order to understand. A brilliant writer in high school can publish poetry for a global audience and collect comments from students in such places as Germany, Australia, and Switzerland providing international perspective beyond the walls of his or her classroom, and all within an afternoon. Technology creates equity and access to a higher level of content for all children. Instantly children can Google a topic and learn minute details on any educational topic they want to explore.

While we are fully committed to technological integration in our classrooms, we know education is not just about using machines or gadgets. Our focus, our real work for the coming year, will be on using technology as an opportunity to extend learning and prepare our children as global citizens. Part of that preparation requires skillful teachers who understand how and when to use technology. To that end, we have some of the best educators in the country who want our children to be able to paint pictures with a paintbrush and compute numbers in their head. We want them to be able to solve problems, analyze, and collaborate with others engaging in lively face-to-face discussions. Becoming digital citizens mean we also encourage students to decide when technology is helpful and when it is not.

As for the operational side of our work, construction is in full swing at Thomas Jefferson Elementary. By this time next year, 15 new classrooms will be in place. This summer, the TJ gym was completely renovated with new lights, flooring, paint, and a divider curtain. It looks brand new!

Our School Board has been vigilant in their support of keeping our class sizes small. This year, we’ve added seven brand new positions across our four schools. In total, we welcome 50 new, magnificent support and certified staff.

In other matters, we are expanding our Backpack and Meals program to include weekends for those families in need. This program ran at no cost to the division this past summer due to supportive federal regulations. The summer storm caused damage to our baseball backstop netting. Repairs this fall will have it ready by next season. Our tennis courts have reached the limit of playability, so we’ve decided to hold off on some routine, non-security risk maintenance items such as carpeting and painting in order to fund resurfacing. Work on the courts will begin within the next month.

We encourage our community to join our Morning Announcement network. To subscribe go to www.fccps.org/MorningAnnouncements. It’s a great way to keep up with the fabulous work that our staff and students are doing on a daily basis. Thank you for your continued support of FCCPS! We look forward to greeting our children and families next Tuesday, September 4.


Dr. Toni Jones is the Superintendent of Falls Church City Public Schools.