Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Help Develop a Community Vision for our Schools

The leadership of Falls Church City Public Schools wants to hear from you! This summer we are launching a Community Visioning Program, and everyone in the community is invited and encouraged to get involved. We plan to design a shared vision for our schools that meets the needs of all students and our whole community.

Public schools belong to the whole community. We want to hear from all parts of the Falls Church City community, even citizens who don’t have children in the schools. All opinions count! Help us make the right decisions for the future of an important community asset – our public schools.

The outcome of this project will provide the School Board with a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the schools and the community; our strengths and weaknesses; and specific short- and long-term actions to take that will make the schools the best place for every student. This information will drive the School Board’s work plan for the 2014 School year, and will guide decision-making in the future.

To develop this shared vision for the future, we need input from stakeholders in the community – parents, alumni, school staff, volunteers, small business owners, employees of local businesses, new and old residents, parents of pre-school students, and more.

FCCPS prides itself on doing a lot of things right, but we know there is room for improvement. We are highly ranked on numerous national lists, but we also want to be highly ranked in our own community because of the way we educate all children in Falls Church.

Parents of school-age children: We need to hear what we are doing right, and what needs to be improved. You have a front-row seat. Your voices are important.

Parents of pre-schoolers: We need to know what you envision for your children in the next 15 years, and how we can make that happen. Your voices are important.

Business leaders: We need you to tell us how we should be preparing students for their future careers. How do you want to partner with the schools? Your voices are important.

Parents of alumni: We need you because hindsight is 20-20. You can tell us what worked for your grads and what didn’t. Your voices are important.

Residents with no school children: We need you because your tax dollars fund the schools, and your property values and neighborhoods are affected by the quality of the schools. How do you want the schools to contribute to the larger community? Your voices are important.

Families new to Falls Church: We need to know if the schools are meeting your expectations and how they compare to those in other school districts. Your voices are important.

Individuals who have lived here for many years: We need to hear about the changes you’ve seen. What has improved? What is missing? Your voices are important.

Senior Citizens & Retirees: We need to understand how the schools affect you. Do you enjoy the young families of Falls Church who have moved into your neighborhoods? Are you overwhelmed by property taxes? Your voices are important.

The Community Visioning Program is a one-day event, to be held on Saturday, June 29, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Participants have to commit to the entire day because the discussion will build throughout the day.

Topics under discussion will include the following:


• Special Student Populations: English as a Second Language, Special Education, Gifted and Talented, students at risk

• Technology

• Community – School Relations

• Funding, finance, and budget

• International Baccalaureate programs

It will not be a free-for-all. Consultants from Danemiller Tyson Associates will lead the “Whole-Scale” process discussion. Everyone will have a chance to be heard, and every opinion will be part of the conversation.

To participate, please RSVP to Marybeth Connelly connellym@fccps.org by June 14. You will receive a short questionnaire that will determine your relationship with FCCPS.

This process has been used by other school divisions, and it has been transformative! Asking for a full Saturday in June is a big request. We know you’ve got other things to fill your day – vacations, swim meets, yard work, family reunions, to name a few. We hope that many of you are able to share that day with your fellow citizens and the Falls Church school community. Your voices are very important. Please help us transform our schools and community.


Charlotte Hyland is vice chair of the Falls Church City School Board.