Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church


Every year, I enjoy participating in the J.E.B. Stuart High School graduation ceremonies. From my vantage point on the stage, I can witness, up close, the pride, joy, and camaraderie between the school administration, faculty, and graduating seniors. Last month’s ceremony was delightful once again, with many scholastic honors and service awards presented in front of proud families and friends. Everyone in the cavernous field house at Robinson Secondary School seemed to share in the delight as each student was called by name to receive a diploma. Students participating in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program were identified in the printed program and by a special cord on their graduation robe, but the final IB scores are not available until after graduation, so some students are in suspense when they walk across that stage for their Fairfax diploma.

Well, the scores are in, and 35 graduates earned their IB diploma, a 20 percent increase from last year, and just one shy of the number receiving the IB diploma in 2011. According to Stuart Principal Prosperanta Calhoun, 16 students earned a score of 30 or more, and one student, Monica “Lizzie” Wright, got an amazing score of 37! The IB diploma is accepted internationally as a qualification for admission to institutes of higher education; earning it means hundreds of hours of extra instruction and homework for students who pursue it. Principal Calhoun noted that 74 Stuart students will seek an IB diploma next year, the largest number in the school’s history. Stuart pioneered the IB program in Fairfax County nearly 20 years ago, and it has been a great addition to the curriculum. As Principal Calhoun also noted, “our students are simply amazing!” I couldn’t agree more.

When I toured the school at Principal Calhoun’s invitation this spring, I found a clean, coordinated school with attentive and polite students. I especially was impressed with the professionalism and enthusiasm of teachers whose classrooms – from biology to government and in between – contained an amalgam of nationalities and cultures, yet everyone was moving in the same direction together. The cafeteria may have been the most surprising place of all – mealtime was a quiet event, without loud voices or food fights. Trash was placed in the proper receptacles, and students greeted adult visitors in a pleasant tone of voice. There is pride in being a Raider, and it showed.

The Silver Line opens this Saturday, as five new Metro stations come on line and begin serving passengers. Planning for a rail line that serves both the core city and Dulles International Airport began nearly 50 years ago, but the active construction for Phase 1, as anyone who has driven Route 7 or the Toll Road knows, has happened only in the last decade. Silver Line trains will run from Wiehle-Reston East all the way to Largo, Maryland. It’s a long-awaited and exciting advance. Phase 2, from Wiehle-Reston East to Dulles and into Loudoun County, is expected to be completed by 2018.


 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.