Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Celebrating Our Business & Community Partners

By Erik Pelton & Marybeth Connelly

This week we are celebrating Business and Community Partner Appreciation Week. Our local schools benefit tremendously from the services, money and expertise donated by business and community partners. These relationships provide opportunities for students, tools for teachers and classrooms and a venue for community members to get involved in the schools.

While the value provided by the partners is beyond measure, some figures help quantify the magnitude of the Falls Church City Public Schools Business and Community Partnership program: More than 500 businesses, non-profit organizations, government agencies and individuals partner with Falls Church City Public School, or FCCPS, every year. There are five FCCPS schools – Jessie Thackrey Preschool, Mt. Daniel Elementary School, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, George Mason High School – and six school-affiliated organizations – PTAs, athletic and band boosters and the Falls Church Education Foundation. Partners work with schools and the organizations in myriad ways. It is difficult to quantify the exact monetary value of these partnerships, but we estimate that community partners provide several hundred thousand dollars worth of donations of time, talent and treasure each year.

We encourage everyone throughout Falls Church to show appreciation for the generosity of these partners. Support the businesses that are committed to our schools. Shop there. Eat there. Recommend them. Thank them. Most are small businesses, and if we want to be able to rely on their backing, we need to support them as well. Make sure they know how much you appreciate their contributions to our schools and community.

Who are these partners? Take a look at the 50-page Community Partnership Directory at www.fccps.org. You will see familiar local businesses, city government departments and non-profit organizations, as well as individuals who share their professional expertise.

What do community partners do for our schools? They judge science fairs and cooking competitions. They donate money, food and supplies to PTAs, band and athletic booster programs. They sponsor Falls Church Education Foundation and All Night Grad Celebration programs. They provide gifts and meals to welcome new teachers. They collect holiday gifts and meals for families. They bring the fire truck to Mt. Daniel to teach fire safety and lead field trips to the waste transfer station. They offer opportunities for students to get involved by serving the community or learning about business. But wait, there’s more!

Partners host activities and fundraisers for school families of all ages – dinners, story hours, arts programming. They donate swag to the Hippo-Tiger-Giraffe Games, FIRST Lego League, and support Family STEAM Nights. Outdoor classrooms and gardens benefit from plant donations and sweat equity. Partners mentor students participating in FIRST Robotics, National History Day and science competitions.

Last spring, TJ fifth graders learned first-hand about problem solving from those who shared expertise for their PYP Project. No matter what the need, our partners are consistently available to lend a hand.

Our partners are always ready to inspire students. At Mary Ellen Henderson, volunteers have many opportunities to participate. At the recent Shark Tank competition volunteers acting as “Sharks” evaluated seventh grade student business presentations. We are gearing up to start recruiting for the spring MEHMS Career Fair and expect dozens of participants to share their career story.

Have you seen the banners and signs during athletic events at George Mason? Local businesses support athletics and musicians with contributions to the band and athletic boosters. Student performing arts groups regularly share their talent in community events.

Partners are introducing GMHS students to real-life practitioners of careers that interest them. Professionals visit classrooms to share their expertise and career stories. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) volunteers work directly with teachers to bring expertise into classrooms and extracurricular clubs.

Partners provide opportunities for students to serve the community. FCCPS has a culture of caring and student volunteers help many local organizations during school or as part of extracurricular activities. Students frequently organize collections of food, clothing, blankets, sports equipment and books throughout the community to support local organizations.

These examples just scratch the surface of the ways our business and school communities serve each other. Do you want to know more? Sign up for our newsletter, Partnership NewsBites, for a regular update on partnerships and opportunities. Send an email to connellym@fccps.org to be added to the mailing list.


Erik Pelton serves as chairman of the FCCPS Business in Education Partnership. Marybeth Connelly is FCCPS Director of Community Partnerships and the vice mayor of the City of Falls Church.