Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: An Open Letter to the Falls Church Community

By Peter Noonan

Dear Members of the Falls Church City Community,

It is with great excitement, enthusiasm and a humble and open heart that I begin my work as the ninth Falls Church City Public Schools Superintendent. Twenty-six years ago, as a newly minted substitute teacher, I embarked on a journey that has brought me to the City of Falls Church Community. The experiences I have had, from substitute teacher, special education teacher, department chair, assistant principal, principal of three (3) different schools, regional assistant superintendent, chief academic officer, and superintendent (sounds like I can’t keep a job) have prepared me for the work ahead where, together, we take this great school system and make it even greater. On May 15, 2017, we began a new, collaborative journey; building on the traditions of excellence in the Falls Church City Public Schools.

Four overarching pillars serve and guide as the foundation of my work and will inform our relationship building going forward.

The first pillar is Collaboration. I look forward to fostering responsive and caring relationships and sustaining a culture of collaboration where members of our community have a voice, feel valued, supported, and hopeful about the future of our students and our school division.

The second pillar that informs my approach is Innovation. This is a term that can be tossed around without a lot of meaning, so let me put it in context. I believe that for us to have a premier workforce, outstanding facilities that match our schools’ outstanding programs, and students that are truly prepared for their future as opposed to our past, we must look at our routines, protocols, and the challenges we face through a lens that is innovative and operates from a solution seeking mindset. I hope to build a culture where leaders and teachers in our schools use phrases like, “be bold” – “do something different” – “what are the alternative pathways” – “how does that connect to other ideas you have shared” and the like, so we can continue building on the amazing work happening in FCCPS.

The third pillar I want to highlight is Ethical Leadership. As your Superintendent, my role is to serve as a champion for the needs of our schools and school community. That can range from personnel to buses to food service to classrooms and beyond. We face a time where needs are changing and resources are scarce to meet the demands of a very diverse population of students. One of my main responsibilities is to make the case for continued and significant investment in our public schools ensuring that we are the best possible stewards of public funds. Together, with the School Board and broader community, we will do this from a place of honesty, openness, and always with an ethical compass.

My last pillar centers on Equity and Excellence for every student we serve. It is evident that this community is without a doubt committed to excellence. Now more than ever as communities in and around Falls Church City grow and change, we must redouble our efforts on behalf of all of our students regardless of race, ethnicity, economic status, or gender. We must raise the bar through rigorous programming for all, that both closes the gap for those students who are struggling and extends and enriches opportunities for those students who are not. I truly believe we can do this work and accomplish our goals by working together as a dedicated, interdependent, and collaborative community.
So, with those four pillars in mind:

• Collaboration

• Innovation

• Ethical Leadership

• Equity and Excellence for all the students we serve

I look forward to diving into my new role and getting to know the community, our teachers, students, staff, and the families who serve as our educational partners.

Max DePree says, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant.” My hope is that you will see me as a servant leader for the Falls Church City Schools and together, we, in our respective roles, will build on the tradition of excellence as we achieve new heights.

Thank you for this opportunity to serve, to build, to construct, and to grow great relationships. My family and I (Bethany, Emily, Brylan, Betsy) look forward to the journey ahead.


Peter Noonan is superintendent of Falls Church City Public Schools.