Connelly Tells ‘Back To School’ Fete of November Referendum

FALLS CHURCH SCHOOLS’ Superintendent Peter Noonan (far right) welcomed to the stage the principals of four of the City’s public schools at the “Back to School” assembly Tuesday morning to receive special commendations from the State Board of Education. (Photo: News-Press)

At Tuesday morning’s annual “Back to School” assembly of all the paid staff of the City of Falls Church’s public school system and its five schools was briefed on the issues surrounding and importance of the $120 million school bond referendum that will be on the ballot in the City. F.C. Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly, who is also the outreach coordinator for the schools, laid out the issues of what passage of the referendum will mean for the future of the system, were it to pass. She was joined in the standing room only audience by City Council member Phil Duncan and City Manager Wyatt Shields.

New Superintendent Peter Noonan, who took his post in mid-May, gave a lengthy presentation to introduce himself, including his concept of the kind of “servant leadership” he espouses, citing “the power of public education” rendered with an “ethical lens” and “students in the forefront” in “a culture of equity and fairness.” He affirmed it is the aspiration of the Falls Church system, one of only seven in the entire U.S. that offers a K-12 International Baccalaureate curriculum, to be “the premiere IB school division in the U.S.”

Noonan introduced the slogan, “Better Together,” for the system, and the now popular “hashtag” of “#TeamFCCPS” to link Twitter feeds. He gave brief updates on physical improvements to the five campuses, most significantly the major work that is now underway at Mt. Daniel Elementary.

He presented certificates to the principals of four of the public schools who have been honored as recipients of the State Board of Education’s “Virginia Index of Performance (VIP) Board of Education Distinguished Achievement Awards,” an honor bestowed on only 231 schools across the state. He also announced that the Falls Church school system is one of two school divisions to earn the “2017 VIP Board of Education Education Excellence” awards for “Advanced Learning and Achievement.” a program that recognizes schools and divisions that exceed state and federal accountability standards and achieved excellence goals set by the governor and state board of education.

A series of individual system awards were presented, including longevity awards that this year went to Dorothy Clinton and Heidi Lang for 30 years service in the system, Charmaine Barr, Eleanor Hawkesworth and Gloria Londono for 25 years. Maryel Barry, Raymond Epps, Kathleen Johnson, Anne Sommers, Nick Werkman and Mary Jo West were recognized for 20 years’ service, Amanda Blanchard, Joel Block, Margaret Doubleday, Miguel Gonzales, Sara Henderson, Jed Jackson, Robert Jones, Pam Mahony, Jorge Montoya, Hafsa Rahman and Susan Sinclair for 15 years, and Lauren Carpel, Chris Carrico, Valerie Chesley, Tammy Gorman, Lisa High, Sheeba Kamran, Richard Lane, Tina Kao, James Lahy, Lauren Lauer, Kristina Nicolais, Jan Potrykus, Tish Pugh, Ingrid Schoenburg, Liz Stigall, Preciosa Suthiqul and Hilaria Zeballos for 10 years.

Recognized for completing five years’ service were Sue Beltson, Celeste Carson, Sade Cromwell, Emily Donovan, Dawn England, Sean Fernandez, Brian Fowler, Todd Horacek, Evelyne Horovitz, Kaitlyn Jones, Kesha Legagneur, Janet Lundin, Katherine Mason, Alaa Mohammed-Ali, Kim Nguyen, Alane O’Neill, William Stewart, Carolyn Sweterlitsch, Mica Thomasson, Tracey VanderNaaid, Joshua Walker, Joanne Woods and Ray Wu-Rorrer.

Talented Mason High student musicians wowed the audience with three performance interspersed in the program that included Blake Hopkins, vocals, Peter Hansel, tenor sax, and Genevieve Llames, piano.

Offering welcome addresses to the assembly were School Board chair Lawrence Webb, Farrell Kelly, president of the Falls Church Education Association and Debbie Hiscott, executive director of the Falls Church Education Foundation. Connelly was filling in for Mayor David Tarter, who was out of town on vacation.

Classes are slated to begin throughout the system next Tuesday, Sept. 5.