2024-06-24 7:47 PM

Falls Church Enters “Back to School” Mode

“Back to School” mode is in full swing in the City of Falls Church this week, despite the fact the City’s five schools start on August 29, a week later than neighboring Fairfax County, and the fact there is clearly a lot more summer weather ahead.

Ergo, this is the News-Press’ official “Back to School” edition. Check out everything we’ve done to address this fact on our inside pages.

AT THE FIRST Falls Church School Board meeting of the new school year were (l. to r.) Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan, Phil Reitinger, Kathleen Tysse, newly named principal of Oak Street Elementary Karim Daugherty, Laura Downs, David Ortiz and Lori Silverman. (News-Press photo)

The biggest news, from a regional standpoint, is that the Falls Church Schools are not facing a teacher shortage crisis as other systems in the region have reported. Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan told the News-Press Tuesday that with still weeks to go before the start of the school year, the system is down only five teachers and still recruiting.

Noonan credited the ability of the Falls Church system to avoid the rancor parents brought to other systems in the region, as well as the Falls Church system’s small size and outstanding reputation.

Fall sports teams are well into their practice regimens, the outdoor ones having to take care for the oppressive heat we’re having, and next week begins the routine from new teacher orientations to the convocation when Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan kicks everything off, this now being his sixth year on the job here, with what will surely be a memorable address to the entire system’s administrative, teacher and staff ranks.

Noonan was on hand for the season’s first official Falls Church School Board meeting Tuesday night at the Council chambers in City Hall. While some are still masking and two board members “attended” virtually, it was a fully functioning meeting, replete with a short “closed session” but the main purpose was to welcome the new principal for Oak Street Elementary.

A half-hour reception with a lot of sugary desserts to welcome Karim Daugherty as the new principal was held before the formal meeting, and her appointment was ratified by an unanimous vote during the meeting.

A press release from the schools’ communications chief John Wesley Brett accompanied the ratification which touted the “extensive search” of the board’s appointed search panel that decided on Ms. Daugherty.

It turns out they didn’t have to look far, as Ms. Daugherty has served for the last nine years, and 16 years overall, as principal of the Beech Tree Elementary School in the very nearby Sleepy Hollow area just across Route 50 from Falls Church in Fairfax County.

Her long familiarity with Falls Church includes her ongoing devotion to Anthony’s Restaurant, having recently celebrated its 50th anniversary now just outside the City itself, and the Falls Church system’s incorporation of the International Baccalaureate curriculum from top to bottom (as in K-12).

Based on her knowledge of the Falls Church system, she hailed the “strong sense of collaboration” that characterized the system’s functioning during the recent pandemic “while other systems were fraught with divisiveness,” she told the board in brief remarks.

When she learned she’d been selected, she was “giddy as a child,” she reported. She said in a statement, “I am both honored and thrilled to serve the Oak Street Community for years to come, continuing to learn and grow as an educational leader. Falls Church City Public Schools believes every student is capable and deserving of an International Baccalaureate education, and so do I.”

Ms. Daugherty comes as an experienced educator with over 25 years as a teacher and administrator in Texas, New Jersey, and Fairfax County Public Schools. She began her career as an elementary teacher at Harker Heights, Texas, in 1996 before moving to Virginia in 2000. She served as assistant principal of Beech Tree Elementary in 2006 before being appointed principal in 2013.

She was named the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers’ “Top Rated Principal” in 2018 and has received five Fairfax County “Outstanding Principal” nominations. She is finishing her ninth year as principal of Beech Tree Elementary.  

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