Community Engagement Committee - Fairfax County, VA
Can our students get more sleep, finally? Only if you speak up

Start School LaterAfter much lobbying by several organizations at the national and state level, Fairfax County Public School students might have an opportunity to finally enjoy the amount of sleep needed for a healthy and productive school day.  But you must let our school system know you, as parents and students, support this effort!  This is how:
“Fairfax County Public Schools invites you to attend one of eight community meetings to gather feedback on four scenarios that would move high school start times after 8 a.m.
Monday, May 19
7:00-9:00 p.m.
Tuesday, May 20
7:00-9:00 p.m.
Tuesday, May 27
7:00-9:00 p.m.
Wednesday, May 28  
7:00-9:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 7
10:00 a.m. to Noon  
Monday, June 9
7:00-9:00 p.m.
Tuesday, June 10
7:00-9:00 p.m.
Wednesday, June 11
7:00-9:00 p.m.
If you are unable to attend a community meeting, we invite you to use an online form to submit your feedback. The online form will be available beginning May 19 on the Later High School Start Times web page.
The Fairfax County School Board adopted a resolution in April 2012 to seek solutions that will establish high school start times at 8 a.m. or later. In March 2013, the School Board voted to award a contract to Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) to develop a proposal to achieve this goal. Working with a diverse stakeholder committee, CNMC’s Division of Sleep Medicine initiated a process to develop a Blueprint for Change.  The committee studied many scenarios to start FCPS high schools after 8 a.m. to improve students’ mental and physical health, academic performance, and safety. The School Board reviewed four scenarios at its work session on April 23, and now seeks the community feedback on these options.”
This is the time to speak up, or forever hold your peace!  It is a proven scientific fact our teenagers will benefit immensely from having later school start times.  Let’s make this happen?

Posted on May 15th, 2014

Internet Access For Low-Income Students

Connect2CompeteAs technology plays a larger role in our schools it becomes more important for all students to have home access to technology and the Internet. Many students have little or no access to the Internet away from school. This places them at a disadvantage. To address this problem the FCPS’s “Access 4 All Committee” has been working to support three programs that make it possible for low-income families to obtain computers and Internet access at home at reduced or no costs.

The first program is Cox Communications’s “Connect2Compete” initiative that allows families receiving “Free Lunch” support to obtain Internet access for $10.00 a month.  It also provides those families with support and the opportunity to purchase computers at low cost. Attached are English and Spanish language flyers from Cox that provide details concerning this program.

Comcast’s “

Internet EssentialsInternet Essentials” is the second program. This program is similar to Cox’s “Connect2Compete” initiative with the primary difference in that students on both “Free AND Reduced Lunch” are eligible for it. Details of Comcast program are found in the attached English and Spanish Comcast flyers .

The last program is the FCPS’s “MiFi Checkout Program”. This program provides schools the opportunity to purchase cellular “MiFi” devices to checkout to students to gain Internet access at home.  The school checkout programs also include the loan of computer devices. The school funds to purchase MiFi Devices and computers are limited; the program is not funded by the FCPS central budget. Schools taking advantage of the program do so on an optional basis, using donations they receive. PTA units may want to consider helping address the Internet access problem by making donations to their schools or schools with high numbers of student without home access. Details concerning the “MiFiCheckout Program” are available from the attached “Access4All” flyer. More information on the Access4All program is available at

Posted on March 4th, 2014

Are you tired of the mythical “War on Women”?

 Terry Beatley
Tired of gender baiting lies?  Sick of conflicting information?  Is there truth to the ‘War on Women’ claim?
If you answered YES to any of the questions above, we have good news for you!  Join us for a morning that will give you the tools and skillset to fight this myth?
Terry Beatley debunks the myth because of a promise she made to the doctor who created the lies that changed America.
Her Discourse on the Mythical ‘War on Women’are training courses designed to uncover the gender-baiting lies told women and how these myths are sabotaging cultural and economic prosperity.
She offers a fresh, contemporary approach to unraveling 40 years of deception.  Equipping adults and teenagers with the detailed history of the mythical war, Terry armors graduates with logic, history, arguments and answers.  
Delivering truth that transcends race, economic status, religion or political affiliation, Terry’s Discourse on the Mythical ‘War on Women’ is engaging, thought provoking and life changing.
Debunking the lies has never been more effective!

“Terry loves people and wins them with truth . . .” Dr. Alveda King, Martin Luther King’s niece, Founder of King for America

Join us for the next one!
Saturday, April 12, 2014
8:30am to 1:30pm
Langley High School Auditorium,
McLean, VA

Posted on February 26th, 2014

COTS and the FCPS FY15 Budget Public Hearings



During the Public Hearing before the School Board on the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget last week, COTS shared its concern that the Superintendent did not recommend that the school system ask the Board of supervisors for enough money to avoid cuts to programs important to COTS kids – like needs based staffing and summer school.  COTS’ members testimony can be read here: 
FCPS School Board Public Hearing No.4 – FY 2015 Advertised Budget

Watch the video of the FCPS Budget hearing!  Dr. Lolita Mancheno-Smoak, Avis Catchings, Tina Hone and other COTS representatives testify beginning at the 53 minute mark.

The Board of Supervisors must also hear from COTS!  Public hearings before the Board of Supervisors on the County Budget are scheduled for April 8, 9 and 10.  Sign up is already open.  Please, sign up to speak on behalf of COTS kids!  
You can sign up to speak by calling the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors at 703-324-3151.  You can also sign up online at  When you sign up to speak, please say you are testifying on behalf of the Coalition of The Silence.  We must show our strength as a Coalition.  Stay tuned for information on future conference calls to go over key message points and develop powerful testimony! 
Between now and the Board of Supervisors public hearings, COTS has and will continue to meet with individual members of the Board of Supervisors.  In these meetings, COTS shows its support for Superintendent Garza but also expresses our legitimate disappointment that she did not ask for enough funding to avoid cuts to summer school and needs based staffing.  COTS also shares its profound concern that given the magnitude of student growth in FCPS, if the BOS does not provide adequate funding, all kids will suffer in FCPS – not just COTS kids.

Posted on February 7th, 2014

What is “Common Core”?

Have you heard the term “Common Core“?  It is applied to use a National standard in the public education system.  What are the pros and cons of such standards?  Do you agree that the Federal government should mandate those standards, instead of the local school systems?  Here is an excerpt of a very enlighting and interesting article on the subject:
…”Most Americans don’t even know what that is. But they should. It’s the government’s plan to try to bring “the same standard” to every government-run school.
This may sound good. Often, states dumb down tests to try to “leave no child behind.” How can government evaluate teachers and reward successful schools if there isn’t a single national standard?
But when the federal government imposes a single teaching plan on 15,000 school districts across the country, that’s even more central planning, and central planning rarely works. It brings stagnation.
Education is a discovery process like any other human endeavor. We might be wrong about both how to teach and what to teach, but we won’t realize it unless we can experiment — compare and contrast the results of different approaches. Having “one plan” makes it harder to experiment and figure out what works.”
To read the entire article by John Stossel, click HERE.  Let us know what YOU think about this subject!

Posted on January 3rd, 2014

FCPS Superintendent Garza begins her “Listening Tour”

Superintendent Garza to Hold Fall Listening Tour Events Throughout Fairfax County Fairfax County Public Schools

Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza invites parents, students, employees, and community members to share their thoughts about the school system during a listening tour that will begin this fall and continue in early 2014. Winter dates will be announced in early January.
Dr. Garza will be visiting every magisterial district with Fairfax County School Board members to hear attendees’ concerns and questions about school issues and priorities. Dr. Garza also will ask meeting participants to provide their feedback to questions that will be used to develop a Portrait of a Graduate that will provide a framework for a long-range strategic plan for FCPS.
The Mount Vernon District meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 15, at 7 p.m., at Whitman Middle School. Whitman Middle School is located at 2500 Parkers Lane in Alexandria. Pyramid 4 of the Fairfax County Public Schools System has the greater percentage of minority students in the County, where the achievment gap and the digital divide among these populations is alarming.  This past May there was a meeting at West Potomac High School to discuss the issue and potential resolutions, read more about it HERE.
A complete schedule of dates and locations is available at Those planning to attend the fall listening tour are requested to sign up online and indicate if an interpreter is needed.

Posted on October 15th, 2013

News from the Coalition of the Silence

0_0_0_0_187_139_csupload_63360322_largeCOTS WELCOMES FCPS’ NEW SUPERINTENDENT DR. KAREN GARZA
COTS board members Tina Hone and Lolita Mancheno-Smoak had the privilege of meeting with FCPS’ new Superintendent, Dr. Karen Garza.  We were impressed by Dr. Garza’s openness, candor and, most of all, her intuitive understanding of the challenges facing COTS kids and her laser focus on solutions to address these challenges.  COTS is excited by the prospect of working with Dr. Garza on behalf of COTS kids.  Please extend your welcome to Dr. Garza and share your suggestions with her by completing the survey found here:
The first school board meeting for the new school year is TOMORROW – Thursday, September 12 at 8:00 PM in the Luther Jackson Middle School Auditorium, 3020 Gallows Road.  THE BOARD WILL BE VOTING ON CHANGES TO TJ’S ADMISSION POLICY.  Please try to attend. The proposed changes are small but potentially meaningful in the long term.  For example, the amended policy emphasizes science and technology before math – consistent with the founding purpose and NAME of the school. Second, language that created bright line “minimum standards” which fostered an overemphasis on standardized test math scores (which were then gamed through a virtual industry of “drill and kill” test prep factories), would be changed to “rigorous standards.”  COTS agrees that admission to TJ should be based on merit.  However, COTS categorically rejects the idea that admission to TJ should only be determined by the highest test scores.  MERIT IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES.  The most promising proposed change is the reintroduction of a “holistic approach” to admission.  Be clear: nothing about this ‘holistic approach” is directed towards increasing diversity in TJ admissions.  However, by using a holistic approach to admission, the TJ admission team will be better able to assess which students are not just good at math, but who are truly passionate about science, technology and engineering.  While COTS views these proposed changes as favorable steps, it continues to stand firmly behind the allegations raised in its Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights Complaint and will continue to aggressively pursue a final resolution to ensure that qualified Black and Latino students have fair access to TJ and the pipeline that feeds into it.

Posted on September 11th, 2013

Back to School at Fairfax County Public Schools

Summer is over, and kids are back to school today.  There are many news to report on as it pertains to our Public School System.  For one, we have a brand new Superintendent, Karen Garza, who is intent to bring about much needed reforms to the school system.  Reducing the achievement gap in the minority and disabled student population is one of them, and many parents, including myself, are very excited about that.  Read from Ms. Garza herself what her plans for reform are in an article published in the latest “My FCPS Family” newsletter. The Washington Post features an article today on her vision for the school district.  What are your thoughts?  Are you ready for a brand new school year?  Happy Back-to-School!

Posted on September 3rd, 2013

As Dr. Ben Carson says, a good education is possible everywhere in America!

Ben CarsonWith the beginning of a new school year right around the corner, reading this article by Dr. Ben Carson was quite inspiring.  Titled “Success for the Dumbest Kid”, he describes his personal experience growing up in Detroit, and how, in spite of all the challenges faced by circumstance, both he and his brother were able to succeed beyond anyone’s expectation.  The key to that success?  Parent involvement!
As we prepare our kids for a new school year, whether they attend public schools or private, let’s ensure that we, as parents, are as involved as can be.  That is the best thing we can do to ensure each and everyone of them achieve their full potential in life, regardless of where they go to school, or the personal challenges faced at any given time.  And as the good Dr. says too, reading is fundamental, and the best pathway to educational success.  What are your thoughts on this wonderful article?

Posted on August 9th, 2013

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