|Fairfax County Public Schools|
|8115 Gatehouse Road|
(Fairfax County), Virginia, 22042
|Motto||Engage • Inspire • Thrive|
|Grades||Pre-K through 12|
|Established||February 6, 1870|
|Superintendent||Scott S. Brabrand|
|School board||13 members, including 1 student|
|Governing agency||Virginia Department of Education|
|Budget||$3.0 billion (FY 2020)|
|Students and staff|
|Teachers||12,487.62 (FTE) (2016-17)|
|Staff||17,473.63 (FTE) (2016-17)|
|Student-teacher ratio||15.01:1 (2016-17)|
The Fairfax County Public Schools system (abbreviated FCPS) is a school division in the U.S. commonwealth of Virginia. It is a branch of the Fairfax County government which administers public schools in Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax. FCPS's headquarters is located in the Gatehouse Administration Center in Merrifield, an unincorporated section of the county near the city of Falls Church; the headquarters has a Falls Church address but is not within the city limits.
With over 185,000 students enrolled, FCPS is the largest public school system in Virginia, as well as the largest in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. The school division is led by Division Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand. Brabrand was appointed Superintendent in June 2017. The school division is the 12th largest school system in the nation and as of 2017 maintains the seventh-largest school bus fleet of any school system in the United States.
This section possibly contains original research. (March 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The public school system in Fairfax County was created after the Civil War with the adoption by Virginia of the Reconstruction-era state constitution in 1870, which provided for the first time that a free public education was a constitutional right. The first superintendent of Schools for Fairfax County was Thomas M. Moore, who was sworn in on September 26, 1870.
In 1886, Milton D. Hall was appointed superintendent. He would serve for 44 years until his retirement in 1929.
Fairfax County Schools, like most school systems in the south, schools practiced de jure segregation. There were local elementary schools for black students but not high schools. Although Fairfax was a densely populated area, there were proportionately few black high school students. Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Arlington and Fauquier Counties shared the high school for black students. The school was centrally located between the counties in Manassas. Others attended high schools in Washington, D.C., where many had relatives. Those schools were Armstrong High School, Cardozo High School, Dunbar High School, and Phelps Vocational Center in Washington, D.C. In 1951 Fairfax County, at the request of residents for a black high school, began construction of the Luther Jackson School.  The opening coincided with the Brown decision passed in 1954.
The Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) ordered an end to racial segregation. In response, the Commonwealth of Virginia immediately enacted legislation to stop the process of desegregation, took control of all the schools in Virginia, and resorted to closing school systems attempting to desegregate. When Arlington County announced an early attempt at a desegregation plan, its school board was fired by the State Board of Education. In 1955 the Fairfax County School Board renamed a "Committee on Desegregation" as the "Committee on Segregation" after a petition and thread of litigation from a civic group called "Virginia Citizens' Committee for Better Schools".
After the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Daniel Duke, author of Education Empire, wrote: "Whether local school systems such as Fairfax County, left to their own, would have moved forward to implement desegregation in the late fifties will never be known. Richmond removed any possibility of local option..." It was recognized in court cases that it was the state who was running the show, not the county. The ruling in a 1964 decision stated, "Prior to the Brown decision Fairfax County maintained a dual school system: one for Negro students; one for all other races. Shortly thereafter the placement of all children in the Fairfax County schools was taken from the local School Board and vested in the state Pupil Placement Board. The assignment of students remained with the state Board until the 1961-62 school year, at which time placement responsibilities were reinvested in the local School Board. Fairfax County began their desegregation efforts shortly thereafter.
As early as 1955 it was noted that in the Virginia General Assembly: Delegates from Northern Virginia openly opposed the Stanley Plans as well as calls for even more radical legislation. Virginia's 10th district was the only congressional district to vote against the Gray Plan. Delegate Boatwright also introduced another bill aimed at correcting the unorthodox views of the northern Virginians. Boatwright's legislation would have prohibited certain federal employees from serving on school boards or holding other local offices. The point of this bill, called the "Boatwright Bill" was without a doubt aimed at Northern Virginia and the School Boards. Boatwright himself said his bill affected all of Virginia communities but admitted Northern Virginia was most affected. The reason for the bill was because they felt that Federal Employees were in support of the Federal government's position on integration. The seven-member Fairfax County School Board included four Federal employees.
In Blackwell v. Fairfax County School Board (1960), black plaintiffs charged that the Fairfax grade-a-year plan was discriminatory and dilatory. Fifteen black children had been refused admission to white schools because they did not fall within the prescribed grades of the School Board's assignment plan. The plaintiffs contended successfully that the speed of desegregation was too slow under the school board's plan. In accepting the plaintiff's argument, District Judge Albert V. Bryan did not categorically rule out such plans. Instead, he emphasized that they must be judged according to the character of the community. Since the black school population of Fairfax County was less than four percent, Bryan considered the fear of racial friction an unacceptable justification for such a cautious desegregation plan.
The Civil Rights Commission report of 1962 found that "Every sign indicates that the communities in northern Virginia will be the first in the State to reach compliance with the mandate in the School Segregation Cases." Ultimately Fairfax County was one of the first school systems in the country to be awarded funds to aid with desegregation because of their efforts to implement a desegregated system.
The Fairfax County School Board voted to switch from a 7-5 to a 6-2-4 grade level configuration in 1958, necessitating the creation of what were then called intermediate schools for students in grades 7 and 8. By the time the first eight intermediate schools opened in the Fall of 1960, they were already over their 1000 student capacities.
In the fall of 1960, the first black students were admitted to newly desegregated public schools. Jerald R. Betz and Raynard Wheeler were enrolled at the Belvedere Elementary School in Falls Church, and Gwendolyn Brooks was enrolled at Cedar Lane Elementary School in Vienna.
The changeover to the 6-2-4 plan was the last major initiative of Superintendent W. T. Woodson, who retired in 1961, having served at 32 years the second-longest tenure as head of the Fairfax County Public Schools system.
As early as 1965, Superintendent Funderburk was discussing plans to decentralize FCPS. By 1967, Funderburk had put together a plan for five area offices, each serving a portion of the county, and had appointed Woodson High School Principal Robert E. Phipps and West Springfield High School Principal S. John Davis as his first two administrators that December.
Although the school board had endorsed Funderburk's plan, they also hired the consulting firm of Cresap, McCormick & Paget to conduct an audit of the system's management organization and operations. In 1968, based on their consultant's recommendations, the school board put a significantly modified version of the decentralization plan into effect, dividing FCPS into four areas which were in effect miniature school systems.
In January of the following year, Funderburk resigned, telling the school board he did not want a third term as superintendent. The school board selected Lawrence M. Watts from the Greece School District in Greece, New York to take the reins of the Fairfax County Public Schools system, which had grown during Funderburk's tenure from 65,000 to 122,000 students, in May 1969.
Watts' appointment of Williams would be one of his final official acts. After less than a year as superintendent, Watts died, aged 44, of a heart attack at his home in Oakton in June 1970. Assistant Superintendent S. Barry Morris was named interim superintendent while the school board sought a replacement to lead the 130,000 student school system.
The board did not have to look far for its new superintendent. In September 1970, Area Superintendent S. John Davis was chosen following a nationwide search to serve the remaining 33 months of Watts' four-year term.
During the mid-1970s, Davis had difficulties dealing with the start of demographic crash as well as a population shift. The student population dropped from a high of 145,385 in 1974-75 school year to an eventual low of 122,646 in 1982-83. Additionally, families migrated from established eastern and central parts of the county to newer developments in the west and south, leading to the unenviable task of Davis having to request the closings of some schools while needing to build entirely new ones elsewhere.
In a 6-5 vote, the school board voted in May 1976 to re-institute textbook rental fees, hoping to raise an additional $1.3 million to close a projected budget shortfall. The plan was scrapped two months later, in July, when the board was able to find a $1.4 million surplus.
In 1978, Fairfax County began countywide enforcement of its 15-year-old standardized six-point letter grading scale, which also had a ten-point spread at the bottom of the grading range. The grading scale, originally set in 1963, provided that a score of 100-94% was an A, 93-87% a B, 86-80% a C, and 70-79% a D, with any score below 70% an F.
The county school board adopted a $279 million budget in February 1979 which included a 5.15% cost of living raise for the system's teachers and other employees. However, this increase was only slightly more than half of the inflation rate, which was at an annual rate of 9.9% that month, and far short of the 9.4% increase FCPS employees had sought. In April 1979, the Fairfax Education Association, the professional association representing teachers in the county, adopted a work-to-the-rule action, which meant that teachers would not do any work outside of the 7.5 hours per day they were contracted for. Additionally, the FEA gave a vote of no confidence to Superintendent Davis.
The vote of no confidence was considered the main factor in Davis' decision to resign from Fairfax County Public Schools on May 18, 1979 and accept an appointment as Virginia Superintendent of Public Education from Governor John N. Dalton, despite having to take a $5,000 per year pay cut.
Following Davis' resignation, the Fairfax County School Board appointed Associate School Superintendent William J. Burkholder as interim superintendent.
In November 1979, the School Board named Orange County, Florida superintendent L. Linton Deck Jr. as superintendent following a four-month search. Deck had been a divisive figure during his 6 1/2 years in Orange County, with some residents glad to see him go, while others praised him as a strong and professional leader.
Deck inherited the problem of needing to close underutilized schools that had first plagued Superintendent Davis. 29 elementary schools, mostly in the eastern part of the county, were studied for possible closure, but Deck's recommendation in April 1980 was for eight schools to be closed, five more than the review panel had suggested. The following month, the school board voted to close seven of the eight schools at its May 22, 1980 meeting, a move which was met with angry hisses and boos from parents in attendance.
The work to the rule action by Fairfax County teachers which had begun in April 1979 was finally ended in May 1980.
Superintendent Linton Deck accepted a new four-year contract as Superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools in January 1981. Shortly before accepting his new contract, Deck proposed making up a $2.75 million portion of his proposed $395 million 1982 school budget by instituting textbook rental fees for students. Although permitted by Virginia law, the plan, which included charging textbook fees from $22 for elementary school students up to $30 per year for high school students, was jettisoned in the face of strong criticism.
Controversy over Deck's handling of an investigation of recruiting violations by the Mount Vernon High School athletic department, his censure by the Fairfax Education Association for a mishandled school closing, unhappiness with his personal leadership style, which was characterized as "aggressive" and "abrasive", and pressure from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors angry at Deck's proposed budget led to the school board forcing Deck to resign on June 24, 1982, only years into his four-year contract. The board appointed William J. Burkholder as acting superintendent.
At its April 25, 1991 meeting, the school board approved a plan where several intermediate schools, in areas of the county with declining enrollments, that had for the previous 31 years only served seventh and eighth grades would add sixth graders and become middle schools. Three intermediate schools, Glasgow, Holmes and Poe, added sixth grade classes.
In 1993, the four-year-old teacher merit pay was suspended due to budget cuts, and the school board voted to phase the program out completely over the next four years at its March 11 meeting.
From 1965 to 2006, the county school system was headquartered at 10700 Page Avenue in an unincorporated area of the county completely surrounded by the City of Fairfax. In 2006, FCPS moved all of its operations from the Burkholder Center, as well as from several other school-owned and leased offices, to the office building on Gatehouse Road.
The school system has expanded to include over 196 schools and centers, including 22 high schools, 3 secondary schools, 23 middle schools, and 141 elementary schools. Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) also operates a fleet of over 1520 school buses, which transport 110,000 students every day. They operate on an operating budget of $2.5 billion, through numerous funding sources. Today, FCPS is the largest school system in Virginia, and the 10th largest in the United States. It also boasts an average on-time graduation rate of 91.5%, along with an average SAT score of 1213. The school district utilizes an electronic visitor management system to control visitors' access at its schools.
FCPS took over the education of students with mental disabilities from a parent-organized cooperative in 1953. The parents had begun the program in 1950, using whatever space could be found to educate their children, but eventually asked FCPS to take control of the program.
Special education classes for mentally disabled students were expanded in 1955 to four classes for "educable" (those with a mental age above 7) children at Groveton, Lincolnia, Oakton and Luther Jackson schools, and a class for "trainable" (those with a mental age of less than ) children at Groveton.
Fairfax County Public Schools was known for their use of a 6-point grading scale. Before May 7, 2009, 94-100% received an A, 90-93% was a B+, 84-89% was a B, and so on.
In 2008, a parent group raised concerns about whether the FCPS method of computing grades and applying weights for advanced courses was adversely affecting FCPS applicants for college admissions, honors program placements, and merit-based scholarship awards.
On January 2, 2009, Superintendent Jack D. Dale announced his decision on the issue, recommending changing the weights of advanced courses but maintaining the six-point grading scale. Dale stated there was no conclusive evidence the six-point grading scale is disadvantageous for the students of FCPS.
Fairfax County Public Schools worked with the parent group to conduct a joint investigation into the issue. On January 22, 2009, the FCPS School Board directed Superintendent Dale to report back to it with a new version of the grading scale by March 2009. The board also approved changing the weighting for Honors to 0.5 effective with the 2009-2010 school year and for AP and IB courses to 1.0 retroactively.
After investigation, the Fairfax County School Board approved a modified ten-point scale, complete with pluses and minuses. The new scale went into effect at the beginning of the 2009-10 school year. 93-100% is an A, 90-92% is a A-, an 87-89% is a B+, and so on.
Fairfax County Public Schools disciplinary policies for drug offense came under community scrutiny starting in 2009, after two students separately committed suicide after being subject to school disciplinary proceedings. Both 17-year-old Josh Anderson of South Lakes High School, who died in 2009, and 15-year-old Nick Stuban of W.T. Woodson High School, who died in 2011, had been suspended from their schools for marijuana-related offenses. The school district also suspended at least one student for possession of her own prescription medication.
Although then-Superintendent Jack D. Dale maintained that the disciplinary policy did not constitute "zero tolerance," the suicides nevertheless prompted the school board and the state legislature to revisit school disciplinary policies. After a year-long study, the school board voted to relax punishments for marijuana possession and add parental notification requirements for students facing serious disciplinary sanctions.
FCPS is led by a superintendent and is overseen by a school board. The current superintendent is Scott Brabrand, who began his position on July 10, 2017.
For FCPS administrative and governance purposes, Fairfax County is organized into five geographically-based regions (1 through 5). Each region is led by an assistant superintendent, who oversees operations at schools within the region.
Virginia statutes and the Virginia Board of Education charge the Fairfax County School Board with setting general school policy and establishing guidelines that ensure proper administration and operation of FCPS.
The Fairfax County School Board is composed of 12 elected members and one student representative. Nine of the elected members are chosen from each of nine magisterial districts (Braddock, Dranesville, Hunter Mill, Lee, Mason, Mount Vernon, Providence, Springfield, and Sully). Three additional elected members are chosen "at-large". Members are elected for four-year terms. A student representative, selected for a one-year term by the Student Advisory Council, sits with the Board at all public meetings and participates in discussions, but does not vote. The chair of the board is elected to serve for a one year term, and the current chair Dr. Ricardy Anderson of Mason District has been serving since July 9, 2020.
The current members on the school board are Megan O. McLaughlin (Braddock), Elaine Tholen (Dranesville), Melanie K. Meren (Hunter Mill), Tamara Derenak Kaufax (Lee), Ricary J. Anderson (Mason), Karen Corbett Sanders (Mount Vernon), Karl Frisch (Providence), Laura Jane Cohen (Springfield), Stella Pekarsky (Sully). The other three members, Rachna Sizemore Heizer, Karen Keys-Gamarra, and Abrar Omeish serve as "at-large" members. Nathan Onibudo from South County High School serves as the current student representative.
There are 141 elementary schools in Fairfax County:
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Schools for black children:
FCPS operates a fleet of over 1,800 school buses. The fleet consists of buses that date from 2001 to 2018. FCPS operates the following bus models:
Transportation is divided into several different offices. Area 1, Area 2, Area 3, and Area 4 are regional offices servicing different regions of the county. Area 1 serves the farthest south, Area 2 serves central south, Area 3 serves central north, and Area 4 serves the farthest northern region. A central office oversees all lower offices and a training center. The final office is Routing and Planning which creates bus routes. Routing and Planning, also known as Area 7, maintains its own fleet of vehicles. The white vans and cars from Area 7 transport special needs students to special public and private schools throughout the county.
Three garages service the buses: Alban, Newington, and West Ox.