As I watched my oldest daughter head out to board the George Mason bus one chilly recent morning, I flashed back to the first day she rolled away on the bus to Mt. Daniel nearly a decade ago. When she got off the bus that afternoon, her first words to me were, “When can I walk home by myself?”
“That is a little while off,” I told her, knowing that day would come all too soon.
A lot has changed since then as I have watched two more daughters take their first school bus rides. In 2004, my daughter’s kindergarten class totaled 110 students. The class of 2025 now tops out at 169 – a whopping 54% increase. In that time, our overall student body has grown from 1,846 to 2,272 students. The community – although only two square miles in size – has added a fourth school to its system as we strive to keep our class size small while accommodating this steady increase.
Teachers who once shared overhead projectors now enjoy a SmartBoard in every elementary school classroom. We’ve built upon our academic success with the IB program and become a certified Primary Years Program. In addition to national academic accolades, we’ve won praise for our art, music and sports programs. With more than a dozen state championship teams, we have added a swim team and a field hockey club, lit up the Mustangs’ home field, and enjoy chorus and band programs that regularly receive top marks at regional competitions.
And, with Falls Church City Schools now fully engaged in the digital age, we are able to share up-to-the minute details of these accomplishments with the entire community through twitter, Facebook and the daily Morning Announcements. These social media channels not only make it possible to provide instant updates on school happenings, but also help cross school boundaries to create a single, interconnected school system.
Despite these rapid, ongoing changes, one constant is the City of Falls Church’s commitment to giving our kids a world class education. Anyone who lives here knows that this community is special. We have our disagreements, but we come together around what matters most. And that includes our schools. This past fall, citizens rallied to protect the school board’s budget request, securing laptop computers and other needed technology upgrades for classrooms throughout the school system.
As a parent and a proud member of this community, I have remained steadfast in my commitment to ensuring not only my three daughters, but all Falls Church students get an education that will give them their best shot at a successful future. From room parent to basketball coach to long-range facilities planning to chair of the annual book fair to PTA president, I’ve worked hard to support a strong school environment that is critical to this thriving community. I am excited to take the next step in this charge as interim director of the Falls Church Education Foundation.
Since its inception in 2004, the Foundation has raised more than $3 million to support professional development for teachers, scholarships for summer programs and higher education, diversity programming, technology grants, creative learning activities, and a variety of efforts that support our most vulnerable students – including the Wilden After-School Program, Backpacks for Books and Pathways to Baccalaureate. I look forward to guiding this organization into the New Year, but I need your help.
With the City projecting a 4.5% increase in student population over the next year, now more than ever we must come together and do our part to support our schools. With a national reputation of excellence, our schools help keep our property values high, bring new businesses to the city and drive school enrollment. If everyone gives even a little, together we can do great things for our schools, our kids and our community. As you consider your year-end charitable giving, please keep the Falls Church Education Foundation in mind (fcedf.org).
In just a few short years, I’ll be watching Hannah head off to college – or whatever her next great adventure may be. Nothing will make that day anything short of heartbreaking. However, I will have the comfort of knowing she is as prepared as she can possibly be to meet the challenges and seize every opportunity before her. For now, I look forward to working with the entire community to make sure the same can be said of every student in our Little City.
As we hug our children a bit tighter right now, I wish each of you a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.
Debbie Hiscott is the interim program director of the Falls Church Education Foundation.