WEDNESDAY, 2/5: School Substance Abuse Program

January 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The Falls Church Alliance for Youth, in concert with GMHS PTSA, MEHMS PTA and the City of Falls Church Department of Human Services announces a special event for parents/guardians and their middle and high school-age students.

“Protecting Against the Realities of Substance Abuse” will be presented by P.R.O.T.E.C.T, Parents Reaching Out To Educate Communities Together, a task force of the Unified Prevention Council of Fairfax County, on Wednesday, February 5 in the GMHS Auditorium.

The student, parent and professional panelists will provide powerful first-person stories of substance abuse.

It will begin with a resource fair at 6:30 p.m., and the panel begins at 7:00 p.m.

SATURDAY, 11/2: GMHS, MEH Hockey Clubs Promote “Try Hockey for Free Day”

October 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Saturday November 2 is “Try Hockey for Free Day” in Virginia, when kids ages 4-9 can put on the pads and try their hand at ice hockey at no cost.  The George Mason High School and Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School Hockey Clubs are joining other area hockey programs to promote the effort at Mt. Vernon Ice Rink, 2017 Belle View Boulevard in Alexandria at 3:15pm Saturday.

“This is a great way for kids to try ice hockey,” said Stan Fendley, coach of the GMHS club team.  “No equipment costs, no team fees – just gear up and chase the puck around.  It’s a lot of fun.”

Certified coaches will be on hand to teach the basics, Fendley said.

Additional information is available at

To register for the Saturday session at Mt. Vernon Ice Rink, visit

FRIDAY 11/8 – FRIDAY 12/13: Ballroom Dancing for MEH

October 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Victorian Society at Falls Church is accepting registrations for its 2013 Promenade class, offering contemporary ballroom dancing and etiquette lessons for 7th and 8th grade students from the Falls Church area.

All 7th and 8th grade students are cordially invited to register though class space is limited.  Students should plan to attend the entire session which will take place at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School on November 8, 15, and 22, as well as December 6 and 13, from 7:00-8:20pm for 7th graders and 8:30-9:50pm for 8th graders.  Promenade tuition costs $100 and a few scholarships are available.  Parents of Promenade participants will be asked to volunteer as chaperones.  

A separate session for 6th graders set for Friday evenings in January-February will be announced at a later date.  

Registration deadline for 7th and 8th graders is October 30th. For more information, or to obtain registration materials please contact Becki Creed at [email protected] or at 703 538-1080.


FRIDAY, 1/25: Hockey Night in Falls Church

January 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The George Mason High School and Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School club ice hockey teams invite all students, parents, faculty, staff and supporters to “Hockey Night in Falls Church” Friday January 25th at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston.  The MEH team plays a tough Battlefield squad at 5:20pm, while GMHS takes on O’Connell at 8:10pm.  Admission is free to both games.  The MEH team, in its second year of play, is 5-2-2 on the season and 3-2-1 in league play, while GMHS, which partners with West Potomac, is 5-4-1 and 4-3-1.

Please wear your school colors to support the teams!

FC Robotics Teams Compete in “Lego League” Championship

November 25, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

November 26, 2012

Robotics teams from around the area competed recently at the “FIRST Lego League Senior Solutions Challenge” at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, seeking to win awards in various categories and qualify for the State Championship in Harrisonburg next month.

Among the teams from Falls Church were “Techy and We Know It” and “Brick Breakers”.

“Techy and We Know It” collected the 2nd Place Championship Award, qualifying it for the trip to Harrisonburg.  The team scored consistently in the different classes of the competition and was favorably judged on the ability to work as a team, program an autonomous robot and research and develop ideas for a glove that can help seniors with failing dexterity retain their independence.  Read more

GMHS, MEH Ice Hockey to Begin Friday

November 1, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

November 1, 2012

The ice hockey clubs at George Mason High School and Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School begin their seasons Friday November 2 with simultaneous contests at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington.  The GMHS team will take on Washington-Lee in a scrimmage beginning at 6:40pm, while the MEH team will open league play against the Arlington Admirals in 6:50pm game.   

Each team will play in the Northern Virginia Scholastic Hockey League (NVSHL), the sanctioning body for club ice hockey in Northern Virginia.  This is the third year for GMHS hockey and the second year for the MEH team.  

George Mason will again partner with West Potomac High School this year to form a joint team in NVSHL.   GMHS returns five juniors who founded the team two years ago – Adam Fendley, Hunter Olson, Connor Rhodes, Jack Stricker and Andrew Williamson. Two other juniors, Matt Lowrey and Ian Griffin, have joined the team since its founding.  Moving up this year from the MEH team are freshmen Sam Allan, Marsden Davis, Ben Kravinsky, and Tyler Taylor.   GMHS grads Dan Watkins and Matt Williamson are assistant coaches, and GMHS senior Taylor Arney, a former player, serves as Team Manager.

The Mary Ellen Henderson club has a core of players from MEH and adds other players from Fairfax County schools.  Leading the team are MEH players Tom Ferrick, Ryan Henderson, Alex Kryazhev, Jack MacKinnon, Henry Middlebrook, Alec Reusch, and Ethan Rosenberger.   

The team schedules appear below.  

George Mason High School Hockey Club Schedule 
Fri Nov 2, 6:40 pm, (Scrimmage) Washington-Lee (Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Arlington)
Fri Nov 16, 6:40 pm, Washington-Lee (Kettler)
Mon Nov 26, 4:00 pm, North Stafford (Prince William Ice Center)
Fri Nov 30, 6:40 pm, Potomac School (Kettler)
Fri Dec 14, 6:40 pm, Osbourn (Kettler)
Fri Dec 21, 7:55 pm, Oakton (SkateQuest of Reston)
Sat Jan 05, 10:20 pm, Briar Woods (Ashburn Ice House)
Fri Jan 11, 8:10 pm, Lake Braddock (Kettler)
Fri Jan 18, 10:40 pm Loudoun Valley (Ashburn)
Mon Jan 21,  5:45pm Bishop Ireton (Mt. Vernon Ice Arena)
Fri Jan 25, 8:10 pm, Bishop O’Connell (Kettler)
Fri Feb 01, 6:40 pm, Woodson (Kettler) 

Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School Hockey Club Schedule 
Fri Nov 2, 6:50pm, Arlington Admirals (Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Arlington)
Fri Nov 30, 8:00pm, Metz (Prince William Ice Center) 
Fri Dec 7, 9pm, Eastern Loudoun County (Haymarket Ice Complex)
Fri Dec 14, 5pm,  Faquier County (Haymarket)
Fri Jan 4, 6:50pm, Broad Run (Kettler)
Fri Jan 11, 5:20pm, Woodbridge (Kettler)
Fri Jan 18, 6:30pm, Georgetown (Ft. DuPont Ice Arena)
Fri Jan 25, 5:20pm, Battlefield/Patriot (Kettler)
Sat Feb 2, 9:20pm, Western Loudoun County (Ashburn Ice House)
Fri Feb 8, 5:30pm, Briar Woods (Kettler)

Attendance is free at all games.  Additional information on both teams is available at

Q&A: FCCPS Superintendent Jones on New Computer Technology

September 10, 2012 by · 30 Comments 

September 10, 2012

The Falls Church City Public Schools’ purchase of new computers has been the subject of much debate recently.  We asked Superintendent Toni Jones for details.

FCT:  FCCPS is purchasing new computer technology for students. Can you tell us exactly what will be purchased? Laptops? iPads? How many?

Jones:  700 laptops (Macbook Air) , 500 iPads

FCT:  What will they cost?

Jones:  Right now, until the equipment arrives we have not experienced any cost. However, we are working with an equipment total value of $700,000 – either paid in full this year if the city surplus comes through- or $200,000 from our current technology budget with the balance being paid through lease.

FCT:  Will they be used equally across grades?

Jones:  Yes.  Every school building will benefit from this new equipment.

FCT:  Why do our students need this new technology?

Jones:  There are countless reasons why technology is a critical investment for our children and schools. But most importantly, it’s the world that our children live in right now. The highest volume of apps available at the Apple Store are actually books. Children love books that can talk to them and help them read a word when they get stuck. Children can read a fictional story about a dinosaur, and then out of sheer curiosity, click on the link to read factual information about a T-Rex or a Stegosaurus. Information is at their fingertips. In the upper grades, technology greatly enhances their research capabilities. It doesn’t mean they need to be on the computer all the time. It does mean that when they are engaged in an activity that can be enhanced by technology we shouldn’t be afraid to embrace it. Student engagement, without question, has been proven to be heightened when technology is infused at school. We want children to learn, and we want them to love school.

This is a sample clip from a large school district who started with machines, and then after 3 years moved to “bring your own device.” It has some good informational points and they have documented how student engagement has increased at all levels. This is just an example.

This is a clip that is primarily focused on how technology can enhance instruction for special education.

This is a clip about the iPad and textbooks.

This is a clip from a few of our teachers who were working with our summer school this year.

FCT:  What’s the useful life of this technology before it needs to be upgraded to a newer version?

Jones:  That’s a challenging question, in that the life of a machine is actually quite long. The point at which a school- or individual- upgrades their machine depends on what they want to do with the machine. The average lifespan to upgrade is 3-5 years for laptops, but that is not the lifespan of the machine. We have some laptops that are 8-10 years old right now. While they can’t be used to create video and run other instructional programs, we have kept them for web only SOL Virginia mandated testing. In fact, they have been a lifesaver in terms of getting us through testing. For that purpose, they are excellent. Our goal is to reinstate a strong replacement cycle which was reduced during the last three budget cycles. This will make purchasing more manageable during the annual budget.

On another note, the laptops that we are purchasing are new on the market and were just released with the newest version about 6 weeks ago.

FCT:  Does the purchase price include service and maintenance?

Jones:  Yes, It’s a typical warranty like we purchase with every machine in the division, and have done so for many years.

FCT:  What’s your view of how student IT needs will evolve over the next few years. For example, in five years do you think our students will still be using basically the same kind of laptops and tablet computers they use now, or will they be operating off a cloud infrastructure, or what?

Jones:  We are already operating within the cloud. Our learning management system, Google apps, and other teaching and learning tools are cloud based. In fact, almost everything for education is moving in that direction. We have also utilized Virtual technology to repurpose older desktop machines. Utilizing Virtual technology can take an old machine and make it run like a brand new one. We began that process last year so that we could extend the life of our machines for those web based only programs.

There are some great clips from Intel Corporation and other companies that demonstrate the “future” of education. Below are two links that you may find interesting.

A clip from Intel showing technology in the future (in general…not specific to schools).

Another clip from Intel showing a project from start to finish utilizing a future focused vision of what we can do.

FCT:  Where will the new computers be located? Will they remain at school or come home with students?

Jones:  The computers are housed at each individual school site. For the most part, the computers will stay at school because we are not purchasing enough computers to have one for every child.

FCT:  Can you talk to us about how FCCPS makes technology decisions? Is there a staff technology person who designs our approach? Or a group? Do we pay an outside consultant? Are any parents involved in the process?

Jones:  We have a large Technology Innovation Team who are highly proficient in technology, understand the educational needs, and are familiar with our system. We have 3 very highly skilled technicians- a Director, and 2 systems engineers. We have a communications specialist who helps us with aspects such as Google Apps and the web. We also have technology assistants at every building, as well as an instructional technology team which is lead by our Curriculum Instructional Resource Teacher who is based at GM. We come together as one large group so that instructional and infrastructure needs are considered in tandem. Our instructional leader is also one of our parents in the division. In addition, if needed we contract with a few companies who deal almost solely with schools and are highly skilled with complex networking issues. One of the great aspects of working with Apple is they provide free professional development, and with our purchase they provide an implementation specialist who will be onsite with us (here at FCCPS) as we image our new machines and launch out the products for our schools. We have an outstanding team of individuals who work to stay on the cutting edge and watch what is taking place around the country, and around the world.

FCT:  We understand that FCCPS and Falls Church City government do not use a common IT approach or platform. Do you expect more commonality over time, or are the functions of the two organizations just too different to gain efficiencies of scale?

Jones:  We actually work very well together, but our clients, services, and needs are vastly different. Our Director of Technology works with the Falls Church City Director of Technology to see how we can coordinate and share ideas and services. For instance, our phone systems are tightly coordinated. We also work on infrastructure pieces together and when we can coordinate we do. We also share software when we can, such as our financial system. Our IT departments have a great working relationship. However, what we need for a 10 year old and what they need for a court system are not the same. Our infrastructure is designed for a school, and that’s very different than a business or government agency. We have been able to hire and retain technology specialists’ who are accustomed to the needs of schools. Our technology use is not just staff, but every person who is our client (our students) must access technology on a daily basis. We have approximately 2,600 daily users who need to access our system with staff and students from within our organization. Each group of people also need varying degrees of filtering and access rights. Our children have a filtering system that must be incredibly tight.

FCT:  What level of bandwidth is available within FCCPS?

Jones:  We have 30 megabits per second going out, and 50 megabits per second coming in. Right now, it is the maximum that Verizon can provide. They are at their maximum. We are actually requesting that they upgrade so that we can increase.

FCT:  As you know, funding for the new computers has been controversial. The School Board requested $500,000 from the City’s current budget surplus for the purchase of the technology, and there has been a lengthy debate about that within the City Council. However, you were able to proceed with the purchase before the City Council approved the request. How were you able to do that?

Jones:  It’s important to note up front that the school has $200,000 in our current budget for technology, and that is what we are actually spending. That’s why we don’t need City Council to approve the purchase. What is different about this option, is that we are leasing. Our leadership team began discussing this approach early last year when we knew it was another tight budget season, and technology was on our unfunded needs list presented in the budget. The lease concept has been around for years, and it has helped schools all across America stay current and progressive with technology. While it’s not our first choice, it is a great option.

FCT:  There is a school of thought that says young people are becoming too dependent upon computers and smart phones, and would be better served spending more time with books – the paper kind. What do you say to those who make this argument?

Jones:  Personally, I am not sure that it matters if a child reads on a Kindle, an iPad, or reads a paper book. I believe the goal is to get a child to love reading. Children are motivated by technology, and if an iPad visual can help a child find a love for reading, then I hope that we will continue to embrace it. The world is changing, and while we need to be wise about how we use technology with children, we can’t deny that it’s here. Smart phones are no longer just phones. Just eight years ago a child had a calculator, an iPod, a computer, a book, and a phone. These were five separate items that were found in their backpacks. Were they less dependent on the items because they were separate? From watching children in schools, I would say no. The child who loved reading snuck the book under his desk in the middle of Algebra class. The child who loved music had an iPod hanging out of their pocket every minute it was allowed. Now, it’s one device. The key is, what are they doing on that device. Perhaps, they are actually reading an article about the environment or searching for colleges they want to attend. It’s not the technology, it is what they do with the technology that counts.

FCT:  Thanks very much for taking time to provide this information and share your thoughts.

Through FRIDAY, 3/23: MEHMS Book Fair

March 13, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School will hold a Book Fair in the school library,  7130 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, from Monday, March 19th to Friday, March 23rd 2012 with evening open hours on Monday and Tuesday.

The Fair will be open for book sales from 7.30 am to 4pm, 5pm to 8pm on Monday, Tuesday, from 7.30 to 2.30 pm on Wednesday and 7.30 am to 4pm on Thursday. It will close on Friday at 12.30pm. All are welcome to drop by.

Purchases can also be made online at  Proceeds from sales made at the Book Fair and on line help us to furnish our school with books and to maintain the quality of our library. For more information please visit ttp:// or contact Adele Eskin at ([email protected] )

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