The Tiger Times

The Thomas Jefferson Elementary Parent Newsletter

November 8, 2019

Chalk Dust: Notes From The Principal's Desk

For every school in every context, there is a distinct difference between one year and the next. The same is true for TJ, but it is especially true this year. It is interesting to think about the ways that the TJ of 2019-2020 is different from the TJ of 2018-2019 and how those changes are benefitting our students.

The move of our 2nd grade students to Mount Daniel has proved to be especially impactful, both in term of physical space and operations procedures. For instance, now that TJ has only 26 homeroom classes rather than last year's 36, we are able to get all kids through a five day Encore rotation. This means that all students will have the same Encore class on the same day each week, giving students stability and predictability. This is helpful in a multitude of ways, but especially so for Physical Education, where kids can families can better plan for PE days. This schedule change also means that we only have one PE class in the gym at a time, less than the two classes our gym periods hosted last year.

Secondly, we no longer have any students in trailers. This has helped with student transitions and overall building security. Consider: Falls Church was under a tornado watch late in the day one day last week. FCCPS's weather protocols call for all students to be moved out of trailers and into secured buildings in the event of a tornado watch. Thus, in previous years, we would've had six classes whose learning would have stopped as we moved them out of the trailers and into the main building. This in and of itself was no easy task. Last year, TJ had no empty spaces at all. Thus, we had to move classes into other spaces, such as the cafeteria or hallways. It is certainly doable, but not ideal. This year, classes were already in the building, and instruction and learning could continue without missing a beat.

Kids and families have benefited in other ways from the space that has opened up. For instance, what had been a 2nd grade classroom last year is now the FCCPS Family Resource Center. This program is designed to help all FCCPS families and can host any number of parent workshops and resources. TJ students also have the benefit of a technology classroom this year. While TJ kids have always had access to technology and technology instruction, it had previously been done via "push in," with a technology teacher coming to the kids' classroom. For kids, the chance to go to a technology room represents one more chance to get up and move and have some variety in their day. It also allows for any number of technology-related posters and anchor charts to be displayed to support student learning, visuals that could not be transported from class to class in previous years.

Finally, while we have yet to fully absorb the benefit of this, it is notable that every grade level -- and consequently, every student -- will have the opportunity to take the SOL test this year. The SOL is not the Holy Grail of school quality, but it can be a centralizing indicator around which schools can get an idea of the strengths and weaknesses. The fact that every classroom will be subject the SOL means that every teacher has a chance to share some assessment data in common with his/her colleagues. This can give birth to rich and substantive collaboration within and across all grade levels.

Having said all that, the one thing that did not change from last year to this, nor will ever change, is our dedication to our kids. We will continue to build a caring community in which all of our students feel cared for an embraced, all while strengthening our instructional capacity. While no physical space impedes our ability to do this, it is certainly nice to have a little more space in which we do this important work.

Staff Spotlight

Beginning with this Tiger Times, our student council kids will be writing a brief staff spotlight, an article about one of our staff members. Today's article is about TJ Head Custodian David Morales, who retired from FCCPS today. This article is written by Student Council Members Joseph Downs, Carmen Ortiz, and Lily Young


Our beloved Mr. Morales is sadly retiring after working at T.J. for 26 years. He originally chose this job because he was working in a moving company and wanted to get another job in the school system after working in the Fairfax school system. One day in 1993, he found a job opening for a custodian at TJ.

Mr. Morales grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and he described himself as the class clown at his school. He also loved to play all types of sports like skelly, stickball and handball all the time. He was one of the best players in the streets.

Mr. Morales is a very helpful and funny custodian by day, but by night (or weekend) he is a bowler! He is even in two bowling leagues.

We think that by now you probably know about Mr. Morales’s passion to sing. His favorite type of music is gospel. We asked Mr. Morales what his favorite food is (pizza) and followed up asking him to make a song about pizza. We were very entertained by Mr. Morales’s original beat-boxing about pizza.

Mr. Morales is a very hardworking person and has helped TJ so much during the 26 years he has worked here. He loves all staff, and all grades. (Even though second grade is his favorite.) We have no doubt that Mr. Morales will be missed. Even though he is retiring, we will never forget his singing, his silliness, and him.

TJ Yearbook On Sale

Early bird TJ yearbook sales have started! If your family would like to buy a yearbook at the $20 rate, you may order online at:

ID Code 11380120

The $20 early order discount ends in March. At that time, the cost of the yearbook will increase to $25. Should you have any questions about the yearbook, do not hesitate to contact Ms. Brooke Davis, TJ's librarian and yearbook sponsor, at

TJ Chalk Chats Scheduled

A big thank you to those parents who were able to attend the first "Chalk Chat" of the year! These parents events fear a very brief presentation about some school program, achievement, or event, and then be followed by a town hall event, with parents being offered an opportunity to ask questions about any topic they wish. As a reminder, Chalk Chats are approximately 45 minutes long and will be held at 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on the following Thursdays in th TJ library:

December 12, 2019

February 13, 2020

April 2, 2020

June 11, 2020

Lost And Found

As is often the case this time of year, TJ's lost and found collection is beginning to grow. If you are missing any sweatshirts, clothing, lunch boxes, or any other student item, feel free to swing by TJ and take a look at the lost and found collection. Items not collected by around January 1 may be donated to a charitable organization.

One of our staff members offered a good tip: for a frequently worn jacket sweatshirt, having the student's name on the jacket's label/size tab may make it easier to ensure lost clothing gets back to its rightful owner.

4th Grade Heads To Jamestown

As part of their learning about Virginia Studies, 4th grade students will take their annual trip to Jamestown next Thursday, November 14. See the letter below for more details.

Make-Up School Picture Day November 15

Students who were absent on the first school picture day may have their school pictures taken at the make-up school picture day on Friday, November 15. We will be sending home more details in Friday Folders this Friday, 11/8.

Parent Workshop On Schoology And Power School

FCCPS is pleased to offer parents a workshop on Schoology and Power School workshops will be held at the TJ library on Saturday, 11/9 from 9:30-11:00 a.m., and Thursday, 11/14, from 6:00-7:30pm. See the flyer below for more information.

2020-2021 School Year Calendar

2020- 2021 FCCPS School Calendar Development

The Falls Church School Board will be considering the calendar for the 2020-2021 school year. Due to a new state law, school divisions are permitted to start school before Labor Day for the first time. The School Board is seeking robust community input as they consider this possible change. All are invited to attend public meetings to learn about the topic, and provide feedback on November 14, 6:30-7:30 p.m. in GMHS Mustang Cafe.

Check out the FAQ document for more information.

About TJ

Thomas Jefferson Elementary School is a grade 3-5 school in Falls Church. Like all Falls Church City Public Schools, TJ is an IB school. Our students are the beneficiaries of the Primary Years Program, which focuses on thematic instruction, international mindedness, and the development of the whole child.

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