School Board celebrity Ryan McElveen visits Madison in first ‘MADTalks’ of year


Photo courtsey of Sky Zoom.

School board member Ryan McElveen shares his thoughts with Madison students during MADTalks.

Hannah Kase, Online Editor-in-Chief

Madison’s student-led speaker series, MADTalks, conducted its first live interview of the 2018-19 school year on Thursday, Sept. 27. Sky Zoom (’19) interviewed Ryan McElveen, an At-large School Board Member for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). Approximately 80 Madison students attended the talk during Warhawk Time.

McElveen began with speaking about his background and early interest in student advocacy during his time as a student at George C. Marshall High School. After completing his education and living in China after graduate school, McElveen moved back to Fairfax County and became the youngest person ever elected to the FCPS School Board at the age of 25. Currently serving as a Member-at-Large on the school board, he also has a job at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., as the associate director of the China Center.

“It is a busy and exciting life, but the thing I am most passionate about is getting out and hearing students’ input on how we can make Fairfax County better,” McElveen said.

McElveen believes that Fairfax County is an ideal model for a public education system and that students are given a well-rounded education with choice in what they do. While sharing his positive view of FCPS, he also mentioned his feelings about Madison and its students.

“Just from walking in the building, I am amazed at how well-behaved [Madison students] are and how studious and truly interested in learning they are,” McElveen said.

Zoom questioned McElveen on a variety of issues, many of which McElveen has advocated for during his time on the Fairfax County School Board.

McElveen feels that he and the school board have been successful in advocating for student and employee rights during his tenure, adopting protections based on gender identity in 2015 and making changes to the dress code earlier this school year.

Last week, the Fairfax County School Board voted to adopt McElveen’s resolution on sexual misconduct. His goal in proposing this resolution was to set a strict policy with no tolerance for sexual misconduct.

“I believe that the seeds of [sexual misconduct] grow at the high school level,” McElveen said. “Now is the time where we can have the biggest impact in addressing it,” McElveen said.

Zoom asked McElveen about the issue of school safety, specifically pertaining to gun violence. McElveen noted that the Fairfax County School Board increased action regarding school safety after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and adopted a resolution for gun violence prevention after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year.

Additionally, the school board has made it a priority to increase the number of mental health professionals in schools. They ensured that all schools in FCPS have a devoted school psychologist or social worker for the 2018-19 school year.

Many students know McElveen from his announcements of snow days on Twitter. He shared the process of snow day decision making with the crowd at MADTalks. McElveen believes the decisions on whether to close schools are some of the hardest for the Fairfax County School Board. While the process is complex and generates debate, McElveen recognizes that snow days have a benefit.

“As an educational institution we are supposed to send kids to school, but sometimes we all need a break,” McElveen said.