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FCPS Students: 'In McElveen We Trust' When Snow Days Loom

Students take to Twitter, hoping school board member Ryan McElveen will "come through" when FCPS decides whether to hold school during inclement weather.

Ryan McElveen, an at-large member of the Fairfax County School Board, has become a Twitter sensation. Patch file photo.
Ryan McElveen, an at-large member of the Fairfax County School Board, has become a Twitter sensation. Patch file photo.

If you’re a Fairfax County Public Schools student and you want a snow day, there’s only one man who can make that happen and that’s Ryan McElveen. Or at least that’s the general consensus of students on Twitter.

McElveen, the youngest member of the Fairfax County School Board, has become something of a rock star to the thousands of students who attend Fairfax County public schools who hope the district will close schools whenever it snows. Students have even gone so far as to photoshop McElveen’s face onto images depicting him as their savior.

The images have turned McElveen into an Internet meme (a popular image, cultural symbol or social idea that's virally circulated) and trending topic in the last few weeks. Student newspapers such as Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s tjToday have nicknamed the phenomenon "McElveen Mania."

“Overall, it's pretty hilarious. I'm really happy that the kids have had a good time interacting with me on social media,” McElveen told Patch on Thursday, a day the schools were closed due to snow, ice and below-freezing temperatures. “I did, and still, think [the images] are pretty funny. I just can't go out in public anymore since my face has become pretty recognizable,” he joked.

Since the first snow day back in December, students have elected McElveen as their unofficial leader and look to him on social media for any and all information about school cancellations. Whenever FCPS cancels school, the students credit and thank McElveen, who is usually the first or one of the first people to tweet about a school closure.

“I can remember when I was a student how important it was to receive cancellation and delay information as soon as possible, so I haven't been surprised that students are happy to see my tweets,” said McElveen.

Not only are students interacting more with McElveen, but many have also changed their profile pictures to photos of him or one of the memes. McElveen has even gone so far as to change his header background on Twitter to one of the photoshopped images.

“I've tried to participate when possible. It's all part of the fun,” said McElveen. “I love you guys, even though we'll eventually have to send you back to school.”

McElveen admitted he’s switched up his approach on social media now that he’s received more attention. Currently, he has more than 14,000 followers, about 10,000 more than he had in December prior to the first snow day. He frequently replies to students and creates humorous hashtags or finds a way to tie in current events or celebrities such as Justin Bieber in his tweets.

“I try to intersperse my policy tweets with amusing tweets to keep things fresh and keep the students engaged,” said McElveen.

While the memes are funny, McElveen said he hasn’t forgotten the seriousness of his position.

“My role does come with a responsibility, and I always want to ensure that I release accurate information. We've been having issues with fake accounts popping up mimicking both me and FCPS,” said McElveen.

McElveen said he hopes to use his newfound celebrity to help foster more student understanding about the work the School Board does.

“Social media has always been important to me, but I never felt like many people were listening. I had at most 200 followers over the past two years that I've been on the board. Now that I have a bigger following, the pressure is on to be judicious and use the platform for good,” said McElveen.

As good of a time the students and McElveen are having on Twitter, he knows there’s a chance the students will turn on him and his Twitter fame will fade once school’s back in session.

“I'm not worried, but I know it will eventually happen. After all, they're going to have to make up lots of school days after this messy winter season,” said McElveen.

Hank January 24, 2014 at 09:32 AM
How exactly does Mr. McElveen expect to be able to deal with issues like expulsion and discipline for students when he has roughly 14,000 of them praising his name for snow days? Why would he be friends with the very people that he is responsible for overseeing in the first place? Other Board Members don't have this same sort of relationship. They avoid the messy entanglements that are certain to arise during disciplinary hearings. Maybe its time that this community elected a grown up to the position who understands the responsibility of the position he holds.
Mary January 24, 2014 at 09:45 AM
Oh, come on Hank...isn't it better to have a good communicator in the ranks of the school board? Too many times decisions are not vocalized and kept in the "back room". This gentleman is engaging with the up and coming voters -- and their parents -- in a timely fashion. I think it is much better for voters to see that their representatives are really caring about the people who elected them.
Hank January 24, 2014 at 10:40 AM
Mary, I think you are missing the point. My concern is not the timely dissemination of facts to voters and users of the school. Instead, I find it troubling that a person who is ultimately responsible for the dolling out of discipline -- an in extreme cases review of expulsion -- considers himself a hero to the student and has taken broad steps to become their friend. What happens when one of those students gets into trouble and requires a fair and unbiased review of their problem? Can we trust a person who was made into a super hero by the same student to rule fairly and protect the other students in the classroom? I can't see how we could. Its a classic conflict of interest and one reason why few if any other Board Members engage in the same tactic. Mr. McElveen engaging students is not a bad thing per se, but when it reaches the point of idolization, then the line has been crossed. The reality is that Mr. Elveen has made himself irrelevant on issues of discipline in schools by his own act of accepting the role of "friend" and "hero" to the very students he is required to oversee. The people who lose by this irrelevance are the voters of this community. Communication is good, but the role that Mr. Elveen has taken is inappropriate and borders on the creepy side of the fence....
Margot T. January 24, 2014 at 12:01 PM
Mr. McElveen never asked to be a superhero, the students made him one. Mr. McElveen didn't create these photo-shopped pictures, the students did. Mr. McElveen is professional in his social media posts. Mr. McElveen is a positive and happy news story when frankly, there isn't much these days. Kudos to Mr. McElveen for being a good sport and making everyone's day a little brighter.

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