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A Fairfax County Public School basketball coach is facing embezzlement charges.

Drew Smerdzinski, 33, of Herndon, embezzled money from a school event, the Fairfax County Police Department said today (Friday).

According to the FCPD, detectives began an investigation in July after the police department received a tip from FCPS about the possible misappropriation of funds by an employee.

Smerdzinski turned himself in yesterday (Thursday) after detectives obtained a warrant for him on Wednesday (Oct. 4). He was suspended from his position after his arrest, police said.

Smerdzinski was employed at James Madison High School in Vienna, but “the embezzlement occurred in relation to his role as a basketball coach,” an FCPD spokesperson says. He’s not listed in the school’s staff directory.

He was charged with felony embezzlement and released on an unsecured bond.

FCPS declined to comment, citing the police investigation.

Bryce Eldridge pitching for James Madison High School’s baseball team (photo by Jackie Desimone)

The Madison Warhawks have a new award to add to their ever-growing collection of championship trophies.

James Madison High School’s athletic program ranked as the best among Northern Virginia public schools for the 2022-2023 academic year, The Washington Post has decreed based on a scoring system that the paper describes as “well-considered — if unscientific.”

Boasting strong performances from individual athletes and teams across sports, the Vienna school edged out rival Langley High School for the top spot, even though the Saxons actually won five state titles to Madison’s three.

“The Madison Warhawks, long a consistent Class 6 power, top our rankings for the best public program in the Northern Virginia suburbs,” the Post said. “The Warhawks were boosted by their success in several sports. They finished with three state championships (baseball, boys’ lacrosse, girls’ basketball), and six of their programs finished their respective seasons in our top 10 or top 20 rankings.”

Securing its sixth state championship ever and second in three years in June, Madison’s baseball team grabbed the national spotlight last week when star pitcher and slugger Bryce Eldridge got drafted by the San Francisco Giants.

Eldridge was named player of the year by the Washington Post, one of 26 Warhawks to make the paper’s annual All-Met teams recognizing the top student-athletes in the D.C. area — another factor considered in the new best program awards, along with title wins and end-of-season rankings.

The boys’ lacrosse team concluded 13-game winning streak on June 9 with its second consecutive state title, while the girls’ basketball team took the court in March for its ninth title game — the most in Class 6 history — and emerged with a fourth straight championship.

Ranking second on the Post’s list of Northern Virginia’s best high school athletic programs, Langley High School in McLean landed state championships in golf, both boys and girls’ tennis, boys’ swim and dive, and girls’ track and field in the 2022-2023 season.

The Saxons also had 27 All-Mets selections, including coach of the year for girls’ tennis head coach Ellie Wallace, but only one of its teams ended its season in the Post’s top 10 or 20 rankings.

Fairfax, Robinson and West Springfield high school also made the Post’s list of the best public school sports programs in Northern Virginia, landing at no. 7, 8 and 10, respectively.

To come up with its lists, which also honored the top public and private school programs in D.C. and Maryland, the Post’s high school sports staff developed a scoring system that awarded points based on state champion and runner-up status, All-Met selections, and its end-of-season rankings.

While a championship and no. 1 rank were worth 20 points, the most of any factor, a player or coach of the year award garnered more points (10) than an All-Met first-team selection (5) or honorable mention (1), for example.

The full lists and further explanation of the points system can be found in the Post’s story.


(Updated at 8 p.m. on 7/11/2023) Fairfax County Public Schools went 2-for-2 in Major League Baseball’s 2023 draft last night (Sunday), as a pair of its standout players snagged coveted first-round slots.

Ranked as the 23rd top prospect in the country by MLB, James Madison High School graduate Bryce Eldridge was selected by the San Francisco Giants as the 16th overall pick of the draft, thanks to his formidable skills as both a hitter and a pitcher.

According to Inside NoVA, Eldridge got the news at Bear Branch Tavern in Vienna, surrounded by family and friends whose cheers and hugs stood in contrast to the boos that accompanied MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred throughout the televised draft.

An 18-year-old who bats left-handed and throws right-handed, Eldridge has been hyped as the best two-way player in this year’s draft class, even drawing comparisons to Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani.

In June, he helped lead the Madison Warhawks to its second state championship in three seasons with a victory over Chantilly’s Westfield High School — coincidentally the team of Jonny Farmelo, who got drafted in the first round yesterday by the Seattle Mariners.

Named “Player of the Year” for the D.C. area by the Washington Post, Eldridge also won a gold medal last fall in the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s Under-18 Baseball World Cup. His performance in that tournament cemented his reputation as someone to watch on the mound and at the plate, according to Baseball America writer Carlos Collazo. Read More

James Madison High School flags (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A Reston woman who teaches at James Madison High School was arrested yesterday (Thursday) for reportedly having a sexual relationship with a student.

The student “disclosed an inappropriate sexual relationship” to school administrators, who notified law enforcement on Wednesday (April 12), the Fairfax County Police Department said in a news release today (Friday).

“Detectives were notified and assumed the investigation,” the FCPD said. “Detectives determined Allieh Kheradmand, 33, of Reston had unlawful contact with a student over the past several months.”

Kheradmand works at Madison as a learning disabilities teacher. She has been employed by Fairfax County Public Schools since 2016, according to police.

She has been charged with four counts of indecent liberties by a custodian of a student, a felony offense in Virginia. She’s currently being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, per the FCPD.

Kheradmand has been placed on administrative leave, FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid and Madison principal Liz Calvert said in a message to families and staff.

“In Madison and across FCPS, our primary responsibility is the safety and security of everyone who enters our doors,” Reid and Calvert wrote. “This is something we take very seriously. As educators, we are entrusted with the wellbeing of the children in our care every day. It deeply affects us when someone appears to have broken that trust.”

The FCPD advises anyone with information about this case, or other possibly related incidents, to contact its detectives at 703-246-7800, option “4.” The department also accepts anonymous tips by phone (1-866-411-TIPS) and online.

The full message from FCPS is below.

Madison High School Families and Staff,

We need to inform you that Fairfax County police have announced that a teacher at Madison High School has been arrested and charged with four counts of indecent liberties by a custodian of a student. The employee has been placed on administrative leave.

In Madison and across FCPS, our primary responsibility is the safety and security of everyone who enters our doors. This is something we take very seriously. As educators, we are entrusted with the wellbeing of the children in our care every day. It deeply affects us when someone appears to have broken that trust. Please contact Fairfax County Police Major Crimes Bureau if you have any information you would like to share at 703-246-7800, option 3.

If you have specific concerns about your student, please contact our main office or your child’s school counselor.  You can find your child’s school counselor on our website. School staff will support students in any way they need.



Liz Calvert


Madison High School


Dr. Michelle C. Reid


Fairfax County Public Schools

Fairfax Academy and Madison High School student Sophia Manicone made her Broadway debut in a “Parade” revival, which started at New York City Center (courtesy FCPS)

Sophia Manicone has come a long way from her “Vienna Idol” days.

The 18-year-old Vienna resident recently realized the dream of every theater kid with her Broadway debut in the revival of “Parade,” which officially opened yesterday (Thursday) at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York City.

Starring Tony winner Ben Platt and “The Cher Show” breakout Micaela Diamond, the musical explores racism and antisemitism as a dramatization of the real-life 1913 trial of Jewish American factory manager Leo Frank, a case that stoked the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and led to the creation of the Anti-Defamation League.

Manicone — a senior at the Fairfax Academy for Communications and the Arts with Vienna’s James Madison High School as her base school — plays Iola Stover, a factory worker who testifies against Frank.

She joined the revival’s Off-Broadway premiere at New York City Center (NYCC) in November and learned a month later that she would be part of the transfer to Broadway. She was one of 18 cast members making their debut when the show began previews on Feb. 21.

“It’s so unbelievable. It still doesn’t feel real,” Manicone told FFXnow by email. “Being a part of this incredible cast is so thrilling. I’m performing alongside people I listened to (and sang along with) on cast recordings since I was a little kid. The people in the cast and the creative team have been welcoming and supportive. I feel so lucky!”

Fairfax County Public Schools recognizes Sophia Manicone for her Broadway debut this month (via FCPS/Instagram)

Manicone traces her love of theater back to the musical films and cartoons she watched as a young kid. A trip to see “Mary Poppins” on Broadway when she was 3 cemented that infatuation, leading her to pursue her first audition in New York when she was in second grade.

“My parents got us tickets in the last row of the theater in case I wasn’t able to sit through the show,” she recalled. “But apparently I didn’t move an inch and was mesmerized — especially when Mary Poppins flew across the theater!”

Manicone’s journey to the Great White Way began in earnest on the Vienna Town Green, where she made her first big public performances competing in the annual “Vienna Idol” fundraiser, she told DC Theater Arts in 2016.

She was 9 when she won the title in 2014 with “her booming Broadway voice,” The Connection reported at the time. From there came roles in local theater productions, including her first professional lead role in Creative Cauldron’s “Ruthless! The Musical.”

Because of her community theater work, Manicone says her ability to participate in school plays was limited, but in sixth grade, she appeared in “Seussical” at Louise Archer Elementary School. She also sang choir in her elementary and middle school years.

“I had amazing teachers and as a middle schooler, it was wonderful having such a supportive environment where I felt I belonged,” she said. Read More


Morning Notes

The Vienna bookstore Bards Alley celebrated its fifth anniversary this past weekend (staff photo by Pia Kramer)

GW Parkway Rehab Breaks Ground in McLean — “Top federal and local officials participated in a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning on a $161 [million] project to upgrade the northern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.” [Patch]

W&OD Trail Detour Starts in Reston — “In preparation for the future bridge there, underground utilities along the trail on the west side of Wiehle Ave in Reston are being relocated, necessitating a detour to the gravel trail to the north. This detour will be in effect from Tues, July 19 to Fri, July 22.” [W&OD Trail/Twitter]

Plastic Bag Tax Coming to Fairfax City — “Effective Jan. 1, 2023, disposable plastic bags provided at point of sale to consumers at grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores in Fairfax City will be subject to a 5 cent tax. To avoid the tax, consumers can provide their own reusable shopping bags, or opt out of bags altogether.” [City of Fairfax]

NoVA Leaders Advocate for More Express Lanes — “Northern Virginia has been transformed for the last decade by Express Lanes projects and regional leaders say more of the same is needed — including over the Potomac River and into Maryland — if the metropolitan area is to continue thriving.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Wegmans Plans Hiring Event for Reston Store — “Wegmans Food Markets will be hosting a virtual hiring event Thursday to fill 100 full-time positions at its new Reston grocery store, which is set to open in early 2023…The virtual hiring event will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Thursday.” [Patch]

County Brings Public Safety Talks to Barbershops — “@fairfaxhealth along with @FairfaxCountyPD and @FairfaxCSB is hosting a series of conversations at barbershops around the county. The focus will be on community policing, substance abuse, and building trust in our community. No RSVP is required.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

Vienna Student Wins State Tennis Title — “Unlike the previous season, Simone Bergeron was totally satisfied with her perfect campaign in girls tennis this past spring. The Madison Warhawks junior capped the 2022 season by winning the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 girls state-championship singles tournament.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Tuesday — Humid and mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 87 and low of 74. Sunrise at 6:00 am and sunset at 8:33 pm. []

James Madison High School students built a robot that will compete in the 2022 FIRST World Championship (via JMHS/Twitter)

Houston is the place to be this week for the robotics community, and several Fairfax County students scored exclusive invitations.

Fairfax County Public Schools has three teams in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) World Championships, which kicked off today (Wednesday) at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas.

The annual event caps off months of work and competitions for high school students around the world who have designed, programmed and built industrial-sized robots that face off in sports-like games.

Representing Fairfax County among the 454 teams that qualified for the championships — most of them from the U.S. — are James Madison High School’s Warbots, the CAVEBOTICS from Woodson High School, and Oakton Cougar Robotics.

Madison and Oakton have both participated in FIRST Robotics Competitions since 2001, but for the Vienna school, this year marks its first trip to the championships after the Warbots won the school’s first-ever district title on April 9, according to FCPS.

FCPS is part of the Chesapeake District, which includes teams from Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and West Virginia.

Oakton Cougar Robotics previously made the championships in 2016.

Woodson’s CAVEBOTICS are relatively new to the scene. The Fairfax-based school added the team to its cybersecurity and robotics club last year, and it has already grown to over 50 students, according to a Gofundme fundraiser that the team started to support its activities.

With robots costing $6,000 to $12,000 a year to build, fundraising is among the many skills that students learn from the FIRST competitions, along with welding, coding, engineering, and project management, Madison High School said in its post on the Warbots.

A nonprofit founded in 1989, FIRST aims to support science, technology, engineering, and math education through school-based robotics programs for students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

The championship will culminate with awards on Saturday (April 23). All of the contests and challenges, along with the closing ceremony, are being livestreamed on Twitch.


Morning Notes

Spring flowers bloom in Reston (photo by Ray Copson)

FCPD Commander Demoted Over Shooting Response — “A Fairfax County police commander has been demoted as part of an ongoing administrative investigation of suicides by a department recruit and his wife that occurred hours apart in their Mount Vernon-area home in late February, authorities said…The officer was the on-scene commander during the incident.” [The Washington Post]

Fire Put Out Near Vienna’s Flint Hill Elementary — “Crews responded this morning to the 2400 block of Flint Hill Road for a small fire in a chicken coop. #FCFRD firefighters were im-peck-able in quickly egg-stinguishing the fire. Everyone felt very cluck-y that there were no reported fowl-talities or injuries.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Last Living Pupil Revisits Historic Oakton School — The Vale Schoolhouse in Oakton got a visit from a familiar face last week. Now 103 years old, Stan Proffitt stopped by the two-room building, which dates back to 1884, with his three great-grandchildren from Florida during their spring break tour of Virginia history. [The Washington Post]

Conflict over Reston Invasive Species Program Continues — The Hunters Green Cluster Association board unanimously rejected a proposal to address invasive plants in the area, stating that the Reston National Study Group “has greatly exaggerated the problem.” The developer-led study group expressed surprise at the move, saying the pilot program was proposed by a member of the neighborhood’s board. [Patch]

McLean Design Workshop Tomorrow — “Weigh in on the design of McLean’s public spaces through this upcoming virtual community workshop! Share feedback on open space features including lighting, street furnishings, parks and more to help define the character of McLean!” [McLean Community Center/Twitter]

Reston Prom Dress Giveaway Returns From Pandemic Hiatus — “High school students from around the area will be able to choose prom dresses, jewelry and accessories for free as part of RCC’s Diva Central. The event will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., this Saturday at RCC Lake Anne, which is located at 1609-A Washington Plaza in Reston.” [Patch]

Hunter Mill Supervisor Recognizes Vienna Student Athletes — “The Board of Supervisors traditionally invites state champions to be recognized at a special meeting. During COVID, these were paused. Today, @WalterAlcornFFX joined us at school to recognize basketball, field hockey, baseball & swim/dive from the past two years…[He] also recognized the Pride of Vienna for their multiple state championships. Back 2 Back!” [James Madison High School/Twitter]

County Celebrates Land Surveyors — “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors have designated the week of March 20-26, 2022 as Surveyors Week. This week recognizes the historic contributions of surveying and appreciation for the new technologies that are modernizing the profession.” [Department of Public Works/Twitter]

It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 62 and low of 46. Sunrise at 7:10 a.m. and sunset at 7:24 p.m. []


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