The Fairfax County School Board has officially approved veteran Texan educator Karen Garza to be the next superintendent, at a school board meeting. and Garza flew in to accept the new role in person.
Board members had voted last week to offer Garza the job, but Thursday’s unanimous decision made it official.
“I am very excited to have Dr. Garza as our next superintendent,” said board Chairman Ilryong Moon (At Large). “It’s not just her experience and the things she has been able to achieve in various school districts, it’s her vision in leadership that brings so much excitement.”
Garza is superintendent of the Lubbock Independent School District in west Texas. She has a doctorate in education and had worked as an elementary classroom teacher. She also held administrative positions in Corpus Christi, Tex., and Houston before moving to Lubbock in 2009.
She will succeed Jack D. Dale, whose nine-year tenure in Fairfax ends July 1.
Garza agreed to a four-year contract through June 30, 2017, and will earn $265,000 in her first year.
“I am very humbled and excited to be selected by this board,” she said. “It is truly an honor and a privilege to join such a renowned school system.”
Garza spent part of her visit to Northern Virginia getting acquainted with teachers, students and administrators. She visited several schools Friday.
In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Garza said that she pledges “to work tirelessly for the children.”
She said that she is open to changing high school start times to later in the morning, citing studies that show more sleep helps teenagers’ development.
She also said that testing has taken too much precedence in the classroom and has “taken away the love and joy of learning” for many students.
“There is a place for assessments; any educator will tell you that you have to have measures to show students are understanding the curriculum,” Garza said. “But state assessment programs have gone way too far.”
Among the first issues Garza said she will address will be teacher workload, noting that morale in the workforce is especially important for educators in the classroom.
“Teachers are the front line,” she said.
Garza also discussed school discipline with reporters, noting that students should be protected while also being held accountable for their errors.
“It’s important that our schools are safe and students are focused on learning and not distracted by discipline,” Garza said.