Karen Garza, the superintendent of the Lubbock, Texas, school system, is the “preferred candidate” to be the next superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, “pending final negotiations for employment and a successful site visit,” the school board announced April 10. Garza would succeed Jack Dale, who is retiring, effective July 1.
The school board selected Garza unanimously on April 6. A news release says the board believes she will bring “enormous energy, humility, intellect, and enthusiasm to the task of leading FCPS.” The release also calls her “a strategic planner, a systems thinker, a stellar manager, and a highly effective communicator.”
The Lubbock Independent School District serves approximately 30,000 students, way less than FCPS, which has 181,500. Before Garza was appointed superintendent there in 2009, she was chief academic officer of the Houston Independent School District, where she was responsible for instruction and facilities for more than 200,000 students.
“Dr. Garza comes to Fairfax County with impressive credentials and skills to lead FCPS in a time of incredible challenges and opportunities,” said FCPS School Board chair Ilryong Moon. “She comes to us with a deep commitment to openness and engagement and is eager to work collaboratively in the best interests of all students.”
“I am humbled and very thankful to the board and the whole FCPS community for this wonderful opportunity,” said Garza. FCPS “has a long tradition of excellence and has consistently been one of the premier school systems in the country. I look forward to continuing that tradition and working very closely with the board and the other division stakeholders to achieve even greater success for the students of FCPS.”
The search for a new superintendent was nearly a yearlong process facilitated by the Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates search firm and included recommendations from stakeholder committee made up of parents, residents, students, and staff members. The search consultants interviewed 19 candidates and presented nine of them to the school board. Unlike the process in other jurisdictions, the names of the finalists were not released to the public.
Board members will conduct a site visit to the Lubbock school system, and if all goes well, will begin contract negotiations. A formal appointment is expected to take place by the end of April.
Garza started her career in education as an elementary classroom teacher in 1986 in Yoakum, Texas, and served in a variety of administrative roles in Katy and Corpus Christi, Texas. She has a doctorate degree in educational leadership from the University of Texas and a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the University of Houston.
As superintendent in Lubbock, FCPS states, “she has distinguished herself by reducing the achievement gap, increasing graduation rates, emphasizing increased academic rigor, improving the financial health of the district, engaging parents and community members, creating a vision for the school district through the leadership of the board, and emphasizing community and family engagement efforts aimed at supporting all children in the classroom.”