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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Superintendent Garza outlines goals and challenges

Advisory council chair Romona Morrow (left), president of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs, and vice chair John Wittman, who is also vice chair of the FCPS Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee, present a Virginia flag to Superintendent Karen Garza (center).
New schools superintendent Karen Garza told members of the Business and Community Advisory Council Sept. 17 that one of her goals this year is to develop a long-range comprehensive, strategic plan for Fairfax County Public Schools.

A key piece of that process will be the development over the next three months of “a portrait of a graduate,” outlining the expectations for students who complete their education at FCPS. Garza plans to appoint a committee, including community leaders, to work on that project.

Garza will discuss that effort at the FCPS School Board’s fourth annual Education Summit on Saturday, Sept. 28, 8 a.m.-noon, at Edison High School. The summit will also include breakout sessions on how parents can help their children succeed in school. Members of the public are invited to attend; you can register online.

Garza started work as FCPS superintendent July 1 after serving as superintendent of the Lubbock, Texas, school system and as chief academic officer for Houston public schools. After meeting with the administrators and teachers at some 30 Fairfax County schools, Garza said, “I’m so impressed with what I’ve seen.”

Another of Garza’s goals is to come with new measures of teaching and learning—“not driven by the SOLs or state assessment measures”—for determining what it means to be prepared for success beyond high school in college and the workplace.

Garza told the advisory committee she will be “responsive and accountable to the community” and plans to explore new ways for the public to be engaged. A new section on the FCPS website that invites the public to submit suggestions is already full of ideas and comments.

One of the school system’s biggest challenges is dealing with growth, Garza said, noting that FCPS has grown by 2,000 students every year for the past seven years, while the system is way behind in providing enough new classroom space.

Other challenges cited by Garza include the need for more funding for school facilities and teacher salaries. She said FCPS needs $255 million for capital projects while the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors provided only $155 million. Teacher salaries need to become more competitive or teachers will work elsewhere. Currently, she said, FCPS teacher salaries are “in the middle of the pack” compared to other jurisdictions in the D.C. region.

“I want to communicate aggressively with the community” on these issues, she said. A “Citizens Guide to Understanding the FCPS Budget” will be available next week.

1 comment:

  1. We lack classroom space because we are not enforcing the laws. The reason are teachers are not paid more is because a big chunk of our tax money is going to social services. I rather see the money go to our parks, schools, law enforcement, fire departments, and roads. Enforce the Laws and we could put more money where it belongs.