In her first northern Virginia public appearance, incoming Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Karen Garza addressed media questions Thursday at the FCPS Gatehouse Administration Center, coming across very much as a teacher’s administrator.
Garza, 50, has been superintendent of Texas’ Lubbock Independent School District since 2009, recently announcing her resignation to take the helm at FCPS.
Lubbock officials said in a press release that during her four-year tenure at the Texas school system, Garza led the independent school district through several major initiatives, including the district’s first comprehensive facility assessment, which resulted in voters approving a $198 million bond, the largest in the district’s history. Garza is also credited with bringing more than $25 million in private and foundation grants to the school system.
Garza said Thursday that “examining teacher workload issues” would be her first priority in Fairfax County, adding that investing in teachers was a strategy she looked forward to implementing.
“In Lubbock, we developed and executed a very strategic and intentional design for developing teacher leaders at the campus level and investing in their growth, and we did the same with principals, so I am very proud of that because today they have very strong teachers and principals throughout that system…I left that school system better than I found it.”
In 2009, 2010 and 2011 the Lubbock Independent School District was rated “academically acceptable” by the Texas Education Agency. The agency rating for the 2011-12 ISD school year has not yet been reported.
Garza also said that obtaining equitable pay for teachers is something she is experienced at, stating that even though the Lubbock Independent School District was one of the lowest state-funded school systems in Texas, she still managed to get teachers there more money.
“Although it was one of the lowest funded in the state, we raised teacher’s salaries by nine percent--without cutting resources,” she said. “I’m very proud of that.”
As superintendent, Garza oversaw the school district’s part in a lawsuit brought forth by the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition against the state which claimed that state funding for public schools in Texas was not fairly administered. “I am used to dealing with financial challenges,” she told reporters in Fairfax.