Dr. Karen Garza should fit right in as superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools.
Less than a week has passed since Fairfax County tapped Garza to lead its 184,000-student school system, but the Texas-bred educator already has her share of loyal supporters and vocal detractors.
Within 20 minutes of Garza’s hiring, The Fairfax County Times took a call from a Fairfax resident who spent several years living in Lubbock, Texas, where Garza served as superintendent of the 30,000-student system from 2009 to 2013. Lubbock and Fairfax are “worlds apart,” and the job Garza is leaving in Texas didn’t adequately prepare her for the expectations and challenges she’ll face in Fairfax, according to the caller.
A few hours later, a call came from someone praising the decision to hire Garza, describing her as a pragmatic, forward-thinking educator who will bring fresh ideas to Fairfax County while looking out for students, teachers and administrators. In Lubbock, Garza made headlines for joining hundreds of volunteers in a door-to-door campaign to convince students who had dropped out to return to school.
She certainly scored points with area teachers during her introductory news conference last Thursday.
During that meeting, Garza said “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.
Garza also said 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.
As with the past three superintendent hires in Fairfax County, it likely won’t be known what we have in Garza for at least a year, perhaps two. That’s generally the time it takes for a new hire to identify the school system’s most critical needs, put a plan together to address them and see them through to completion. The ability to perform those tasks without alienating every School Board member or ruffling the feathers of parents across Fairfax County is the mark of a world class administrator.
Few jobs in this country are tougher than overseeing Fairfax County’s school system, but we sense Garza is up to the task.
We wondered about Gov. Bob McDonnell’s political future in this space Friday, citing his latest volley in the commonwealth’s war on women.
That shot was fired when he attached an amendment to the transportation bill in which the state now steps into the middle of discussions that should rightly be between women, their doctors and their health insurance providers.
Gov. McDonnell could face other questions in his political future, as a gift of about $15,000 to his daughter from a Virginia businessman is coming under increasing scrutiny.
According to Virginia law, the governor is not required to report gifts to his children — and that’s something that the General Assembly should probably revisit — but it now appears as though at least part of Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s check to cover the cost of catered food for the governor’s daughter’s wedding ended up in the governor’s pocket.
As reimbursement, to be sure, but still, the waters have gotten a little murkier of late.
This is all unwelcome news for gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, who also is facing questions about his relationship with Williams’ Star Scientific Inc., a company in which he has or had a financial interest, a company that is locked in a dispute with the state over its tax obligations.
The Attorney General’s Office has done little or nothing to press the case, Cuccinelli’s critics charge.
One would think Gov. McDonnell would be a little more careful about his legacy in his final year in office. One would think Mr. Cuccinelli would lay aside some of his other pet projects — protecting archaic sodomy laws, fighting climate change scientists, worrying about the constitutionality of laws that the Supreme Court has vetted and approved — and devote a bit more time and attention to substantial tax dollars that might be owed to the state.
One would, apparently, be wrong on both counts.