Superintendent Karen Garza is fundamentally realigning the Fairfax County school system’s leadership positions and school organization in an effort to better respond to school needs.
Schools, currently grouped in eight clusters, will be regrouped into five regions with streamlined administrations. Top positions in central and regional offices will be created, redefined or eliminated as Garza strives to channel division resources to the campus level.
“Our focus needs to be making sure we’re responsive to schools’ needs first and foremost,” Garza said.
The reorganization will take effect July 1, Garza announced in an email to school system employees last Friday. According to Garza, the change will be the first major organizational makeover in more than 10 years for the state’s largest school division, which serves more than 185,000 students.
The five new groups of schools were, like the current eight clusters, organized geographically. Maintaining a geographic link within the groups allows the regional superintendents and school officials to spend time on campuses even as the responsibilities grow to encompass more schools, Garza said.
“If our goals are to spend a lot of time in schools and be very familiar with the needs each of our schools face, then being on our campuses needs to be our priority,” Garza said.
According to Garza, the new regions were designed to place high achieving schools with wealthier student populations alongside schools that typically fall on the flip side of that spectrum. Such grouping, according to Garza, will allow for these schools to share resources and best practices, resulting in more equity across the district.
“We want to have much more consistency throughout our entire county,” Garza said. “Now, that does not mean that all schools will look alike, because every school has different needs. So support might look different, but the focus of our work will not be different.”
Each region will be headed by a regional assistant superintendent, who will be supported by an executive principal, who will replace the current position of “cluster director.” The new position will play a larger role in day-to-day school operations, with the goal of bringing more accountability and more support at a campus level.
The regions with “greater need,” Garza said, will have an extra leadership position, an executive principal for school improvement, focused specifically on bringing struggling schools up to speed.
“We want principals with a proven track record of school turnaround in those two positions,” Garza said.
Lest people worry about the cost of the new structure, Garza said the leaner, more efficient realignment in fact will save the school system money. The exact cost savings and their effects on the 2015 budget will be presented to the School Board in July.
“It’s a transition, and it will take us some time to get completely there,” Garza said. “But I think this is an exciting time for our system. I see a lot of good things ahead.”