The Fairfax County School Board chose Karen Garza, the current schools chief in Lubbock, Texas, and former second in command in Houston, as its new superintendent, the school system announced Wednesday.
The School Board unanimously chose Garza out of 47 candidates -- 19 of whom interviewed with the board -- to replace current Superintendent Jack Dale on July 1.
The 50-year-old comes to Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school system in the Washington area with roughly 182,000 students, from the Lubbock Independent School District, with roughly 30,000 students. She was previously the chief academic officer at the Houston Independent School District, which had more than 200,000 students, before leaving in 2009 after three years on the job, according to the Houston Chronicle.
"During her tenure, Houston ISD became one of the highest-performing urban school systems in the country," Fairfax County Public Schools said.
Test scores hit a record high in Houston when Garza oversaw academics there, and the number of schools rated "academically unacceptable" dropped below 20, according to the Chronicle.
Fairfax County also described Garza as "a passionate champion for all students and a strong believer in public education's responsibility to meet the needs of students across the spectrum."
Garza began her career in education in 1986, teaching kindergarten through fourth grade at an elementary school in Yoakum, Texas. She has also served as an administrator in Katy and Corpus Christi, Texas.
She received her doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Texas and Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees from the University of Houston.
"Fairfax County Public Schools has a long tradition of excellence and has consistently been one of the premier school systems in the country," Garza said. "I look forward to continuing that tradition."
Whether Garza takes on the role will depend on the remaining negotiations of her contract and the results of a site visit to the Lubbock Independent School District.
"Dr. Garza comes to Fairfax County with impressive credentials and skills to lead FCPS in a time of incredible challenges and opportunities," said School Board Chairman Ilryong Moon. "She comes to us with a deep commitment to openness and engagement and is eager to work collaboratively in the best interest of all students."