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On Thursday, Karen Garza was sworn in as superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools during a brief ceremony at the Gatehouse Administrative Center in Falls Church.

“I just can’t tell you how honored and thrilled and really humbled I am to have this opportunity,” Garza said. “I’m ready to get to work. I’m so happy that it’s finally official on Monday.”

Garza takes over for retired Superintendent Jack D. Dale. In 2011, Dale, 64, announced his plans to retire July 1, 2013. However a medical emergency in May caused Dale to leave office early. While the school system would not release details of Dale’s illness, the Washington Post reported the superintendent suffered an aortic aneurysm at work and was rushed to the hospital. Dale, who began as superintendent in 2004, did not attend Thursday’s swearing in ceremony.

School Board members conducted a year-long search for Dale’s replacement. Garza was announced as the FCPS preferred choice April 10.

Garza previously served as superintendent of Texas’ Lubbock Independent School District, which serves about 30,000 students. In Texas, school district boundaries are not always affiliated or aligned with county or city limits, hence the “independent school district” designation. The Lubbock Independent School District is about the size of Arlington County Public Schools.

“We have the best person to come in on July 1 to help our school district move forward. As you know, this is also a historic occasion,” School Board Chairman Ilyrong Moon (At large) said. “Dr. Garza will be the first woman in the history of the Fairfax County Public School system to lead this flagship school district and we are really looking forward to her leadership.”

Garza was sworn in by Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Jan Brodie.

“I want to tell the community: We have four children. And I will tell you there is nothing I enjoy more than being in classrooms and seeing children and interacting with children,” Garza said. “Each day that I execute this job and perform the duties associated with this very important leadership position, I will always be mindful of the decisions we make [and] how they will impact your children. And we will always do our very, very best to ensure they are well prepared in school, prepared for college and prepared for life… This fall I will be spending a lot of time listening and hearing about the hopes, dreams and aspirations that this community has for its schools.”

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com