Our Mission

To impact, over time, the quality of K-12 public education for all Texas students by supporting and developing educational leaders.

An image of a teacher smiling and pointing to students in a classroom.
Photo of  Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth in the 1960s
Portait of Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth in the 1960s

Our history

Charles Butt, Chairman and CEO of H-E-B, founded The Holdsworth Center in 2017. He named the center for his mother, Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth, who taught school in the 1920s in Center Point, TX (near Kerrville).

Charles has directed much of his personal and corporate giving toward education, developing initiatives such as the annual H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards, the H-E-B Read 3 early literacy program and Raise Your Hand Texas, an advocacy organization focused on public policies that support and improve our public schools. The Holdsworth Center builds on those efforts by strengthening the leaders who serve educators and students.

A letter from our founder

We live in a time when support and funding for the nation’s public schools is declining and faith in the system is eroding. My investment in The Holdsworth Center is a vote of confidence in our public schools. I believe that the future economic outlook for our state and our country depends on our ability to provide a high-quality education to each and every child.

With Texas school districts serving 10 percent of the nation’s children, I believe we have a tremendous responsibility and opportunity to provide the best possible education to all kids. But it has to start with great leaders—supportive principals, administrators, superintendents, and teacher leaders in every classroom.

There is no shortcut and no silver bullet. If we want to get to the root of making long-term, sustainable improvements to public education, we’ve got to invest the time to go deep within our districts.”

We need to strengthen the leadership pipelines that can build the foundation for a stronger system and provide more opportunities for growth for our teachers.

My hope is that over time, we provide education leaders a place to turn to for growth and that our comprehensive approach will serve as a model to replicate across the nation.

— Charles Butt

Photo of Charles Butt smiling in a crowd of people.
Photo of Kristina Snow, Director of Leadership Development at Round Rock ISD, smiling during a conversation.

The kind of learning we have been exposed to, the presenters, authors, professors – it is world class and we realize what a gift it is.”

Kristina Snow

Director of Leadership Development, Round Rock ISD

Our partnership

Frequently asked questions

What makes Holdsworth different from other leadership development programs?

Holdsworth is distinguished from many leadership development programs by its long-term partnership and deep investment in Leaders at every level of the organization. Holdsworth works at the individual, team, and system level. We know that building the capacity in all three areas is critical to sustainable improvement that positively impacts students over time.

Another key differentiator is the District Support Team, consultants who work in the districts as thought partners and project managers to help to move the work forward and keep everyone focused on the goal.

One thing you’ll find about Holdsworth is that we bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the table by looking for insights and expertise outside of the educational arena. While we understand the need to work within the system, we believe that stretching our Leaders’ thinking and broadening their view of what is possible will result in new and valuable approaches customized for each district. 

What is the experience like?

At Holdsworth, we believe that 70 percent of a leader’s development occurs through job-related experiences, 20 percent from interactions with others or coaching, and 10 percent from formal educational events. We strive to design learning experiences that span all three areas of a leader’s development. Curriculum covers three main strands:

  • Develop personal leadership – This strand is driven by self-reflection and supported by coaching and feedback. Superintendents, District Champions and Principals receive one-on-one executive coaching, as well as coaching that is centered upon feedback from stakeholders to drive their development. All team members form peer coaching groups, providing feedback and accountability to one another.
  • Grow and empower others – We believe this strand can only be built through practice. Our goal is to use Holdsworth sessions to create space for deep practice in how Leaders coach, develop, and empower individuals and build dynamic, growth-oriented teams.
  • Create change – This strand is deeply job-embedded. We start by having teams create a clear and compelling vision for student success and drive the necessary changes to bring that vision to life. At the district level, Leaders define what great leadership looks like for their district and create a roadmap for developing outstanding leaders at all levels, work that is supported and reinforced by Holdsworth District Support Teams. At the campus level, school principals and their teams tackle a significant challenge tied to school culture and student outcomes.

Throughout the 2-year program, Leaders will visit high-performing school systems and companies in the U.S. and abroad that will expand their view of what is possible and inform the vision for their district.

All of the teaching around change will focus on the work that Leaders are doing in their districts. This is one of the main reasons why this is a program for teams—it allows us to bring a job-embedded component into every session we deliver.

How does Holdsworth plan to measure success?

We are working with our partner districts to identify the best way to quantify progress on measures that will help us answer the questions:

  • Are leaders who participate in our programs stronger, more skilled leaders? Have they grown, improved, and deepened their capacity to lead themselves, lead others, and lead change?
  • Do the leaders who participate in our programs create stronger organizations? Do they establish strong, engaged cultures and effectively develop and cultivate talent?
  • Do the leaders who participate in our programs deliver excellent and equitable results for students?

What criteria does Holdsworth use to select districts?

First, we look for districts that are hungry to improve and see developing leaders as a critical priority. We seek district leaders who are open to new ideas and eager to make major improvements to their current practices.

Second, we look for districts that are ready to do the work. We like to see alignment of vision and shared commitment at every level of leadership—the superintendent, the senior leadership team, and the school board.

Finally, we look for district leaders who have demonstrated an ability to lead change. We look for evidence that the district has moved the needle on its key priorities. 

How much does becoming a Holdsworth partner cost?

Being a Holdsworth partner is a significant commitment of time over five years, but aside from in-state transportation costs, the first two cohorts will not pay for any of the programming, coaching, or embedded district support they receive. The initial programming is funded by a $100 million investment made by founder Charles Butt, to be spread across multiple years. The Center invests approximately $6 million per district over the course of five years.

What is the time commitment?

The time spent in learnings sessions and site visits is approximately 45-50 days over the 2-year District Leadership Program and 35-40 days for the Campus Leadership Program. The learning experiences will be rigorous and involve pre-reading and preparation as well as travel. Back in the district, central office leaders will also work closely with the Holdsworth District Support Team to strengthen their approach to identifying, developing, selecting, and supporting leaders.

How many leaders from the district get to participate?

The superintendent and five other district leaders participate in the District Leadership Program, including a District Champion selected by the superintendent to align the team’s efforts around developing a strong leadership pipeline.

The number of leaders in the Campus Leadership Program will depend on the size of the district. Over the course of five years, our goal is to include at least 50 percent of a district’s campuses in the program. Campus teams include four people, a number that could expand for large, comprehensive high schools.

What plans does Holdsworth have to broaden the reach of its programs?

Holdsworth is committed to serving all districts in Texas over the coming years. We recognize that the needs of both very small and extremely large districts differ from those in the middle. Working with Lockhart ISD, which has around 6,000 students, will give us the opportunity to study the unique needs of smaller districts as we plan for how to best support them in the future.

Once our Lake Austin campus is operational, we will explore hosting conferences and events.

When will Holdsworth accept new districts?

We will begin accepting applications for our third cohort of districts in 2020. Selected districts will begin their 5-year partnership with Holdsworth in the summer of 2021.