This week in 2017, our founding Board Chair Dr. Ruth Simmons stood at a podium at Garza High School in Austin and announced the creation of The Holdsworth Center. The charge from our founder, H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt, was clear: to invest in and strengthen educational leaders across the state—teachers, assistant principals, principals, and district leaders—so that students in every classroom excel.
But in that moment, the center was a blueprint on the verge of existence—it had no physical location, no full-time staff, no programs or school district partners.
In the span of three years, The Holdsworth Center has hired nearly 50 staff members and is engaged in 5-year partnerships with 13 different school districts across Texas. By the end of 2020, we will have reached nearly 700 Leaders across our District and Campus Leadership Programs.
Beyond the numbers, it’s been incredible to watch our Leaders grow and develop, to share the stories that made them want to fight for kids, and to form a tight-knit community that offers support and encouragement along their shared journey toward excellent outcomes for all students.
Dr. Jenny McGown, superintendent of Klein ISD, said it best in remarks to her peers at the graduation ceremony for our inaugural District Leadership Program: “In becoming part of this Holdsworth family, we have begun writing a collective narrative of excellence and equity that is bigger than any one voice.”
I am astonished by what our Leaders have accomplished in such a short amount of time. Their voices are among the chorus of hearts, minds and hands who have shaped Holdsworth into the organization it is today. Together, we have taken a dream that existed only on paper and have begun—brick by brick—to build a home. We’re not finished yet and will always be remodeling to meet changing needs.
But 2020 is poised to be a defining year, one that presents momentous opportunities and important milestones for The Holdsworth Center:
- One-year Milestone for District Leaders – In April, our second cohort of District Leaders will mark one year in the District Leadership Program. As they reach this important milestone, our district teams will be able to define what great leadership looks like in each of their unique districts, and will be actively working to build the systems and structures to sustain strong principal pipelines.
- First Graduating Class of the Campus Leadership Program – From helping students find their voice to raising expectations at an alternative high school, our first cohort of Campus Leaders have worked incredibly hard over the past two years to pursue excellence for all students and mold themselves into the leaders their campuses needed. We can’t wait to celebrate these 30 teams (160 Campus Leaders) at a ceremony in July.
- Two New Cohorts for the Campus Leadership Program – As we celebrate our first graduates (who will always hold a special place in our hearts), we are excited to welcome two new cohorts into the Campus Leadership Program in July (65 campuses and over 300 campus leaders).
- Recruitment Begins for Third Cohort – This summer, we will begin recruiting our third cohort of six school district partners, with programming set to begin in 2021.
- Campus Opening – This fall, we will celebrate the opening of a real (not metaphorical) bricks-and-mortar home. Located on the shores of Lake Austin, the 44-acre campus will host program sessions and house Leaders while they are learning with us. Our founder intended the campus as a gift to public school educators, a space that embodies the respect he believes they deserve.
Every day I’m reminded that we’ve been given what Theodore Roosevelt called “the best prize that life has to offer—the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
This year we will roll up our sleeves and work hard, pouring a foundation to put us on solid ground, framing the organization we want to be tomorrow, raising the supports that will carry our mission into the future and planting saplings that will grow and mature into a legacy. While we labor, we will keep our hearts fixed on why we do this work—to ensure all Texas students thrive under outstanding leaders.