Chairman and CEO of H-E-B Charles Butt is one of the most successful businessmen in the nation. But I know him more as the state’s most influential advocate of public education. It’s not a role he takes lightly. Every move Charles makes is preceded by months, often years of research and input from people whose opinions he values.
The Holdsworth Center was no exception, and I was incredibly fortunate to be among the many people whose ideas he sought during the development phase. After putting some of my thoughts on paper, I traveled to New York, where Charles had assembled an incredibly bright, curious and broad-thinking group of people to explore the important role of leadership in education.
We spent the next year delving into research and traveling the world to study other systems, both in education and other sectors, that modeled strategic talent management practices. It was a remarkable gift of time and resources — I could not have asked for a richer professional learning experience.
Together, we shaped these experiences into what has become The Holdsworth Center, an institute that partners with public school districts to create thoughtful systems and structures for developing talent and growing leaders.
Simply put, leadership both in the classroom and at the campus level makes all the difference when it comes to student outcomes.
The Holdsworth concept was built upon a few foundational insights:
- When it comes to direct impact on student learning, the principal is second only to the teacher.
- The principal position is a lever of change. Teachers leave schools because of the principal and the culture created — or they stay and are incredibly loyal and do remarkable work.
- Principals excel in districts that allow them to maximize their talents and skills. If you prepare a principal to be innovative and they enter a district that has not yet embraced an innovation mindset, the mismatch makes for a leaky talent pipeline.
- To truly drive change, all the stars must align. We must first engage at the district level with superintendents and administrators to create fertile soil for principals to grow and thrive.
We thought, “What if the districts really had time to learn, think and develop together, and to get it right?” Then we could add on campus leadership training for principals and their teams so it would create a critical mass of people who were all singing from the same sheet of music and were totally bought in to the goal and the process.
From a sustainability and capacity-building standpoint, we added a support structure, the District Support Team, made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds and skillsets who are embedded within the districts supporting their change efforts.
What’s unique about The Holdsworth program is that it allows districts the chance to align all of their stars, and the gift of time to do it.
I’ve been honored to be involved not only in the design stage of this incredible institute, but have served on the curriculum writing committee and now on the Governing Board.
Watching the model play out in real life has been immensely rewarding, and the feedback we’ve received so far from the teams at our seven participating districts tells me that we are on the right track.
With the Campus Leadership Program beginning this summer, we still have much to learn and accomplish, but I hope that eventually, the evidence of our results will lead everyone to ask:
“Why aren’t we all doing this?”