In his decades as an educator, Temple ISD Superintendent Bobby Ott can’t recall a program that allowed him to learn in “real-time” like the 18-month Holdsworth Leadership Collaborative.
“Everything I was learning, I could take away and apply in real time,” Ott said.
Ott is one of 42 superintendents and other district leaders who recently graduated from the program’s inaugural cohort. The Leadership Collaborative is designed to help district leaders build a strong bench of aspiring principals who are ready to step into school leadership positions when they arise.
One of the program’s unique features is the cycle of learning and doing. At Holdsworth, we believe that 70 percent of a leader’s development comes from on-the-job learning. That’s why programs are designed to introduce new ideas and concepts, then give leaders time to put the learning into practice.
“I appreciated the way we would learn something, take it back to our districts, work on it, iterate, and bring it back to the group,” said Toni Lopez, deputy superintendent of staff and academic achievement for Pasadena ISD. “That gave us an opportunity to reflect on the work and hear what everyone else did to see how we might improve.”
One of those real-time applications was crafting a definition of leadership unique to each district that lays out the behaviors and qualities of an exemplary leader.
With guidance from Holdsworth staff, each team involved stakeholders across their district to help write the leadership definition.
“Our leadership definition is going to stand the test of time,” said Angie Viator, executive director for human resources in La Porte ISD. “It’s something we created together as a district and it really helped people understand that they can lead and grow from wherever they are. That has helped all departments and campuses.”
Another hallmark of Holdsworth programs is the ability for leaders to customize. There is no one-size-fits all approach.
“The learning wasn’t a prescription, it was a facilitation,” Ott said. “We were exposed to new ideas and practices from many different sectors, including business, and had the opportunity to make it our own.”
With a leadership definition in place, the Collaborative gave district leaders the tools and knowledge to begin building systems to grow future principals in a thoughtful and consistent way.
“We had cleared our bench of assistant principals and were struggling with how to build up our leadership pipeline. The things we learned at Holdsworth will help us create a systemic way to grow and sustain our bench of high-quality leaders,” Ott said.
Ultimately, Ott said, all the work on leadership is in service of the students. “The No. 1 goal in Temple ISD is to support the classroom. To build a support system around our teachers and students, we need high-quality leaders who know our district and how to best support our classrooms.”