When Lockhart ISD began their work with Holdsworth, they had already committed to grow every student by 1.5 years each year in reading and math.
Along with that ambitious goal came a “whatever it takes” mentality.
Leadership is the foundation. It’s what everything else is built on.
As Superintendent Mark Estrada and his team began the 2-year District Leadership Program, self-reflection made them realize they needed to take a radically different approach to reaching their goal.
As part of the program, they created a leadership definition through a collaborative, yearlong process that included a lot of listening. What they heard changed their mindset and helped them build a positive culture where faculty and staff were not just “punching a clock,” they were energized and working toward a shared vision.
“It’s okay to have ambitious goals for kids,” Estrada said. “But if you as a leader are doing that in a way that isn’t rallying people, supporting them and getting them to buy in to what the districts is doing, then you are just this person chanting demands and not leading any type of change.”
Staff, faculty, students and parents all noticed the shift in leadership.
“Our principal has changed what this school looks like through how she treats the teachers, how she treats the kids. She makes people want to be here,” said Jeanie Mayfield, a parent at Clear Fork Elementary. “Leadership is the foundation. It’s what everything else is built on.”
Lockhart’s efforts paid off for students in a big way.
In 2017, only 17 percent of students were growing 1.5 times in reading each year. By 2021, that number had grown to 76 percent.
“Last year we had the highest ratings in our staff engagement survey, we had double digit growth in our staff retention—that is not by chance,” Estrada said. “At a time when teachers are experiencing working conditions driving them away from the profession, to have the opposite happening in our district makes me feel very proud.”