Dr. Marcelo Cavazos, retired superintendent of Arlington ISD, will become The Holdsworth Center’s first full-time Executive Superintendent-in-Residence in September.
He will support the center’s work to strengthen the pipeline of skilled and visionary superintendents leading Texas public schools.
“Holdsworth is filling a significant gap in public education and provides leaders with the necessary development and training to serve students exceptionally well,” Cavazos said.
One of Cavazos’ primary roles will be to coach superintendents as they navigate unprecedented challenges at a critical point in their career through the center’s Superintendent Leadership Program.
“We could not be happier about Dr. Cavazos joining the Holdsworth team,” said Dr. Lindsay Whorton, president of The Holdsworth Center. “He is someone who leads with kindness, humor and a heart for students, and is highly respected by peers and coworkers alike. We know his influence and wisdom will have a profound impact on the leaders in our programs.”
A transformational leader
With 33 years of experience in public education, including 11 years as a superintendent, Cavazos has been a transformational leader and a tireless advocate for students.
Under his leadership, Arlington ISD improved test scores and implemented innovative programs and initiatives that garnered national attention.
Last April, Cavazos realized a career-long dream by making free pre-K for all 4-year-old children a reality for Arlington families. He also created “Full STEM Ahead!,” the nation’s first district-wide STEM curriculum for 4-year-olds.
Under his leadership, Arlington ISD developed 13 specialized academies focused on STEM, leadership development, early college education, fine arts, dual language and more.
During his tenure, Cavazos spearheaded three strategic plans, two bond measures totaling $1.6 billion and one tax-ratification election to make the Arlington ISD one of the most competitive school districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
With the bond money, Arlington ISD built two new schools and completed total renovations of four aging campuses, plus built new state-of-the-art facilities for career and technical education, visual and performing arts, and athletics.
In 2016, Cavazos was named Texas Superintendent of the Year among 1,200 of his peers.
The power of public education
Cavazos grew up in the Rio Grande Valley in a migrant farming family of six siblings. Every summer, they picked okra in hot, muddy fields, hefting wicker baskets full of produce on their backs.
At the time, it was necessary for their survival. But it wasn’t his mother’s vision for their future. When school started, she insisted they stop picking, break their ceramic piggy banks and use the money they had earned in the fields for clothes and shoes. Her goal was for all six to earn a college degree.
And they did. Three of them even became public school superintendents.
That deep belief in the transformative power of public education is what drove Cavazos to become an English teacher and work his way up to superintendent.
His proudest accomplishment at Arlington ISD is the explosion of opportunities for students, from early college programs to career and technical education. With 23 years in the same district, he has seen positive changes blossom over time.
In the past, a student may have told him, “I want to be a firefighter when I grow up.” Now, students are earning the credits, training and certification to be firefighters while they are still in high school. Far-off dreams have become tangible realities for Arlington ISD students.
An exemplar district
The same thing has happened for educators in his district.
Arlington ISD was one of the first districts to join the Holdsworth Partnership in 2017. Over a five-year period, Cavazos worked with Holdsworth to create a suite of programs and systems for developing leaders in Arlington ISD.
With three strong, ready leaders in the pipeline for every principal opening, Arlington has become an exemplar of what’s possible when districts focus on growing people and preparing them for leadership roles.
“What used to be an aspiration is now a clear pathway with the right support, resources and training in place to help people succeed,” Cavazos said.
Staying true to mission
The decision to retire was tough for Cavazos, whose work has felt like more like a calling than a job.
A pastor friend offered this nugget of wisdom: Cavazos’ True North is making public education the best it can possibly be for students. The superintendency is one of many vehicles he could take to get there.
“The success of young people is highly dependent on the development, training and support of public school leaders,” Cavazos said. “I am fortunate to be joining an exceptional organization accelerating this work across the state. For me, it’s a natural next step in how I can contribute to public education.”