The Holdsworth Center selects six Texas school districts for second cohort of 5-year partnership


For Immediate Release                                  Media Contact: Melissa Ludwig, 210-380-0733

April 16, 2019

(Austin, Texas) ­– The Holdsworth Center, a leadership institute founded by H-E-B CEO and Chairman Charles Butt, has selected six school districts for the second cohort of a 5-year partnership focused upon helping public school districts grow their pipeline of inspiring leaders so that teachers thrive and students excel on every campus.

The six districts are Mesquite ISD (Dallas-Fort Worth), Aldine ISD and Spring ISD (Houston area), Harlingen CISD (Rio Grande Valley), Judson ISD (San Antonio) and Lockhart ISD (Central Texas).

With the announcement of these six districts, the Holdsworth Partnership now extends to two cohorts comprising 13 public school districts. By the end of their five-year partnership, more than 1,400 educational leaders across 277 schools in Texas will have been impacted.

Holdsworth staff selected the six districts based upon willingness and ability to change, as well as level of commitment to growing and developing a pipeline of leaders. To ensure a diverse cohort, staff also considered each district’s student population and geographic location.

Any Texas public school district with a student population of 6,000 or more was eligible to apply through a written application, which was followed by in-depth site visits to 14 finalist districts earlier this year. The other eight district finalists were: Abilene ISD, Brazosport ISD (Gulf Coast), Brownsville ISD, Midland ISD, North East ISD (San Antonio), San Angelo ISD, San Antonio ISD and Waco ISD. Holdsworth is actively exploring ways to best partner with small and rural districts educating less than 6,000 students.

“We look forward to investing in and supporting district and campus leaders in these six systems as they work to grow as leaders, strengthen schools and districts and drive excellent and equitable results for every student,” said Dr. Lindsay Whorton, president of The Holdsworth Center. “We are grateful to every district who applied. Selecting only six districts was extremely difficult, and through our visits we were inspired by and optimistic about the excellent work being done in schools across Texas.”

The Holdsworth Partnership is centered on two core investments in leadership at the district and campus levels.

This summer, the superintendent and a team of five other leaders from central office will embark on the two-year District Leadership Program, a learning journey that includes sessions with some of the nation’s top leadership experts and site visits to study high-performing organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Over the five-year partnership, District Leaders work together to build and implement robust talent management systems with help from embedded Holdsworth staff who provide support tailored to the unique needs of each district.

In the second year, principal supervisors, principals, assistant principals and teachers begin the 2-year Campus Leadership Program, a learning journey similar to District Leaders. Each campus team works on a significant challenge tied to school culture and student outcomes. Rolled out in phases, the program aims to serve 50 percent of campuses in each partner district.

Apart from in-state transportation costs, all programming and support are covered by The Holdsworth Center. In 2020, learning sessions will move to The Holdsworth Center’s new campus on the shores of Lake Austin, a peaceful setting where educators can focus on learning and reflection.

The announcement of the second cohort comes shortly after 42 District Leaders graduated from Holdsworth’s inaugural District Leadership Program. The first cohort includes Lamar CISD and Klein ISD (Houston area), Southwest ISD (San Antonio), Round Rock ISD (Central Texas), Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (Rio Grande Valley), and Grand Prairie ISD and Arlington ISD (Dallas-Fort Worth).

“Holdsworth has impacted our district inside and out,” said Dr. Joffery Jones, executive director of campus safety and support at Klein ISD. “We’ve employed programs and change that will forever be with the district. I tell people all the time that Holdsworth is different. You can’t participate in this program and not grow as a professional.”


The Holdsworth Center

Founded by Charles Butt in January 2017, The Holdsworth Center partners with Texas public school districts to cultivate a pipeline of dynamic and inspired leaders so that teachers thrive and students excel in every classroom. The Center makes a deep investment in participating districts, working with each for a five-year period and including both district and campus leaders throughout partnership. For more information, visit


Frequently Asked Questions

What criteria does Holdsworth use to select districts?

First, we look for districts that are hungry to improve and see developing leaders as a critical priority. We seek district leaders who are open to new ideas and are eager to make major improvements to their current practices.

Second, we look for districts that are ready to do the work. We like to see alignment of vision and shared commitment at every level of leadership—the superintendent, the senior leadership team, and the school board.

Finally, we look for districts who have demonstrated an ability to lead change. We look for evidence that the district has moved the needle on its key priorities.

What plans does Holdsworth have to broaden the reach of its programs?

Holdsworth is committed to serving all districts in Texas over the coming years. We recognize that the needs of both very small and extremely large districts differ from those in the middle. Working with Lockhart ISD, which has around 6,000 students, will give us the opportunity to study the unique needs of smaller districts as we plan for how to best support them in the future.

Because engagement at the highest level of leadership is critical, we are also devising strategies for working with school boards. Once our Lake Austin campus is completed, we will explore hosting conferences and events.

How much does becoming a Holdsworth partner cost?
Being a Holdsworth partner is a significant commitment of time over five years, but aside from in-state transportation costs, the first two cohorts will not pay for any of the programming, coaching, or embedded support they receive. The initial programming is funded by a $100 million investment made by founder Charles Butt, to be spread across multiple years.

How does Holdsworth plan to measure success? 

We are working with our partner districts to identify the best way to quantify progress on measures that will help us answer the questions:

  • Are leaders who participate in our programs stronger, more skilled leaders? Have they grown, improved and deepened their capacity to lead themselves, lead others, and lead change?
  • Do the leaders who participate in our programs create stronger organizations? Do they establish strong, engaged cultures and effectively and systemically develop and cultivate talent?
  • Do the leaders who participate in our programs deliver excellent and equitable results for students?

What is the time commitment?

The time spent in learning sessions and site visits is approximately 45-50 days over the two-year District Leadership Program and 35-40 days for the Campus Leadership Program. The learning experiences will be rigorous and involve pre-reading and preparation as well as travel.

Back in the district, leaders will also work closely with the Holdsworth District Support Team to strengthen their approach to identifying, developing, selecting and supporting leaders.

How many leaders from the district get to participate?

The District Leadership Program includes the superintendent and five other district leaders.

The number of leaders in the Campus Leadership Program will depend on the size of the district. Over the course of five years, our goal is to include at least 50 percent of a district’s campuses in the program. Campus teams include four people, a number that could expand for large, comprehensive high schools.

What is the experience like?

At Holdsworth, we believe that 70 percent of a leader’s development occurs through job-related experiences, 20 percent from interactions with others or coaching, and 10 percent from formal educational events. We strive to design learning experiences that span all three areas of a leader’s development. Curriculum covers three main strands:

  • Personal Leadership– This strand is driven by self-reflection and supported by coaching and feedback. Superintendents and District Champions receive one-on-one executive coaching and coaching that is centered upon feedback from stakeholders to drive their development. All team members form peer coaching groups, providing feedback and accountability to one another.
  • Developing and Empowering Others– We believe this strand can only be built through practice. Our goal is to use Holdsworth sessions to create space for deep practice in how leaders coach, develop, and empower individuals and build dynamic, growth-oriented teams.
  • Creating Change– This strand is deeply job-embedded, supported and reinforced by the District Support Teams present in the district each week. We start by having teams create a clear and compelling vision for student success. Leaders then assess their culture, develop a leadership definition, establish a vision for leadership development, and drive the necessary changes to bring that vision to life.

Throughout the two-year program, district leaders will visit high-performing school systems and companies in the U.S. and abroad that will expand their view of what is possible and inform the vision for their district.

All of the teaching on change will focus on the work that District Leaders are doing. This is one of the main reasons why this is a program for teams—it allows us to bring a job-embedded component into every session we deliver.

What makes Holdsworth different from other leadership development programs?

Holdsworth is distinguished from many leadership development programs by its long-term partnership and deep investment in leaders at every level of the organization. Holdsworth works at the individual, team, and system level. We know that building the capacity of all three is critical to sustainable improvement that positively impacts students over time.

Another key differentiator is the District Support Team, consultants who work in the districts as thought partners and project managers who help to move the work forward and keep everyone focused on the goal.

One thing you’ll find about Holdsworth is that we bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the table by looking for insights and expertise outside of the educational arena. While we understand the need to work within the system, we believe that stretching leaders’ thinking and broadening their view of what is possible will result in new and valuable approaches customized for each district.

When will Holdsworth accept new districts?

We will begin accepting applications for our third cohort of districts in 2020. Selected districts will begin their five-year partnership with Holdsworth in the summer of 2021.