AUSTIN, Texas - The Holdsworth Center announces the grand opening of the 44-acre Campus on Lake Austin, a first-of-its-kind, $200 million facility for Texas educators designed to strengthen leadership in a systemic way.
Charles Butt, the founder of The Holdsworth Center and Chairman of H-E-B, built the Campus as a gift for hardworking educators to provide them with professional development opportunities in a setting that rivals what CEOs and business executives experience.
"My hope is that the Campus will provide an inspiring place for educators to enhance their self-reflection, skills, and creativity," he said. "Our objective is to be part of a strong future for all Texas students."
Holdsworth was founded in 2017 with a $100 million commitment from Charles Butt with a mission to improve the quality of K-12 public education. That same year, the Center welcomed its inaugural cohort of seven school districts.
At the lakeside campus, educators from across the state will have access to state-of-the-art classrooms, a 300-person lecture space, an open-air amphitheater, walking trails, 186 rooms for overnight stays, and a two-story dock classroom.
"For public educators, there’s nothing like this campus in the nation," said Board Chair Dr. Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University and former president of Smith College in Massachusetts and Brown University in Rhode Island. "I hope it sends a message that the work of educators is vitally important, now more than ever. Their jobs are complex and require a great deal of skill and courage. All Texas students deserve access to expert school leaders."
"[There are] 15 classrooms, spaces dedicated to learning and collaboration for educators, and then a space for folks to stay to be in residence for a couple of days in community with one another, building relationships, preparing to do the really hard work and important work of educating students," said Dr. Lindsay Whorton, President of the Holdsworth Center.
Whorton says it is critically important to invest in teachers, principals, and district leaders across the state to better improve education for students.
"This campus sends a message to educators, but also to the state of Texas about the critical importance of public education and the investment that we need to be making for educators to succeed at that critically important work," she said.
Human capital is the single largest investment K-12 districts make and why it is important to invest in growing the skill, ingenuity, and effectiveness of the professionals who educate Texas’ 5.5 million students.
The choice to focus on leadership is strategic. Decades of research show that effective principals can add nearly three more months of learning in math and reading during a single school year. Principals influence the working conditions and skill level of every educator in the school, their impact is outsized.
Starting in September, Holdsworth will launch two new leadership programs and expand their reach up to 20 additional districts – a mentoring program for superintendents who are either new to the role or new to a large, urban district, as well as a program for a team of three central office leaders that focuses on the most impactful moves toward building a bench of strong leaders.
Both programs will be 18 months in duration and in-person learning sessions will take place at the new Campus. Recently retired superintendents Dr. Art Cavazos of Harlingen CISD and Dr. Thomas Randle of Lamar CISD will serve as superintendents-in-residence, coaching and supporting new superintendents to drive a vision for positive change while avoiding common pitfalls.
"The Campus has allowed us to expand our thinking on how we can serve more of Texas’ teachers, principals, and district leaders who work across 1,200 public school districts," Whorton said. "As we begin the multi-year effort to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, across the state, educators are facing an extraordinary moment. It will demand incredible leadership, and we are honored to invest in educators at such a critical time."
"Everything about this place is unique because, as an educator, we've never had such a great place to come and learn so it's a real treat and something very special that we don't take for granted," said Jeanette Ball, Superintendent of Judson ISD near San Antonio.
"They have brought so many resources and to come here and see this amazing facility, I'm excited," said Michelle LaRue, principal for Rolling Meadows Elementary School with Judson ISD.
LaRue says the program has taught her so much and she uses that knowledge every day at her school.
"It's been eye-opening for me. I was collaborative before, but there's a whole different level of collaboration I have with my teachers now. The communication in the relationship-building has been amazing," said LaRue.