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How a grocery-store billionaire plans to revolutionize school leadership

Cropped shot of a group of people raising their hands in a class

How much does good school leadership cost?

Try $100 million—at least, according to one Texas businessman.

Last week, Charles Butt, CEO of the HEB grocery store chain, announced the creation of the Holdsworth Center, dedicated to offering free training to current and future Texas public school leaders.

“The quickest, most efficient way to transform schools is to make sure you have the right leadership in place with the right vision,” Ruth Simmons, chair of the board running the center, told the Austin American-Statesman.

Shorter superintendent tenures. More school choice. Dwindling budgets. These and other challenges place good school leadership at a premium. Yet, effective leadership training is in short supply.

Butt’s $100 million investment aims to train 3,000 school leaders over the next 10 years by helping educators identify and overcome barriers to leadership in their school districts.

So what sets this new venture apart from other professional training models?

Details are still being worked out, but the program features several innovations, according to organizers.

Looking to provide stronger leadership training for educators in your school or district this year? Here’s a few ideas inspired by Butt’s training program that might work for you.

Look for inspiration outside the education space

The Holdsworth Center’s governance board is made up of more than education experts. It also includes leaders from business, the military, and government.

The center’s programming will feature best practices from all walks of life and apply them to an education framework.

It all boils down to three essential tasks: setting a clear vision, managing talent effectively, and engaging the community you serve.

Tailor training to different leadership levels

When it comes to professional development, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.

The Holdsworth Center divides training programs into three separate leadership categories: sitting superintendents and their cabinets; principals, assistant principals, and lead teachers; and district support staff.

School district leaders face markedly different challenges compared with those faced by an elementary school principal or a teacher, for example. Good training recognizes that, Butt says.

“The Holdsworth Center will help to ensure we have inspired and enlightened leaders at every level within the education system making daily decisions that positively impact the future of our students and the state.”

Adapt programs to trainees’ own experiences

Each school district has its own goals. The Holdsworth Center aims to train leaders by guiding them through relevant situations.

“Holdsworth is not prescriptive in how districts tackle these things,” Kate Rogers, acting executive vice president of the center, tells the Statesman. “What a district decides to work on largely will be determined by the district, but they will have world-class support in solving the challenge.”

Center organizers understand that to be effective, training must adapt philosophical concepts to real-world problems.

The thinking: If students can expect personalized attention in their learning, school leaders should too. Holdsworth hopes to create a model for personalized, real-world training at every level of school leadership.

What do you think about Butt’s $100 million bet to improve school leader professional development in Texas? Can you adapt any of these strategies in your own work? Tell us in the comments.

Want more ideas for how to develop effective leadership training in your schools? Read 3 ways to speed up your leadership journey.

About the Author

Todd Kominiak
Todd is Managing Editor of TrustED. Email: tkominiak@k12insight.com.

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