Holdsworth Center Groundbreaking: A New Vision for the Future of School Leadership

Charles Butt, Chairman and CEO of H-E-B, has strengthened his commitment to public education in Texas as construction begins on a 44-acre lakefront campus for The Holdsworth Center.

Named for Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth, Charles’ mother and a former teacher, The Holdsworth Center is aimed at turning school districts into dynamic talent development organizations like H-E-B or Southwest Airlines. The new campus is set to open in the summer of 2020 and will serve as a permanent home for our leadership institute.

Our focus on educational leadership at Holdsworth is part of a growing trend. Many states are using funds from the Every Student Succeeds Act (or ESSA) to invest in school leadership. At the same time, large school districts like Chicago Public Schools and have found academic success by empowering school leaders.

What sets The Holdsworth Center apart is depth. Our organization works with districts over a five-year period. We do more than just train a few leaders. Instead, we aim to turn the entire district into an organization that develops its own leaders.

The Holdsworth Center is currently working with seven Texas school districts, and the new campus will allow our program to expand. In the coming years, we aim to serve at least 30 school districts, 1,500 principals, and over 3,000 school leaders.

The soon-to-be-built campus will be a place where education leaders can learn, reflect, collaborate and be inspired. A residential village will accommodate guests for overnight stays, with a community “living room” on each floor, a kitchenette, couches, and a screened-in porch.

Among our board’s members is Dr. Robert Gates, former U.S. Secretary of Defense and now chancellor of the College of William & Mary, who said the center will target a key element of public school education.

“Being able to develop your own talent and grow your own leaders is critical for any successful organization from the U.S. military to Google,” Gates said. “School districts are no different. Strong leaders will make our public schools great places to work and learn.”

With the groundbreaking, Charles Butt’s investment in public education has grown to $330 million over the past three years, including staff, programming and construction costs for the center as well as the Charles Butt Scholarship program to support students who aspire to teach in public schools.  

In keeping with the effort to blend the educational environment with its natural surroundings, The Holdsworth Center campus will have a Texas Hill Country feel to it, through the use of stone, wood, and metal.

“We wanted to create a campus that reflects the mission of The Holdsworth Center, a place that is intentionally designed to foster reflection and growth,” said David Lake, co-founder and partner at the architecture firm Lake Flato. “Educators will hear from leadership experts from all over the world. Our hope is that by creating the right environment for learning, it will inspire guests to innovate and take intellectual risks.”

The campus will allow for a wide range of activities. The main learning center will include interactive classrooms, seminar spaces, a lounge and full-service kitchen and a 300-seat event room. The library will house a book collection on education alongside screens showing videos of Holdsworth participants sharing their experiences. An administrative building will house staff.

Participants will stay overnight in The Holdsworth Center’s 180-room residential village. Three small casitas will house guest lecturers and visiting. Nestled beneath the hillside under a canopy of trees along the lake’s edge, the campus will become a haven for educators to do the important work of creating schools that succeed under effective leadership.