H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt Made An Investment In Texas Education And It’s Working
The Southside LightEmail Brady
When you think of H-E-B Grocery the first thing that comes to mind is a San Antonio based grocery retailer that has become an iconic symbol of Texas. You might think of their wildly successful in-house brands or even their ability to connect with their base customers on a uniquely different level. But do you think about education when you think of H-E-B? Most people likely wouldn’t but albeit quietly, the company’s CEO and Chairperson Charles Butt put his money where his mouth is when it comes to education in the Lone Star State.
Back in 2017, he noted that Texas had a problem with education. He identified a weak curriculum and a lack of leadership as being two of the factors holding Texas children back. So, he reached into his own pocket and pulled out $100 million dollars. No, he didn’t donate to a political action committee and he most certainly was not running for public office—he’s too quiet and reserved for that. But what he did in fact do is start a leadership school where Texas educators can learn about leadership and forward thinking skills that translate down to the district level and eventually down to the kids themselves. It’s that very place where Charles Butt believes that his investment will see the biggest and greatest returns.
“There is no shortcut and no silver bullet,” Butt says. “If we want to get to the root of making long-term, sustainable improvements to public education, we’ve got to invest the time to go deep within our districts.”
Getting to the root cause of the problem at the district level is just not enough, and nearly everybody would agree that identifying a problem without bringing up a solution is really no progress at all. That’s why Charles Butt created this education leadership program, in hopes that the practical leadership skills taught at the Center will eventually make their way back down to the local grassroots level.
Here at the Holdsworth Center in San Antonio, school district leaders typically spend three to four days a month working with the Holdsworth Center on effective leadership practices that can be applied immediately at the local level.
Currently, The Center serves 13 school districts that must meet an approved criteria in order to participate. The Holdsworth Center selected six districts just this year including 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).
When being vetted for the program a school must be dedicated to improving leadership capabilities and they must make the concept of developing leaders as a critical priority.
The Center places responsibility for success back onto the districts that participate. According to leaders here at The Center, school districts must own their commitment to effective leadership at every level from the school board on down.
In the end, The Holdsworth Center looks for district leaders who have demonstrated an ability to lead change. A school district must show evidence that the district has moved towards education leadership as its key priorities.
“What this does is break down the old ways of autocratic leadership at the district level,” says Mae Caldwell who benefited from the program’s leadership training. “It really teaches you to stop thinking back on how things were once done and start looking forward to today and tomorrow.”
“What these folks bring back are skills that really put the focus back on forward progression,” says Caldwell. “We need people to really push that old way of thinking aside and we’ve seen this program equip young leaders to effectively do that.”
But for The Holdsworth Center it’s not about the money or removing the old guards at the gate. It’s main focus is improving the educational standards at the district level so the students and the community all benefit in the end.
The program is open to districts which have an enrollment of 6,000 students across their campuses. Thus far in the program no Corpus Christi area schools have even applied for program despite there being no cost except for in state transportation and their time.
“We need our district to aim for something like this,” said Kim Johnson whose children attend Flour Bluff ISD. “We have some very strong leaders already but we need to do more.”
Doing more is exactly what Charles Butt intended to do when they started out with this in the first place.