The Holdsworth Center, an educational leadership institute, selects Cedar Hill, Dallas and Garland ISDs for five-year partnership


Three North Texas school districts in Texas have been chosen to partner with The Holdsworth Center, a nonprofit organization founded by H-E-B Chairman Charles Butt.

Cedar Hill, Dallas and Garland ISDs have been selected for a five-year, $18 million strategic partnership that helps districts grow their own bench of strong, skilled leaders who create conditions in which teachers thrive and all students get what they need to succeed.

The selection marks the latest expansion of The Holdsworth Partnership that is now serving 19 school districts in Texas. By 2028, the partnership is expected to reach more than 4,500 educators, including teacher leaders, assistant principals, principals and central office administrators.

Collectively, the three North Texas districts have nearly 217,000 students at more than 320 schools and employ close to 29,000 faculty and staff.

The six districts were chosen from a pool of 43 applicants, a 130 % increase from the last application period in 2019. The other three districts are Laredo ISD, Victoria ISD and East Central ISD in San Antonio.

“Our ability as a state to recover from the impact of a global pandemic will depend on the skillful leadership of teachers, principals and district leaders serving Texas’ 5.5 million students,” said Dr. Lindsay Whorton, president of The Holdsworth Center. “We recognize the urgency of this moment and are honored to play a role.”

With the opening of the Campus on Lake Austin this summer – a permanent home for its staff and programs – Holdsworth hopes to expand program offerings and host events that will reach even more educators.

All programming and support, valued at $18 million over five years for North Texas districts, is covered at no cost through the generosity of Charles Butt, Chairman of H-E-B, and other philanthropic supporters.

That figure includes the cost of:

  • Embedding Holdsworth District Support Team staff in each district for five years to help central office leaders design, implement and sustain their own leadership development systems
  • Delivering two-year District and Campus Leadership Programs for multiple groups of central office and campus leadership teams
  • Providing districts with robust tools to measure district-wide culture and staff engagement and better understand students’ social-emotional learning.

“We don’t believe there are any quick fixes in education. Investing deeply in the skill and capacity of the people working in our schools is the only way we will see true transformation,” Whorton said. “This five-year partnership will help leaders expand their view of what’s possible for their district, create a vision for change and drive the innovations needed to deliver on the promise of excellence and equity for all students.”

The choice to focus on leadership is strategic. Decades of research shows that effective principals can significantly impact student outcomes by adding around three more months of learning in math and reading during a single school year. Because principals influence the working conditions and skill level of every teacher in the building, their impact is outsized.

Over the five-year partnership, districts work towards ensuring every school is served by an excellent principal with a goal of building a strong bench of candidates for each principal vacancy.

Spotting and growing outstanding leaders from the classroom to the superintendent’s office is complex work that requires:

  • Communicating a shared vision of what great leadership should look like
  • Creating a positive, caring learning environment for students and staff
  • Building new systems and structures to ensure aspiring leaders are being identified early and given opportunities to truly prepare for the next step in their career

Holdsworth leaders have shown incredible growth as individuals and achieved big gains at the system and school level. Around 96 percent of leaders say they developed new beneficial behaviors and mindsets as a result of Holdsworth; 97 percent agree that Holdsworth has been influential in increasing their focus on achieving excellent and equitable outcomes for students.

“COVID has tested every structure in public education and fundamentally, our culture,” said Dr. Marcelo Cavazos, superintendent of Arlington ISD, one of the first districts accepted into the partnership in 2017. “What we learned through Holdsworth about how to communicate with transparency, to take input from staff and to value people in our district – it has paid dividends.”

The Holdsworth Center

Driven by the belief that great leaders can push student achievement levels to new heights, The Holdsworth Center partners with Texas public school districts to help educators become experts at leadership, then grow stronger leaders within their own systems. Founded in 2017 by H-E-B Chairman Charles Butt, the Austin-based nonprofit works with partner districts for five years and makes a deep investment in leaders at both the district and campus levels. For more information, visit

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