By Robbie Owens

by Robbie Owens | CBS 11

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Educators know there are no quick fixes: especially now.

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“The post-pandemic era is going to call for a type of leader that we’ve never seen before,” says Supt. Ricardo Lopez, Garland ISD. “They’re going to have to close achievement gaps that have widened through this pandemic. They’re going to have to be able to facilitate the social emotional needs of all children, because it’s affected everybody so differently.”

Solutions, experts say, will be found in leadership.

So on Monday, April 26, three North Texas school districts– Dallas, Cedar Hill, and Garland ISDs– are celebrating their selection to partner with the Holdsworth Center.

The nonprofit founded by HEB Chairman Charles Butt is an educational leadership institute that supports student achievement, by first helping districts grow great leaders– from central staff to principals.

“The principal sets the tone,” says Supt. Lopez. “Everybody has to have an `A’ game. And so every school has to have that ‘A’ principal. And to have that that ‘A’ principal, teachers are going to be happy, the teachers are going to perform, and the parents and students are going to rally around that school.”

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Leadership may lack that “gee whiz” factor, but current participants argue that it works.

Arlington ISD was one of the first districts accepted into the program in 2017.

“Effective teaching has the primary impact,” says Arlington ISD Supt. Marcelo Cavazos, “but right next to that is effective leadership. And so the leadership development is critical. It’s a critical piece to that overall improvement effort and that’s what we’ve experienced.”

As for the Holdsworth Center, the staffers there say the decision to focus on leadership was strategic, citing research that found “…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.”

With Holdsworth Center staffers embedded in the districts, the five-year partnership is valued at $18 million to help develop strong leaders and to also measure success.

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“The expectations are so different than just a year ago!” says Supt. Lopez. “This Holdsworth Center will be one of the catalysts for us to bridge that gap. So, we are so excited about the opportunity.”