CFT Celebrates 10 Years with Educate Texas
by Brent Christopher
President and Chief Executive Officer
Communities Foundation of Texas
John Fitzpatrick scared me to death in 2005. It was a month before starting my new role as president and CEO at Communities Foundation of Texas, and he wanted to catch my ear about the vision for a young Texas High School Project. He definitely gave me an earful about who and what was involved. In my wide-eyed state, John quickly overwhelmed me with his description of this program housed at CFT that would help to change the face of public education across the state. “Is he serious,” I wondered?
Serious, indeed. Today, through what has become Educate Texas, CFT could not be more energized about what has been accomplished during the past decade. The size of the talented EdTX team, the scale of the work, and the range of the broader public-private partnership are far beyond the earliest plans. But, the proof of their value is in the results achieved. Thousands more kids, regardless of their backgrounds, are engaged in learning. They are graduating from high school with stronger foundations beneath them. And, they are going on to complete the post-secondary experiences that will prepare them for success in life and work.
Today, the EdTX staff is more than six times greater than when I arrived at CFT. Their incredible qualifications and passion for the work still make me gasp. The original focus was on whole school reform, charters, and early-college high schools. Today, the focus has zeroed-in on the demonstrated power of early-college high schools and STEM academies, along with adding college access and completion to the roster of objectives—plus promoting the best policies for effective teaching and school leadership. It’s proving to be a formula for producing real impact.
From the Rio Grande Valley to North Texas, the team members at CFT still roll up their sleeves every day to work alongside our colleagues. Standing with the school leaders, public officials and staff, and other philanthropic funders who are part of the Educate Texas partnership is nothing short of inspiring. It’s really worth a good pinch just to make sure this isn’t the figment of an over-active imagination. Or, as Ebeneezer Scrooge would say in the spirit of the holidays, “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.”
The work is far from over. In many respects, it’s just beginning. But, during the intervening years since Educate Texas began, I’m proud that we have figured out ways to leverage the other leadership, relationships, staff support, convening power and grant dollars from across Communities Foundation of Texas to amplify that work. (Over 1/3 of all grantmaking at CFT each year is usually for education in many different areas.) All-in-all, it’s a pretty special arrangement.
Happy 10th anniversary, Educate Texas! More students are waiting to see what will be accomplished next. . . .