As Texas and San Antonio face challenges in creating a well-educated and highly-skilled workforce for the future, the 58 members of Leadership San Antonio met recently to learn about various initiatives happening across the city in an effort to find solutions to workforce shortfalls.

The day began at the Southside Education Center for Pre-K 4 SA with Texas Representative Mike Villarreal who presented a brief overview of House Bill 5 which was one of the most important education bills passed in recent history by the Texas legislature. Rep. Villarreal then helped moderate a panel discussion on school choice in San Antonio which included representatives from public, private and charter schools. Panelists included Dr. Lloyd Verstuyft, Superintendent for Southwest I.S.D., Katie Reed, Board of Trustee member for Northside I.S.D., Bill Daily, Principal for  St. Mary Magdalen School, and Thomas Torkelson, Founder and CEO of IDEA Public Schools. Class members were able to ask panelists about why each of their models works and what each of their programs is doing to help educate and prepare students for today’s workforce needs.

Following this lively panel discussion, the class was given a brief overview of the Pre-K 4 SA program by Elaine Mendoza, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors for the Early Childhood Education Municipal Development Corporation Board. Prior to touring the school, Kathy Bruck, CEO for Pre-K 4 SA, explained the program, which was approved by voters in 2012. She elaborated on the set-up of each classroom and the teaching methods utilized by their instructors to help students learn to make good choices in their daily lives.

The next stop of the day was to The Neighborhood Place which is run by the Family Service Association. CEO Nancy Hard discussed the variety of services provided to local residents at this facility which include tax services, educational training and parenting classes.

The class was then separated out into several groups for a mini-science fair which featured STEM programs from across the city, spotlighting the fun and innovative projects they are working on. Included in the science fair were: NEISD STEM Academy; Northside I.S.D. Engineering Projects and Robotics; Alamo-First Robotics; Southwest I.S.D. CTE Programs and their electric car program; Geekbus; and Family Service Association’s Tech Center. This allowed everyone to be engaged in an interactive discussion with teachers and students from each of these programs.

Finally, the class made its way to Palo Alto College for a look at the latest programs at one of San Antonio’s Alamo Community Colleges. Dr. Robert Garza, Vice President of Student Success at Palo Alto College and an alumnus of LSA Class 38, welcomed the class and introduced Dr. Mike Flores, the college president. Dr. Flores showed the class the demographics of the college as well as the success rates of their graduates. This conversation of community college success was furthered by Eva Esquivel, Communications Manager with Workforce Solutions Alamo. Esquivel elaborated on the importance of community colleges in training today’s workforce and presented illuminating graphics as to the gap between current college attainment rates and the workforce needs of today. Finally, Michael Girdley, CEO of Codeup,  spoke of his program’s unique way of training individuals to enter the IT industry in San Antonio.

The day concluded with Dr. Ricardo Romo, President of UTSA, who spoke to the class about overall leadership, as well as the great strides UTSA has taken in STEM-related areas of study and workforce preparation.

The members of LSA class 39 are grouped into committees responsible for developing agendas for each of the eight class days throughout the calendar year. The agenda for this month’s Education Day was developed by class members:

The committee was also assisted by steering committee members:

LSA is a joint partnership of The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Click here for more information or email Priscilla Camacho.