1. Opinion

Hooper: Butler partners with Hillsborough Schools to launch CEOs in Schools program

Vistra CEO Brian Butler poses with former Mort Elementary principal Woodland Johnson. The two formed a partnership that aided the school, and now Butler hopes to expand the initiative with a new program: CEOs In Schools. Photo courtesy of Vistra Communications.
Published Jul. 22

He witnessed teachers filling their classrooms with energy and enthusiasm.

He observed administrators as they pushed to find solutions.

He watched with admiration as then-Mort Elementary principal Woodland Johnson took on the challenge of leading one of the Hillsborough district's achievement schools.

For three years, Vistra CEO Brian Butler lent counsel to the faculty and staff as part of the Council for Educational Change's PASS (Partnership to Advance School Success) program, an effort that pairs business leaders with principals.

Butler, however, limited his school visits to 60-minute blocks. As he drove back to his nearby Lutz office after one particular visit, he wondered how he could do more, give more.

"I got involved in the community school model," Butler said. "But I wasn't getting the full picture because I was in and out."

Finally, he asked Johnson if he could spend an entire day at the school, immersing himself in all of its operations. His 10-hour sojourn at Mort introduced him to all facets, from security personnel to cafeteria staff.

"I went in thinking about the students but realized the teachers were trying to learn from me about my business perspective, my weekly meetings with staff, my planning sessions with clients.

"I started asking about the other aspects of the school that are just as important."

He discovered his business acumen could help with a host of processes and efficiencies. And he realized a team of CEOs could do even more.

So, in partnership with the Hillsborough School District, Butler has launched CEOs in Schools. CEOs will attend a one-hour reception and a one-hour meeting with their principals before spending an entire day immersing themselves in the school day on Oct. 18. The idea is to help principals create greater efficiencies and develop different models.

"They can simply be mentors to teachers administrators and the principal," Butler said. "It's all about helping kids have the same educational opportunities, regardless of where they live in the county."

CEOs can register online at

I really appreciate Butler's effort. This effort focuses on a single day, but it could lead to long-lasting relationships between the CEOs and the principals: a win-win for both sides.

Any initiative that helps the community rally around its school deserves support.

That's all I'm saying.


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