Innovative Education Models and Their Role in Economic Development:
Using the new Fort Worth Cristo Rey High School as One Model for Future Success
Three different speakers presented a case for the importance of developing a well-trained, well-educated workforce for the future economic development of Fort Worth at the February luncheon meeting of the Women’s Policy Forum.
Robert Sturns, Economic Development Director for the City of Fort Worth, first spoke about the City of Fort Worth’s economic development plan, including goals to establish Fort Worth’s competitive edge, become a hub for creative businesses and ensure community vitality. Among the 20 largest US cities, Fort Worth is the fastest growing, but Fort Worth residents are increasingly dependent on jobs in other cities. One of the stumbling blocks toward establishing Fort Worth’s competitive edge is the development of a well-trained workforce. Currently, only 27.6% of Fort Worth residents attain a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Fort Worth trails the DFW area, Texas and the nation in that educational attainment. Increasing that number and developing local talent is key to future economic development.
Melody Johnson, Scholar in Residence at the School of Education at TCU, then addressed some of the promising programs and practices TCU is participating in to build innovative solutions for education of the future workforce. They include leadership preparation programs, the Gold Seal programs and schools of choice and public-private partnerships. A lifelong educator, Johnson emphasized the dilemma of schools today. “Schools need help,” she said, emphasizing partnerships as key to providing that help. “We believe in choice, but choice with a level playing field,” she added.
One example of a partnership between business and educators is the new Cristo Rey Fort Worth High School, set to open in July 2018. Dani Ray Barton, Director of Corporate Work Study Program at Cristo Rey, shared about the plans for this new high school which will be located at Our Mother of Mercy, one mile southeast of downtown Fort Worth in the Terrell Heights neighborhood. The private, independent Catholic school will educate young people of limited economic means through a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, integrated with a relevant work study experience. Cristo Rey works with corporate partners who can provide substantive, productive work opportunities for its students, offsetting more than half of the annual cost of education for the students. There are 32 Cristo Rey schools across 21 states and the District of Columbia.