Teacher and students in garden
Ready to Launch
Through a Walton Family Foundation planning grant, Trinity to launch new school incubator and fellowship program

Trinity University has been awarded a $429,000 planning grant from the Walton Family Foundation, Inc. to help spur innovation and collaboration across area public and charter schools.

The planning grant, according to former education chair and Murchison Professor of Practice Shari Albright ’83, ’86 will go towards the design and creation of a new school incubator and principal fellowship program. This program will bring world-class design training and support for innovative school designs and executive training for principals to support the launch of the new schools.

“This is part of Trinity’s DNA,” Albright says. “We’ve always held hands with our area school districts—some for 30 years—and this planning grant will help us continue to be an intellectual resource for area innovation and educational development.”

The Walton Family Foundation, based in Arkansas, is a national nonprofit dedicated to improving K-12 education, along with tackling tough social and environmental problems.

The planning grant will be managed through Trinity’s Center for Educational Leadership by a coalition of select Trinity faculty and a design team of local and national educators. This team will be charged with designing and creating a new school incubator and fellowship program by January 2019. This fellowship program will focus on creating innovative school designs for the 21st century.

Albright says the Walton Family Foundation planning grant will spur creativity in new school designs.

“We’ve moved to a really exciting moment in educational development,” Albright notes. “Now, it is becoming commonplace for districts and charter schools to plan for new schools that are opening and to not do that in isolation, but to be part of a community of practice.”

That sense of community, Albright continues, depends on open collaboration between public and charter systems.

“This is an opportunity for all folks to come together, and there’s rich opportunity in having our traditional school district folks talking to our charter folks,” Albright says. “There are so many more commonalities between all these groups than there are differences, and we’re all grappling with many of the same challenges: serving a diverse student body, serving them all, and serving them well.”

Albright noted that Trinity has always supported area educators from all three sectors through its nationally accredited Department of Education, which offers graduate programs in Master of Education in School Leadership, Master of Arts in Teaching, and Master of Arts in School Psychology.

“At Trinity, we’re lifelong learners,” Albright says. “We’ve always believed that the best way to prepare the next generation of teachers, principals, and other educators is to be out learning in the real world in our schools.”

Lamar Elementary students garden with principal Brian Sparks ’04, ’05, ’11. Trinity engages schools like Lamar through professional development programs.

While Albright is leaving Trinity in July to serve as president for the Raise Your Hand Texas Education Foundation—a statewide nonprofit that identifies and pilots promising ideas to improve public education, and supports the conditions and public policies needed to scale proven approaches to benefit all Texas students — she will continue on with the University part-time specifically to support this Walton-supported initiative.  

Trinity University has a longstanding practice of forging deep bonds with area educational institutions, including the shared creation of the Advanced Learning Academy with San Antonio ISD, and the development of professional development school partnerships with Lamar Elementary School in San Antonio ISD and Lee High School, the International School of the Americas, STEM, and Jackson Middle School, all in North East ISD.

“These partnerships are part of our belief system about how higher education and school systems should collaborate with one another,” Albright says. “For Trinity, the generous planning grant from the Walton Family Foundation represents a next step on that trajectory.”

Jeremiah Gerlach is the brand journalist for Trinity University Strategic Communications and Marketing.

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