By Leo Gomez, For the Express-News

Great cities and great communities are built by strong urban school districts. After listening to San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez’s recent State of the District address, it is undeniable that we are a city and a community on the rise.

As a community, it is our responsibility to make our schools and school districts our business. The workforce of tomorrow is in schools throughout San Antonio today, so we have an obligation to lend our expertise and our resources to ensure schools are ready and adequately supported to prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

As an economic development entity, Brooks’ ability to attract developers and employers to San Antonio is dependent on the performance of its surrounding school districts. If we want to attract marquee employers and high-paying jobs, we not only need a skilled workforce to fill those jobs, but we need to provide assurances regarding the sustainability of that workforce.

We must lean in to understand the challenges our schools are facing, partner with them to bring about change, and champion the great work being done throughout San Antonio to improve educational outcomes. The San Antonio Economic Development Foundation and SA Works are working to better align our public education system with industry demand.

Organizations across the Brooks campus recently hosted students from SAISD and East Central Independent School District as part of SA Works’ annual Job Shadow Day, allowing students to learn about career opportunities and get excited about their future right here in San Antonio. For businesses and business leaders, it can be as simple as making ourselves available to these students — hosting job shadow opportunities, offering internships or connecting with local schools to serve as mentors.

Our schools are getting stronger by the day. SAISD is the most-improved district in the state of Texas over the past four years, increasing its state accountability rating from what would have been an “F” in 2016 to a “B” in 2019. Graduation rates are improving, and more students are graduating with industry certifications than ever before.

While all public school districts within San Antonio increased their state accountability scores for the 2018-19 academic year, 40 schools still failed to meet minimum standards. Further, there are other individual school campuses receiving consistent C’s and ‘D’s. Our public school districts are gaining momentum, though we need to help them sustain it and build upon it. We need to continue to raise the bar and insist on better than just a passing grade.

Martinez said it best — San Antonio is a community that rolls up its sleeves and works together to solve problems. We have a public education system in need of our support, and as business and community leaders we need to rise to the occasion. Human capital is our most valuable commodity; investing in our schools — and more specifically in our students — is the most significant long-term investment we can make. With San Antonio projected to grow by 1 million residents over the next 20 years, it is imperative that we better support our public education system to ensure change. Our time and our resources are needed to enhance public education and accelerate the progress these schools are already making.

At Brooks, we are making it our business, and we encourage others to follow suit.

Leo Gomez is president and CEO of Brooks.

Article originally published here: Commentary: Supporting public education is part of our business at Brooks

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