Students from Lamar Elementary help present the 2018 education champion award.
Students from Lamar Elementary help present the education champion award during the Education Forum in 2018. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Two budding initiatives focused on improving early childhood education and workforce development will be the focus of the upcoming fourth San Antonio Regional Public PK-12 Education Forum, scheduled for April 2.

The forum, presented by the Rivard Report, will start with a breakfast panel discussion about Alamo Promise, a developing program that eventually could offer all graduating high school seniors free tuition to Alamo Colleges. Later, Robert Pianta, dean of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and Human Development, will deliver a luncheon keynote address on early childhood education.

A panel will discuss the potential for an organization that will focus the efforts of the city on early childhood education.

“This is our fourth year to present the forum in concert with our many partners, and each year we take a deeper dive into critically important education issues by bringing in national experts to meet on stage with the best and brightest local leaders in the public education space,” Rivard Report Publisher and Editor Robert Rivard said.

“Once again our focus will be on early childhood education as city leaders consider how to leverage the success of Pre-K 4 SA and expand services to better prepare every child in this city for a lifetime of success.”

The event will take place at the Mays Family Center at the Witte Museum. Tickets are $75 for general admission and $50 for Rivard Report members.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit local education initiatives. Last year, the Education Forum gave away close to $60,000 in grants to local education organizations.

Breakfast panelists will discuss the Alamo Promise program from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Speakers include Rebecca Flores, the City of San Antonio’s director of education programs; Pedro Martinez, superintendent of San Antonio Independent School District; Robert McKinley, Alamo Colleges’ vice chancellor of economic and workforce development; and Richard Rhodes, president and CEO of Austin Community College. The panel will be moderated by Rivard Report Education Reporter Emily Donaldson.

The lunchtime keynote speech and panel discussion on early childhood education is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. Former City Manager Sheryl Sculley will introduce the discussion.

Pianta’s research at the University of Virginia focuses on how education and human development intersect. He started his career as a special education teacher and now consults with federal agencies, foundations, and universities on best practices in early childhood education.

Rivard will moderate the lunchtime panel discussion that includes Sarah Baray, CEO of Pre-K 4 SA; Libby Cohen,  director of advocacy and outreach for Raise Your Hand Texas; Kasi McCormick, the vice president of grants for United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County; and Roland Toscano, superintendent of East Central ISD.

A new winner of the Education Champion Award, which recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to San Antonio’s education landscape, will be named at April’s event. Last year’s recipient was H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt, who founded the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards, Raise Your Hand Texas, the Charles Butt Foundation, and the Holdsworth Center. The Education Forum is accepting nominations for this year’s winner here.

“It will be impossible to top the selection of Charles Butt as the 2018 Education Champion,” Rivard said, describing Butt as the “greatest advocate for improving public education outcomes in the state of Texas.”

“But there are many unsung heroes, perhaps lesser known, who are equally deserving of the recognition we can bestow.”

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San Antonio Report Staff

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.