By Andrea Hutchins

The El Paso Chamber’s 2022 State of Education on Oct. 6 featured a panel with the superintendents of the three largest districts in the county: El Paso, Socorro, and Ysleta independent school districts. Superintendents Diana Sayavedra, Xavier De La Torre and Nate Carman were joined on stage and engaged in conversation with El Paso Matters CEO Robert Moore. 

Andrea Hutchins

Watching the passion of these three leaders as they celebrated the work of their teachers and the accomplishments of their students was inspiring, as was the acknowledgement and gratitude the three superintendents paid to parents in their respective districts.

The conversation moved from how the districts are adjusting, post the COVID pandemic, to a focus on school safety, and concluded on education and polarization. The efforts currently underway in the three districts to move from pandemic footing and distance learning to face-to-face and campus-based engagement are remarkable. All three leaders have strong efforts underway to expand programs and engage students with dynamic educational opportunities. 

As a parent myself, I was heartened to hear how much these leaders focused on the emotional stability of their students and building resilience across campuses and through various support programs.

The three superintendents discussed the climate of safety post the Uvalde shooting. While no one wants to dwell on these challenges, each leader has clearly developed protocols to deal with this type of scenario. 

The moderator asked the superintendents about polarization and the role that politicized influence is having on education. The answers across the three leaders were incredibly reassuring. 

First, the superintendents believe their constituencies have not fallen prey to national polarization trends. Second, they talked about how they feel more connected with their parents and stakeholders and are working in concert with them for the best educational outcomes for the students. This kind of mission-driven approach is significant, and as a business leader in this community, I was so pleased to hear this perspective.

I am pleased to host the State of Education because it is an important space to have conversations between educational leaders and the business community. Obviously, there are important relationships across these sectors, and as De La Torre pointed out in one of his comments, the educational attainment trajectory in El Paso has a direct impact on the economy and impacts the appeal of El Paso for businesses interested in moving to the community. 

The El Paso Chamber will continue its efforts to work with school leaders across the many El Paso county-based school districts to build a cooperative relationship with chamber members and, whenever possible, advocate for resources that help build mutually beneficial programs and opportunities for students in El Paso.

In the spirit of the State of Education, I am also committed to enhancing the chamber’s efforts on linking education and workforce development. 

We know that a better educated community yields stronger, more consistent economic benefits. We also know that as students are exposed to high technology and more complex ways of thinking, they can engage and tackle bigger issues. 

By strengthening workforce training and adding to educational opportunities in a variety of economic sectors, we can be a model for workforce development in area schools. With our strength in business partnerships, we can mine information on the skills needed across economic sectors and connect businesses with school partners to develop appropriate curricula, find pathways for internships and cooperative educational experiences, and advocate for greater economic support for these ventures. 

Public-private partnerships in education, especially at the K-12 levels, are not new, but I believe we can take these partnerships to a new level.

Andrea Hutchins is CEO of the El Paso Chamber.