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CEOs pair up with Principals for a new perspective on our schools

September 19, 2019 - Partners in Education

Running a school isn’t easy. Neither is running a company. In a first of its kind program, our elementary school principals are teaming up with local senior executives to learn from one another through the CEOs in Schools initiative.

On October 18, 2019, CEOs from major local companies and agencies will volunteer for an entire day at each of our elementary schools.

Vistra CEO Brian Butler had the idea for the innovative program, in partnership with Hillsborough County Public Schools, after shadowing Mort Elementary’s principal last year through The Council for Educational Change’s PASS program.

“I spent the whole day and learned so much about what our principals go through, what our teachers go through and the experience of the students. I had fun all day. I worked in all aspects of the school during the day, went home at 3:30 and took a nap. It was an exhausting day, but it was so rewarding,” said Brian Butler, Vistra CEO. “From that experience I went to the superintendent and asked, ‘What would it be like if we had a CEO in every school in our county?’”

Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins immediately saw the benefits that CEOs in Schools would provide for schools, students, CEOs and our community.

“There’s information about schools that the community needs to know more about. When Brian approached me, I thought what a great partnership to bring the CEOs from major companies all across the community, to come into our buildings where we have some amazing CEOs called principals, and they network together to really learn more about what’s happening in our schools every day,” said Superintendent Eakins. “It gives an opportunity for our principals to learn about some strategies that other CEOs are using that are outside of education. I thought right away—this is a win, win!”

At Mort, Butler spent the day teaching, planning, serving lunch and performing a wide range of duties. Superintendent Eakins believes it will be an eye-opening experience for all the CEOs in Schools participants.

“They’ll learn right away how we take in almost 500-1,500 customers daily… and they’re not there a short period of time—they’re there for 6 hours. We have to educate them, we have to feed them, we have to look out for their safety and security throughout the day. So, they get to see firsthand what our leaders, our teachers, our support staff do to support our students. Our students will get to see those leaders in our community that they aspire to be someday,” Superintendent Eakins said.

BayCare Senior Vice President Kimberly Guy is excited to pair up with Principal Angela Livingston at Broward Elementary.

“What I hope to take away is a real appreciation for what our teachers do and for that wonderful gift they give to our community to our children—it’s phenomenal,” said Guy. “I have grown kids now. They grew up in the public school system, and I’m so proud of the people they’ve become because of the teachers and leadership in the schools. I hope that I can give some support and understanding as a community leader in what we can do to support the schools.”

“To really have one of those supporters come in and spend a day-in-the-life of what really happens, we think will be so much more impactful—so they can really see our needs,” said Broward Elementary Principal Angela Livingston.

Butler’s partnership with his company and Mort continues to this day with regular volunteer visits, support for teacher appreciation events and other school events. He is challenging business leaders in the community to volunteer for the October 18th program, but believes the connections made could have a much deeper, longer-lasting impact to strengthen our schools and our community.

“Right now, we’re just asking for a one-day commitment, and from that day if the principal and CEO can bond and they can make something special happen—who knows what could happen from there,” said Butler. “We continue to try to make a difference in the lives of others every day. This is just one opportunity where we get to do that.”

A note from Vistra: Thank you Tampa Bay area business leaders for your support of our educators and students! All 170 Hillsborough County elementary schools have been reserved! If you are interested in participating, please contact us as we are accepting names if a school becomes available at or