Press Release

East Central ISD, CAST Schools announce 2020 opening of CAST Lead

The new high school will offer course pathways in retail, hospitality and e-commerce leadership
(San Antonio ) —

In partnership with East Central Independent School District, the CAST Schools Network formally announced today during a press conference the August 2020 opening of CAST Lead, a career-themed high school that will connect students to leadership and management positions in the retail, hospitality and tourism, and e-commerce industries.

Approved by the East Central ISD school board on May 16, the announcement formalizes a partnership championed by school leaders and local employers that will offer the first e-commerce pathway in San Antonio and build on the city’s strengths in retail, hospitality, tourism and food.

“We are eager to continue building on the momentum we’ve established with our local education and industry partners as we co-create CAST Lead,” said CAST Nonprofit Network Chair Kate Rogers. “We know that school leaders at East Central ISD are committed to student success and we are excited to work hand-in-hand with them to offer students an experience that will transform their lives by supporting their college and career goals.”

CAST Lead will partner with industry leaders, with initial partners including Jag Bath of H-E-B, Belarmino Castellanos of Whataburger, Rob Dodson of Optiv Security, Trisha Frank of Freeman, Bill Haynie of J&S Audio Visual, Chef Johnny Hernandez of Grupo La Gloria, Janet Holliday of the CE Group, Casandra Matej of Visit San Antonio, Pam Martinez of Circa Destination Management, and Davis Phillips of Phillips Entertainment.

H-E-B Public Affairs Manager Julie Bedingfield presented the school district with a $2 million check from H-E-B and the Charles Butt Charitable Foundation. The startup funds will help the school prepare the John Glenn campus to serve as a standalone CTE school and support the hiring of a principal and small team throughout the planning year.

East Central ISD Superintendent Roland Toscano called CAST Schools model “a remarkable evolution in career and technical training that bring educators and local employers together to connect students to high-wage, high-demand careers.”

“We are so excited to partner with CAST Schools as we continue to expand opportunities for our students and families,” said Superintendent Toscano. “CAST Lead will offer our students from ECISD and Bexar County an opportunity to pursue course pathways in some of the most dynamic and quickly-growing industries that are unique to San Antonio. From the hands-on learning that our students will experience inside and outside the classroom to the connection to industry mentors through job shadowing and internship opportunities, we firmly believe that CAST Lead will be a huge benefit to East Central ISD and the San Antonio area.”

Retail leadership will allow students to explore the world of retail management through product development, customer intercepts, package engineering and organizational development. Hospitality and tourism will span four segments of industry: food and beverage, travel and tourism, lodging, and recreation. This sector generates over $14 billion dollars annually in San Antonio.

Students will have the opportunity to explore travel and tourism through the lens of culinary arts, hotel management, travel, and hospitality services. E-commerce students will learn how to lead and adapt to changes in the sector, explore marketing trends through social media and the Internet, as well as study user interface and user experience. It is thought to be the first e-commerce course pathway in the state.

All three pathways will culminate in a practicum experience with local employers, giving students the ability to apply their knowledge and skills in a real-world environment.

“San Antonio has such a strong hospitality and visitor industry that will be elevated by the game-changing CAST Lead school,” said Janet Holliday, President and CEO of the CE Group. “This innovative new program will provide a critical path and excellent pipeline for both students and future employers based on solid best practices and targeted training.”

CAST Lead will accept up to 150 students its first year and will be located at the John Glenn campus, located at 7284 Farm Road 1628. An industry advisory board established this summer will work with school leaders to create the course pathways and map out ways to connect students with internship and job shadowing opportunities.

“The necessary skill sets for the San Antonio hospitality, travel and tourism industry continue to evolve and the needs have changed over the last ten years,” said Casandra Matej, President and CEO of Visit San Antonio. “Today’s industry leaders require a diverse set of skills that include business acumen, marketing, and in some roles, government relations. Therefore, I am excited that CAST Lead will provide students with a strong foundation, as we continue to grow our city and attract new visitors.”

The Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) is a network of tuition-free, public schools preparing students for college and career through experiential learning. CAST schools offer a combination of blended learning, project-based learning, and work-based learning, freeing teachers to act as coaches and guides, with class time structured around research, labs, and offsite experiences in the workplace and local community.

In addition to the new school, the network announced the hiring of Jeanne Russell as executive director and Carol Mendenhall as director of program design and professional development.

Russell, a local education consultant and small business owner, has played a leadership role in citywide education initiatives including café college, Pre-K 4 SA, Upgrade, and SA Works. Russell has played an integral role in the opening of each CAST school, working to forge partnerships between school districts, institutions of higher education and industry leaders. Mendenhall has more than 40 years of experience in school leadership and principal coaching in school districts, with a focus on equity. She most recently served on the Trinity University team that responsible for helping to open the Advanced Learning Academy, a pre-K through 12 school within San Antonio ISD.

Open to all Bexar County students, the network includes high schools CAST Tech, CAST STEM and CAST Med, opening in August 2019, and the Advanced Learning Academy. Founded by Charles Butt and H-E-B in partnership with area industries, CAST schools aim to graduate students with marketable skills by exposing them to careers that match their interest and fortify them with transferable college credits to jumpstart their higher education goals.

All career-focused high schools partner with industry and higher education partners in the design of its pathways and course offerings. Higher education partners include Palo Alto College, San Antonio College, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, the University of the Incarnate Word and UT Health.

For more information about CAST Schools, please visit


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