A select group of Westfield High School juniors and seniors enrolled in business pathways had the opportunity on Thursday to get an in-depth lesson on the bond-buying process related to Spring ISD’s 2022 Bond program.
Representatives from Post Oak Municipal Advisors, the district’s financial advisory firm, along with underwriters from investment banking and financial services firm Siebert Williams Shank & Co. were on hand at the Westfield campus to lead an interactive learning experience.
Spring ISD Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks welcomed the students, introducing them to the guest presenters and to members of Spring ISD’s own finance team, whose work is vital to the daily operation of the district and its schools.
“I’ve heard that pretty much everyone in this class is on the business pathway,” Westbrooks said, “so I consider you my people. Business is our world, that’s what we do.”
For the students enrolled in business management courses that are part of the district’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) offerings, the event provided a window into the complex world of bond issuance and municipal finance, while also giving them a glimpse into potential careers in finance and accounting.
“You have an amazing opportunity today, an amazing learning opportunity,” Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa told students at the start of the presentation, encouraging them to ask questions and envision themselves in some of the same roles and careers as their guest presenters, who represented a diverse group of business and finance professionals from a range of backgrounds.
Senior Managing Director Keith Richard and Vice President Oscar Ortiz – both with Siebert Williams Shank – together facilitated an in-depth presentation giving students a broad understanding of the bond market and the field of public finance. Students also learned about the sale of the first $300 million worth of bonds from Spring ISD’s 2022 Bond measure, which will support projects approved by area voters in the November 2022 election, beginning right away with one of Spring ISD’s highest priorities – the improved safety and security of students, staff and district facilities.
“When I was your age, this all seemed too abstract,” Ortiz told students. “I didn’t know what it meant.”
However, he encouraged them to think about their own futures, when as residents and taxpayers – and potentially as the parents of school-aged children – school bonds would take on a new sense of real-world importance.
“Whether you own a home or whether you rent, you will be a taxpayer,” Ortiz said, “so this will absolutely matter to you in your community, whether you’re in Spring or you move somewhere else.”
Over the course of the two-hour interactive presentation, students learned about the importance of credit ratings both for businesses and for individuals, explored the difference between stocks and bonds, learned how different types of bonds compare to one another and how municipal bonds differ from corporate bonds for both buyers and sellers, and even got a behind-the-scenes look at the formal selling period for the recent $300 million in bond sales conducted to begin funding the district’s 2022 Bond priorities.
The students gathered early for the special presentation, bringing a variety of questions about the topic, as well as hopes for what they might take away from the experience.
Axel Chavez, a junior who joined from another class period so he could sit in on the presentation, said that, as a hopeful future entrepreneur, he was on the lookout to see how the finance professionals in the room carried themselves, spoke, and presented.
“I want to learn how to use my communication better,” Chavez said. “I’m trying to see what they do, and I want to see what type of skills they have, like convincing and persuading. That’s what I’m looking for.”
Several presenters spoke about the importance of diversity and representation in the fields of business and finance – including welcoming more women and people from a broad range of racial and ethnic backgrounds. For Westfield junior Tianna Cosey, whose goal is to someday own a number of businesses, that message hit home.
“I want to be able to leave a legacy behind as I get older, for the next generation of my family,” Cosey said, “and there’s something about owning multiple businesses that has always been an interest of mine.”
Derek LaMothe, a CTE teacher in the business management pathway at Westfield, hosted the event in his classroom. LaMothe said his students would take away a wider perspective on the role of finance in business management.
“I think it was a great opportunity to really bring the subject home for the kids, making them understand how important finance is, but also understanding how it works with all the different firms and people involved,” LaMothe said. “I just think it was a real education for them for the future.”
Westbrooks, reflecting after the event’s close, said that offering students examples of how things they were learning in class applied in real-world situations helps them make connections that enhance their learning.
“Today was an opportunity for our students to learn from real professionals that work in the business and finance sector and see what they do on a day-to-day basis,” Westbrooks said, “and how what they do actually impacts our students, our parents, our taxpayers, the community – all of it is connected.”
The district is grateful to all the facilitators who visited Westfield and helped make the event possible:
- Terrell Palmer, President – Post Oak Municipal Advisors
- Francine Stefan, Executive Vice President – Post Oak Municipal Advisors
- Chris Parker, Vice President – Post Oak Municipal Advisors
- Keith Richard, Senior Managing Director – Siebert Williams Shank & Co.
- Oscar Ortiz, Vice President – Siebert Williams Shank & Co.
- Nicole Conley, Managing Director – Siebert Williams Shank & Co.