> TCASE President Profile, continued from page 25
With Schmidt’s help, Northside ISD has become a statewide leader in special education. “We’re in more of a co-teach, collaborative model in our school district,” he says. “That is more of the norm in the past eight to 10 years. Every classroom has a regular and a special ed teacher.” Schmidt has seen collaboration between the medical and education communities soar in recent years. “There’s a lot more research out there, from universities across the country, and it’s filtering down to the school districts,” he says. “We are working very closely with the medical side in our school districts.” So closely, in fact, that Northside ISD contracts with The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, which assigns a faculty doctor to the district as a medical consultant. “Families go to general practitioners, and doctors a lot of times don’t know what’s happening in the schools,” Schmidt says. “We can have doctor-to-doctor talk, our doctor to the family doctor.” On the educational side, the focus is on putting students in least restrictive environments (LREs). For special education students, that
means spending time in regular classes. “One of most powerful things in the classroom is a student teaching another student,” Schmidt says. “When you expose a special needs child to a regular student, a lot of times they rise to a higher level. They see those kids do it so they want to do it. They want to be successful. They’re going to learn at a higher rate.” Despite expanding partnerships with the medical community and other focused efforts, the success or failure of these initiatives almost always comes down to funding — which means, like just about every school district in Texas, Northside ISD is at the mercy of politicians in Austin. “We need to fund education,” Schmidt says, slowing down to hit every word. “If we don’t put the money in now, unfortunately, we put it into many other services later to take care of our population in prisons and so forth. Education is the best place to start.” It doesn’t help matters that the Texas Education Agency has proposed a 15 percent budget cut to Communities in Schools (CIS), which Schmidt says will adversely affect the neediest students across the state. “CIS supports our students in areas that are critical to the individual students and their families, like utilities, clothing, food and school supplies,” he says. “There are other places to
Fun Facts about Don Schmidt –
A skill I would like to master is: the continuing development of technology My favorite way to unwind is: a peaceful weekend with no obligations, no commitments, in the Texas Hill Country. I earned my first dollar by: throwing papers.
make cuts, but not to CIS.” Through his tenure in public education, including a co-chairmanship of the TCASE legislative committee, Schmidt says he has seen enough of Austin politics to have a realistically grim take on the odds of money coming in soon. He also knows that, at its heart, this is a simple problem with a simple solution. “If we appropriately fund education, then we’re going to provide a better service to Texas in the long run,” he says. FORD GUNTER is a freelance writer and filmmaker in Houston.
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Texas School Business NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016