by Ann Fowler
Oak Hill resident Robert Schneider, who represented Southwest Austin on the Austin Independent School District (AISD) Board of Trustees, died Tuesday morning surrounded by his family. He was 62.
“Trustee Schneider was a tireless champion of public schools and a stalwart advocate for the community he served. His commitment to a superior education for all was inspired by his devotion to his own children and their education. He will be greatly missed. We extend our sympathies and support to his wife Kathleen, their children and all of Robert’s family,” said AISD Board President Gina Hinojosa.
Schneider was formerly employed at the University of Texas at Austin, largely doing research and departmental work. He retired after 30 years.
First elected to the AISD Board of Trustees in 2002, with 13 years as the District 7 Trustee, Schneider was the longest tenured of the current board.
Kiker Elementary School principal Dr. Lori Schneider told the Gazette, “Long-time District 7 Trustee Robert Schneider has not only been a force for Kiker Elementary and District 7, but for the Austin Independent School District as a whole. We extend our deepest sympathy in concert with our greatest gratitude to his family, for sharing Robert Schneider’s time and energy representing the interests and well being of the Kiker and AISD family.”
On the board, Schneider served as chair of the Board Intergovernmental Relations Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee for Policy and Process Review for Site-Based Decision-Making. In 2013, he was elected to represent AISD as a member of the Board of Directors of the Texas Association of School Boards.
Nan Clayton Elementary School principal Dr. Dru Robinett said, “Our Clayton Elementary family is so saddened to hear of Mr. Schneider’s passing. He was a tireless and dedicated servant to the southwest Austin community for many years, and he has been responsive and supportive of our students and families since before Clayton opened in 2006. I especially appreciated Robert’s guidance, support and leadership prior to and during our opening year and later during the challenges we promptly faced with overcrowding before the designation and opening of an additional southwest campus at Baldwin Elementary.”
Dr. Robinette added, “He knew how to navigate the tremendous development and growth in our area and remain attuned to the community’s interest in providing high quality learning environments for the schoolchildren of southwest Austin. Robert’s detailed and important questions always aligned with his dedicated focus on the success of all of our students. We will greatly miss him and send our sincere condolences to his family.”
Schneider fought tirelessly to make sure the needs and concerns of Oak Hill and southwest Austin were represented on the Board.
Nan Clayton, the namesake of Clayton Elementary, is well acquainted with the AISD Board of Trustees, having served on it for 14 years. Upon hearing of the loss of Schneider, she told the Gazette, “Robert was very deeply concerned about education at the state level. As a representative of the AISD Board to the Texas Association of School Boards, he followed the legislature on funding, regulations, testing and other areas of interest to schools districts over the 13 years of his service.”
Clayton added, “He was a strong advocate for new schools to address the Oak Hill growth and overcrowding. Our new elementary schools are a tribute to his efforts and successes in representing us.”
Schneider was active in the community, serving on neighborhood, environmental and school committees and task forces. He promoted academic achievement and studied models of board governance. He attended any and every local meeting that had education on the agenda.
Amy Taylor, principal of Small Middle School, told the Gazette, “Robert Schneider was a devoted board member and a loyal contributor to the Austin community. Through his support during a transitional period, he helped Small Middle School obtain approval to become the Small Green Tech Academy. He was an advocate of quality programming and believed in educating the whole child. My heart goes out to his family and friends during this difficult time. I will always be thankful for his dedication, support and wisdom. It was an honor knowing him. What a significant difference he made in the lives of so many.”
Karon Rilling, who retired as principal of Covington Middle School after 30 years in education, said, “District 7 has sadly lost an admirable warrior for the children of AISD. There is no replacing his 13 years of experience. Words are inadequate to thank his family for his devoted contributions to our community. As a principal, I knew he listened, walked alone sometimes as a dissenting Trustee, and sought to serve intelligently and well. My heartfelt condolences go to his family.”
Schneider never worried about casting a dissenting vote when warranted. He always took the time to answer the questions of local reporters, even exchanging emails late in the night after board meetings when deadlines were at hand.
“AISD students and families were served well by Trustee Schneider’s vision and passion. Our school community has lost a great leader,” said AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz.
James Bowie High School principal Stephen Kane told the Gazette, “The Bowie High School Family is saddened by the loss of our School Board member, Robert Schneider. He will truly be missed and we appreciated all he did for our young people. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
Schneider is survived by his wife, Kathleen, and four children, all of whom graduated from AISD schools.