Schad, who is currently the CIO at Houston Independent School District (HISD) - the nation’s seventh-largest school district - has been in the technology field for 25 years. His career has allowed him to establish a very successful leadership and management track record. For the past 11 years, Schad has been deeply involved in the digital transformation of his city’s school system - an effort he considers to be less about incorporating devices and more about changing the way teaching and learning happens in classrooms. A veteran CIO from the oil and gas industry who now pours his passion for technology into education, Schad brought to his second career many of the practices and innovations of the private sector.
That forward-looking attitude has served him well through BYOD and 1:1 implementations - and Schad says he’s noticed a real groundswell in such endeavors.
“When digital conversions were relatively new, we had to invent the wheel as we went along,” he says. “It’s been really exciting over the past two to three years to see the momentum picking up, making this just part of the way we educate our kids now.”
Schad’s successes have enabled him to offer the benefit of his experience to other school districts hoping to implement their own technology initiatives. The “lessons learned” shared by other school districts eventually took the form of a book Schad authored, called “Bring Your Own Learning.”
“It documents what we’ve done in our implementations, what worked well, what didn’t,” he says. “The whole reason I wrote the book was so people would have a starting point and wouldn’t have to make the same mistakes I did.”
Schad’s epiphany around technology in the classroom came from watching his own children’s enthusiastic use of devices. “It was a critical way to interact,” he says. “I thought, we’ve struggled as an education system with engagement - trying to get students excited about learning. If we were to bring in the tools they use in the outside world, we stand a good chance of changing the landscape.”
In a stroke of innovation, Schad and his team rolled out mobile phones to fifth graders on different campuses and saw remarkable results, fueling the fire to deploy the BYOD and 1:1 initiatives that followed.
Schad felt strongly that for such initiatives to succeed, they first had to educate parents - most of whom were used to traditional instruction methods. He says, “Even in the households that had technology, parents didn’t understand the relevance it had for their kids’ lives. It didn’t matter the demographic - I felt the ‘digital divide’ would continue to get bigger. I wanted parents to know these weren’t toys, they were important tools for the way their kids were going to live and operate the rest of their lives.”
The “changed landscape” Schad had envisioned has come to pass. For peers wanting to conduct their own digital transformation, he advises, “Remember that this isn’t a technology initiative - it’s a district initiative made up of many departments and led by the superintendent, all of whom have a definite role to play in making this a success.”
He adds, “It’s our job to figure out how we can enable technology to make people’s lives better and easier, with better results. It’s one of the things I love about technology - we have the ability to make such a positive impact.”
Due to Schad’s leadership and innovative vision for education, he has been honored with multiple awards from the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) and the CIO Leadership Forum.
Schad is a recognized leader whose innovative and process-oriented management styles has led to highly effective IT efforts, which can be seen in his initiatives at HISD.