A resilient workforce is the cornerstone of the local economy, and ensuring that the educational foundation of your workforce is sound is key to providing the best economic opportunities to the citizens of Kilgore and beyond. Though Kilgore College and Kilgore ISD are most visible to the local community, Region 7 Education Service Center (ESC) works in the background to ensure that all students and school districts in East Texas have the tools they need to succeed. From their beautiful campus on Longview Street in Kilgore, Region 7 ESC provides educational services to 95 school districts and seven charter schools across its 17-county service area.
Region 7 ESC’s mission is to assist their member school districts in providing the best possible educational opportunities for their students. Totaling over 300 employees, 225 of those have offices on the Kilgore campus. Utilizing Kilgore as their home base, many members of this team spend their days traveling throughout Region 7 as they visit school districts and help the students and educators of East Texas succeed.
Region 7 ESC utilizes their numerous classrooms, conference rooms, labs and lecture halls to hosts conferences throughout the year. By bringing over 70,000 educators, administrative staff and other educational workers to the Kilgore campus for seminars, they are able to ensure that all of their member districts are utilizing the most current best practices. The center also offers training opportunities for school boards, to ensure that elected boards in all of the region’s districts are up-to-date on legal requirements and changes to law. When not in session, these professionals fill Kilgore’s restaurants and hotels, directly impacting the local economy in a meaningful way.
Compliance with state and federal level regulations is how school districts receive their funding, and the center ensures that each member school district is operating at the highest level possible. If a school district in Region 7 is found to not be in compliance, the center will step in and help the school district return to a passing grade. By ensuring that their team is made up of specialists and experts in every field, the center is well positioned to assist their member school districts in everything from math skills to welding, agriculture, plumbing and other technical fields.
“A strong education system is one of the key ingredients of a strong community,” says Todd Schneider, Executive Director of Region 7 ESC. “Instead of a metropolis, East Texas is made up of many, many small communities, and our purpose is to serve them. The core of what we’re about is growing East Texas. By supporting career and technical education programs, we help keep the local community afloat. That’s as big a priority as anything else, because it’s a priority in East Texas.”
Todd Schneider has been the Executive Director for nearly 3 years, joining the team in September of 2020. He brings with him decades of experience and success in the world of education. Having spent the majority of his career in Texas, Schneider is committed to leading the center as an efficient and effective organization.
75 employees are permanently stationed in the field, supporting local Head Start programs. These early learning programs throughout East Texas managed by the center ensure that economically disadvantaged students from three to five years old have adequate access to medical care and social programs. Ensuring a strong foundation gives young students the best possible shot at educational and professional success.
As the landscape of education continues to change, Region 7 ESC works tirelessly to stay ahead of the curve. Access to a reliable internet connection and training to facilitate distance learning are areas where many smaller school districts struggle.
“The small districts don’t have the staff, the finances or the ability to organize a strategy around all of the newest and latest things that have to be done,” said Schneider. “One of my employees can train 10 different districts on digital learning and how to incorporate it into the classroom. Those sort of shared services run through us.”
While the center is a government organization, it is not a taxing entity. Like all of the state ESCs, Region 7 generates their funding through state and federal grants, as well as selling products and services to its member school districts. Services like software systems used to track student data, marketing and graphic design, administrative support and a full-service print shop allow the center to support their school districts while simultaneously generating revenue for their operating expenses. Economically challenged school districts can stretch their dollars even further by utilizing these services, as ESCs are required by law to offer their services at a lower rate than vendors.
The hardworking team at Region 7 ESC is committed to providing every possible opportunity for the schools and students in their care to succeed. To learn more about Region 7 ESC and the services they offer to the education community, please visit them on the web at www.esc7.net.