Mark Booth: Empowering Noblesville Students and the Community
Writer / Kara Reibel
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
As Director of Student Services for Noblesville Schools, Mark Booth is creating authentic opportunities for special needs students in the community.
Fostering independence and empowering students is what Mark Booth is all about. “We need to give students with special needs those experiences that normally wouldn’t be a part of their curriculum,” shares Booth, who has over 25 years of experience with 12 of those years at Noblesville Schools.
Booth is head of the College and Career Support Services. This title is a major shift away from “Special Education Department.” “The trend is to improve the semantics instead of naming it after the disability,” shares Booth. “It’s the end game that is important.”
Preparedness starts as early as preschool, these crucial early phases of encouraging “table ready” children with focused attention. This begins with increments of five, 10 and 15 minutes of helping children at early stages of growth and development.
“If that doesn’t happen at that early age, then it doesn’t carry forward,” says Booth. The focus is on abilities, not disabilities. And with the trickle down effect, the shift is having maximum impact.
Booth has established his place as a trailblazer for students with special needs early on with the national attention-receiving Autism House that he created. This is the ultimate classroom where educators go for training with respect to children with autism. Many districts statewide and nationally have toured it in hopes of replication.
“Simple things like writing the page number on the board for students so that everyone in the classroom knows where the instructor is during the lesson helps a great deal,” shares Booth, providing one example of consideration for all students, not just those with autism. “Things that perhaps weren’t considered before but would make a positive impact in the classroom are what we strive to incorporate. These details, when added into the teaching model, are good for all kids.”
Noblesville Schools have witnessed growth from moving out of self-contained learning practices where all the kids were in one room to kids being out in the school and experiencing inclusion in general education classrooms. “This gives real life learning experiences for ALL students, not just the ones with special needs,” states Booth.
This experiential model has cascaded outside the school walls, initiating Project Work. Currently, Noblesville students with special needs have options of having internships at three main sites around Noblesville. Janus, Riverview Health and Agape all have staff on site from Noblesville High School at these locations. There are many other businesses and government locations that are participating as well.
“It has been a privilege to work in partnership with Noblesville Schools on our Project Work sessions. Through this partnership, we’ve found wonderful special needs students to fill some of our important, meaningful positions,” says Pat Fox, President and CEO of Riverview Health. “The students’ joy and dedication to their jobs has been enriching for our staff and has allowed us to be better employees and a better employer.”
“We are fostering independence and getting the kids ready to know how to function in real life jobs outside of their home and school,” says Booth.
In addition to his work inside the district, Booth served on the Board for Special Olympics for Indiana and reached out to the IHSAA for an end result of having special needs athletes competing through Unified Track and Field, which is an IHSAA-sanctioned sport. Noblesville High School finished fourth in the state two years ago, out of almost 200 school districts.
Currently, Booth is working on kindergarten through eighth grade young champions as Noblesville hosts the first event May 13 at the NHS stadium. This is held the day after the “Transition Fair” May 12 at NHS.
Booth is President-Elect of the Indiana Council of Administrators of Special Education (ICASE). During his three-year term which begins next year, Booth will represent Indiana special education administrators on both state and federal levels.
ICASE provides leadership and support on special education issues in Indiana by shaping policies and practices which impact the quality of educational experiences for students. With his position as a state leader, Booth will represent Indiana in Washington, D.C., and other conferences.
“Fostering independence is what we are striving for. We are consistently asking how we can do more to help,” shares Booth who worked tirelessly to create opportunities for students with special needs through work, performing arts and athletics.
Please visit noblesvilleschools.org for more information.