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RESP working to hire admin, add members

Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand Tom Conlon, RESP substitute director and MREC executive director, leads a governing board meeting Wednesday afternoon at the DSU Student Center in Dickinson.

Southwest North Dakota’s Roughrider Education Services Program is working hard to get back on track after former executive director Amy Axtman resigned last autumn.

At a regular meeting Wednesday afternoon at the Dickinson State University Student Center, RESP’s Governing and Administrative Board approved measures to help keep membership in the regional education association enticing to local schools, including increasing services and decreasing dues.

The governing board at its last meeting approved the hiring of Tom Conlon, part-time executive director of the Bismarck-based Missouri River Education Cooperative, as the substitute direct while keeping Maurice Hardy of Beach as its interim executive director. Duties have been divided between the two while RESP searches for an executive director.

“When I first started, I called out here often,” Conlon said. “This was kind of a lighthouse for REAs. Because of the success you had, the Legislature decided that they would want copy this, emulate this across the state.”

Regional education associations are groups of geographically similar schools that can share professional development and student services. RESP serves southwest North Dakota and MREC serves the south central part of the state.

One of the options previously discussed was possibly merging with the MREC, and a committee was formed comprised of members of both organizations. In the committee’s report presented Wednesday, it suggested that the two organizations do not combine but continue to work collaboratively and decided that no more discussion take place for another year. The committee also suggested RESP look to increase its services and change its bylaws to streamline its governance.

“They thought that we could build on the present services — that we don’t have as many services we would like to have for our member schools,” Conlon said.

Dues have been set at $1,000 per school plus $200 for each full-time equivalent teacher. Conlon suggested that, since the organization’s budget could handle it, it should suspend the full-time equivalent part of the dues for the coming membership year.

“The thought is that we don’t have as many services as we’d like to have and yet our dues and memberships are higher than we’d like them to be,” Conlon said.

The motion was passed unanimously, as well as a motion to push the membership deadline to April 15.

“We have a couple of really big key (programs) coming in March,” Hardy said. “I’d like to have that behind us before they make a decision.”

Conlon and Hardy will stay in their temporary positions until June or until a new executive director is hired, whichever comes first. The board discussed the job description and some options to fill the position.

While they would like to have someone with an education background, an administrator’s license should not be required, Hardy said.

“I don’t want to overlook a powerful person that may not have their administrator’s license yet,” Hardy said. “Give that hiring committee some latitude.”

The group also discussed changing the requirements of the administrator and possibly splitting it into two positions, one full time and one part or even two part-time positions, like Conlon’s with MREC.

RESP was placed on probation by FHI 360 — the organization in charge of the Succeed 2020 Grant, a five-year program that helps provide services for students — after losing its executive director. The probation was set to continue through the end of March, but has been extended until June because RESP has been complying well with the requirements of the probation.

“It was either extend the probation or pull the plug,” board chairman Bill Gion said. “Well they didn’t pull the plug. They said, ‘You’re headed in the right direction, you’re making an honest effort.’”

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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