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Mattson named as new director for RESP

The Roughrider Education Services Program is making significant changes as it heads into the 2014-2015 school year.

After a somewhat uncertain past few months without an official director, the organization adopted a new governance structure and welcomed its new director, Riley Mattson, at Wednesday’s board meeting. The South Heart Public School superintendent was named to the position in April at the previous board meeting. He will take over from interim director Maurice Hardy, who has overseen the organization since the previous director resigned in October. Mattson will assume his duties as director on July 1, once his contract with South Heart is finished.

Without a director, RESP had been under probation by FHI 360, the organization that awards RESP its Succeed 2020 grant. FHI 360 has now lifted the ban, substitute director Tom Conlon said at the meeting, calling the decision “really good news for us.”

“We are set to go with them,” Conlon said. “The only thing they’re looking at us to do now is to critique our work plans a little better.”

Conlon is the director for the Missouri River Educational Cooperative and has been assisting RESP with its transition. Administrative board chair Bill Gion said the organization had “unique challenges” during the probation.

Now that the probation has been lifted, the organization is looking forward to some changes in the coming year, which it will kick off at its August meeting.

Work plans for the upcoming school year are still being tweaked, but major changes include a more streamlined governance, updated programming and a new structure for membership fees.

Member schools have asked the RESP for changes in governance, Mattson said.

“All three areas are something we think will bring the program to where we want to see it in the future,” he said.

Under the streamlined governance plan, the program will be divided into four sections of a few similarly-sized schools each; each section will elect one school board member and one administrator to represent it. The organization will meet as many as 10 times throughout the next year.

The RESP has also hired a professional development specialist to carry out its new initiatives.

Sarah McFadden, a Killdeer junior high tech and math teacher, will get out to schools more individually, Mattson said.

“We’re looking to go out to schools more directly, touching them more directly in what they want,” he said.

The RESP’s success now could determine its future after there is no more money available from Succeed 2020.

Directors from the eight Rural Education Association groups are set to meet later this year with a Succeed 2020 steering committee to discuss what schools will do when the program comes to an end.

If REA programs can show what impacts they’ve made using Succeed 2020 money, legislators might consider continuing the program, Conlon said.

“I’m really happy we’re starting to look now,” he said. “We’ve got to make some plans now to sustain the good things we want to sustain.”