Meet the MSSA Board and Staff

Rural Teachers of the Year, National Rural Hall of Fame Montana.


MSSA Frontier Schools 


Greetings and thanks for taking a look at the Montana Small Schools Alliance website.  It holds a wealth of resources for members and non-members alike.  The links at the top of the page are the means to navigate the site.  Members have a password for the "Consortium Members" page. Look around and do not hesitate to contact our office or myself with any questions or desire to know more about our programs.

  • Executive Director, Dan Rask's Schedule: Monday through Friday.  Please use email ( or (221-6303) if I am not at the office, which is generally Wednesdays.

  • Office Manager, Linda Sunderlin's Schedule:  Monday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Linda's email address is



DIRECTOR'S REPORT - May 26, 2020.


We have added a page dedicated to COVID - 19 information for schools.  All information related to school closure, online learning and safety recommendations are located there and updated regularly.




In an abrupt and arbitrary move, the United States Department of Education issued an opinion that an alternative method to determine poverty in the "Rural Low Income School" (RLIS) program would no longer going to be allowed.  That method included using "Free and Reduced Lunch" counts over outdated 2010 census data.  The alternative method has been used by states across the nation for seventeen years, yet an internal USDOE attorney determined it inappropriate, and that legal decision became the basis for implementation by Secretary DeVos.  For Montana it meant that of the 330 districts that previously qualified, only 116 would remain eligible.  A four hundred thousand dollar cut to our most needy students in the state.  Districts will still be able to use the alternative method in the (RLIS) "Rural Low Income School" program to determine the best grant for their school district.  That calculation will continue to be from free and reduced lunch counts versus the 2010 census data to determine the poverty percentage within each particular district.  It will remain that way for one year. 


The NREAC will work towards a permanent solution via legislation over this next year.  Stay tuned and feel free to thank Senator Tester's education liason, Katie Rubinger who took the ball for us and swiftly had Senator Tester get behind this effort.   Her contact information, a spreadsheet of how each state would have been affected, the Senator's letter and the Secretary's reversal are located on this website on the "MREP/NREA/NREAC" page.


The Updated Rural Policy Manual was approved and is now located in the 'Consortium" section of the website.  A summary of the 16 policies either revised or new are located there also.  Revisions or new policies are in RED for one year.  If a policy has a red "R" it is required by law.  The indexes have been updated to include the new policies and revisions. 

What We Do


MSSA Professional Development, Curriculum and Policy Consortium
The Montana Small Schools Professional Development and Curriculum Consortium is one of the major programs of the Alliance. Starting in 1996, the Alliance has provided more than eight hundred day-long workshops to multi-grade school districts and small K-12 districts helping them create curriculum, instruction, and assessments, to meet state and federal standards. Each year the consortium has grown to serve more school districts. In 2018 the consortium is serving over 140 school districts throughout Montana in various programs.  The MSSA developed a team of member teachers that continually aligns MSSA curriculum to the Montana Content Standards in all disciplines.  The member section holds full K-12 curriculum, completely aligned.  The Rural Schools Policy Manual is also included in consortium membership.  Language for REAP and Title II grants are additional features of Consortium membership.


MSSA Standards Program
In response to a change in policy by the Montana Board of Public Education regarding the accreditation standards for guidance and libraries, MSSA offers a program for districts with under 126 students enrolled.  If a school district meets the ANB requirement, joins and complies with the MSSA program, they will be fully accredited in either or both disciplines.  MSSA contracts approved, accredited specialists who provide an annual workshop and regular consultation either by email or directly. Those specialists are listed in the "Standards Members" page.  Districts are required to have a certified instructor as the contact person.  That individual need not have the certifications in guidance or library but must be a certified instructor meeting the qualifications outlined by OPI.


MSSA-MAP Testing Program
Knowing how difficult and expensive it is for small school districts to create a student growth model assessment system, we have teamed up with the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) of Portland, Oregon to offer school districts, with a student body of less than 200 students, special rates to use NWEA’s well-known Measures of Academic Progress (MAP).  Assessments may be given up to four times in a school year (fall, winter, spring and summer).  These assessments are individualized to the student and reflect Montana’s standards and can help predict SBAC scores.  They are available in language, reading and mathematics for grades 2-12.  There is also a Kindergarten, grade 1 and English Language Learner assessment in the three areas provided orally through a computer.  In addition, there is a science assessment for grades 3–12.  Teachers will receive results back the next day.  Join now to help all your students meet the state achievement levels.    

MSSA and MREA under the partnership of the Montana Rural Education Partnership (MREP) is the unified state affiliate of the National Rural Education Association. Montana students have taken top honors in the NREA Student Essay Contests. Montana Teachers have received NREA mini-grants. A Montana Rural Teacher of the Year has been awarded National Rural Teacher of the Year honors and others have been finalists. MSSA teachers, board members and the Executive Director serve on national executive committees.  The Executive Director serves on the National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium and has been instrumental in maintaining the REAP grants as they currently are administered.

MSSA offers graduate classes annually with our Alliance partner, the College of Education, Health and Human Development, Montana State University-Bozeman.  Instructors who attend at least three seminars during the year and complete a project over the topics presented at those seminars, receive one graduate credit from MSU-Bozeman College of Continuing Education upon successful completion.  This course is a second semester course and enrollment is generally from January until March of each year.



MSSA annually compiles a survey of participating schools regarding tax value, base, budgeting and a host of other district financial data to assist rural schools in determining where they may lie with regard to other districts across the state financially. Districts submit their data to our office and we in turn compile and sort the data before returning it to each participating district. Other districts may request a copy of the compiled data for a small fee.  All copies are archived in the "Research" page of our website.



MSSA assists member district in both attaining and maintaining the Rural Education Achievement Program as well as the Title IIA portion the ESEA grant process.  Acceptable language for both are provided as a member of our consortium.  Language to use for the Title IIA application and final report is located on the "Consortium Members" page.




Cathy Maloney

Butte/Silver Bow County Superintendent of Schools, MACSS President, MSSA Board.