MSSA Board and Staff

Rural Teachers of the Year,

NREA Hall of Fame 

MSSA Frontier Schools 


Greetings and thanks for taking a look at the Montana Small Schools Alliance website.  It holds a wealth of resources.  The links at the top of the page are the means to navigate the site.  Members have a password for the "Consortium" page. Double click the above sets of  pictures to expand and read.  Look around and do not hesitate to contact us 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 Tuesday.

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






Jan Cahill, current MTSBA representative to the MSSA Board, has been selected to succeed Dan Rask, as Executive Director of the Montana Small Schools Alliance, effective July 1, 2021. Mr. Cahill brings to the position, a wealthy background of experience, knowledge and expertise regarding rural schools in Montana. Many of the districts that Jan has served are MSSA members. His tenure on the MSSA Board over the past three years gives him a head start on the business of the MSSA and NREA.

Jan’s previous background in education includes:
Vaughn Public Schools Superintendent: 2015 - Present
Arrowhead Schools Superintendent (Interim): 2013 - 2015
Denton Public Schools Superintendent (Interim): 2011 - 2013
MACDS Executive Director: 2009 - 2011


Erin Lipkind will become the consultant for the Library/Media Standards Program July 1, 2021. Erin brings an excellent background in Library/Media. Erin also is quite experienced in delivering online coursework, which will be quite valuable for the MSSA. She will succeed Mike Schulz, who retires from the position June 30, 2021. Congratulations and welcome aboard Erin.
Dan Rask will remain as the consultant for the Standards Counseling Program. Having no applicants to review, Dan, in the interest of moving forward, agreed to serve again for the 2021-2022 school year.


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 2020 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.  The MSSA currently has 92 members for library and 102 members for counseling.


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.  The MSSA has 74 members using the MAP testing program.  

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.




Joni Carroll - Cohagen Elementary, Garfield County, Montana

2020 National Rural Teacher of the Year