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 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






Please review the revised agenda for our "Standards Conferences" located on the 'Conference Registration" page.  Mike and I decided that we would go one hour live online, and then the following two hours of activities can be done on your own time.  Mike will start off each day at 9 a.m. followed by myself at 10 a.m. each session.  Both of our activities can be completed and returned at your convenience.  We feel that with everything else going on this will allow some freedom for you before things really get going.  Please adjust your schedule for this change.  You will be done online with both library and counseling by 11 a.m. for the sessi0n you choose.


The virtual earning modules and the recorded sessions 1, 2 and 3 are accessible in the Consortium tab of this website.  Contact Dean Phillips if you are having trouble getting a "Canvas" student account in order to access the information. 



The Montana Small Schools Alliance will conduct their conference schedule virtually through the end of the calendar year.  We will assess the COVID - 19 situation at that time regarding the 2021 schedule.  Please check the schedule located on the "Conference Registration" page.  Participants will need to register online for all conferences.  Participants are required to have their camera on for credit at each of the virtual sessions.

Montana School Safety Advisory Committee, OPI Release Reopening Guidance

The state guidance for reopening Montana schools is located on the "COVID - 19 page of this website.  This has been a tireless effort on the part of educational agencies alongside the OPI and Governor's Office regarding such a massive undertaking.

Joni Carroll of Cohagen Elementary, Garfield County, Selected by the Montana Association of County School Superintendents as the 2019-2020 "Montana Rural Teacher of the Year".

Joni Carroll has taught at the Cohagen Elementary School since 2011 and carries 25 years of teaching experience.  Joni submitted an application and due to Covid - 19 was not able to be recognized, as the MACSS Spring Conference was cancelled.  The achievement of Joni during this pandemic only sheds more light on what our Frontier teachers do to make their students safe and successful.  Joni was nominated by Garfield County Superintendent, Heather Gibson.  In nominating Joni, Heather indicated that in a era of pessimism and criticism, parents around Cohagen share that Joni Carroll is a breath of fresh air.  Joni keeps 15 students in 7 grades actively engaged.  Her concurrent task management is unmatched in the classroom.  Joni puts together many community events which has help mold the community into a supportive, trusting, helping environment.

Joni now enters the National Rural Teacher of the Year competition as the MSSA and MREA under the name of MREP nominate her for the national award.  That award will be announced in November at the NREA Annual Conference, which is being held virtually this year due to the pandemic.  Best of luck Joni and congratulations!


The MSSA Board conducted their June meeting via Zoom technology.  It was decided to hold all conferencing for the MSSA virtuall through the end of the calendar year.  At that time the board will reassess the situation with COVID - 19 for the 2-2- -2021 schedule.  The minutes of the meeting are located here:


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.




Zurich Elementary School

Blaine County