nav-left cat-right

Executive Director’s Blog

Welcome to the NDSOS Executive Director’s blog. My name is ElRoy Burkle and I am the executive director for NDSOS. I look forward to your feedback and how NDSOS can serve you and your school. You can contact me at (701) 230-1973 or at

Thank You for your Leadership

And Service to NDSOS

Posted: November 5, 2018

Mr. Larry Zavada, Mrs. Janet Brown and Mrs. Leslie McDonald have provided their respective expertise and support to ND Small Organized Schools and have decided to allow others to serve. On behalf of the NDSOS membership, I wish to express our sincere appreication to each of them for their service.

Larry Zavada
Larry Zavada’s tenure on the NDSOS Board started 10 years ago when membership was 74 school districts. Larry is a team player who believes in collaboration and this is clearly exhibited by his efforts in negotiating with ND Center for Distance Education for a partnership that included discounted rates for NDSOS member schools. He was also instrumental in obtaining ND DPI approval for electronic deliver of Ag and approval for high school credits for Smart Lab courses. He always gives credit to others on accomplishments. A true team leader! Thank you Larry.

Leslie McDonald
Mrs. Leslie McDonald arrived on the NDSOS Board at a time of growth in memberships, value-added partnership and advertisers. She was highly supportive of endeavors promoting small rural schools. As one of the Bakken School Districts, her knowledge and experience of school growth, construction, 6-man football, and 4-day school week was always an interest to us. Thank you Leslie!

Janet Brown
Mrs. Janet Brown has worked with NDSOS since 2006 when Mr. Roger Mulvaney ‘pushed’ her to accept the treasurer’s position. Along the way, she has worked with the following NDSOS Executive Diretors; Dean Bard, Wayne Levang, Bob Tollefson, and current director – ElRoy Burkle. Her work was as treasurer was highly trusted and accurate. Thank you Janet!!

Please join me in officially welcoming to the NDSOS Board of Directors

Mr. Joel Lemer, Carrington Public School Board member. Joel currently works through Lake Region State College as an Adult Farm Management Instructor, housed at the Carrington Research Extension Center. Previous experiences include teaching Agricultural Education (Carrington and Elgin) and County Extension Agent at Foster County. Thank you Joel for serving.

Mr. Jeff Hagler, North Star Public School Superintendent, brings knowledge of effective online bus driver training to the NDSOS Board. His district enrolls almost all of their bus drivers online through Vertical Alliance and this insight will be benefical as we continue to explore other value added services. Thank you Jeff for serving.

Mr. John Gruenberg, Powers Lake Public School Superintendent, is an aspiring superintendent who will bring ideas for continued improvement. He has presented at conferences and we are glad to have his expertise. Thank you John for serving.

Best wishes to each of you for a Happy Thanksgiving and Christmas Season.
ElRoy Burkle, NDSOS Executive Dirctor

End of School Year!

Posted: May 18, 2018

NDSOS 2018-19 membership renewal is underway and our partnerships continue to grow with the recent additions of Rural Schools Collaborative (RSC) and ND Farmers Union.

North Dakota is RSC’s 10th regional hub and will focus on strengthening the bonds between school and community, rural teacher recruitment and placement, place-based education, social marketing and school-centered philanthropy. Additional information can be reviewed at Mr. Gary Funk, RSC Director is scheduled to provide membership with more detailed information at the upcoming NDCEL and NDSBA Conferences.

As the state’s largest general farm organization, North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU) believes in the sustainability of small and rural communities, and sees supporting these community schools as vital. NDFU has a long-standing tradition of offering fun and education educational opportunities for youth and has a summer camping program that attracts more than 1,000 participants each year. Mark Watne, NDFU President states, “We are proud to partner with North Dakota Small Organized Schools in their recent expansion with Rural Schools Collaborative (RSC) in their Place-Based learning opportunities for rural school students and teachers. This philosophy is in-line with one of our youth camp goals to development leadership and citizenship skills through knowledge of rural issues.” On behalf of the NDSOS Membership, we express our sincere appreciation to ND Farmers Union for this partnership opportunity!

Our existing partners have reaffirmed their continued support for NDSOS. ND Center for Distance Education, ND Safety Council, Tom Nitschke’s ‘I Am Resilient’ and INFINIT-I (formerly SafePupil) offer NDSOS members services at discounted rates. Check out our website for additional information specific to each of our partners and sponsors at

Becoming involved is an important piece in our profession. With upcoming elections, asking key questions of all candidates provides the opportunity to share concerns and grasp an understanding of candidates’ platforms. The next North Dakota Legislative Session will address many issues: education funding, school safety, mental health, innovation, for example. Involvement allows you to be heard.

I enjoy visiting museums. However, I have noticed with the passing of each year, historical museum pieces are items that were commonly used during my childhood such as rotary phones, cabooses, Pong,…the list is endless and expanding! Technology (hardware and software) has allowed for numerous unthinkable advancements in our lifetime. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is commonly used in our everyday language, advertising, and practice. The question: How is K12 education going to integrate computer science skills such as coding in existing curriculums with all the demands that exist today? The following question was asked of my generation in the 80s: How is K12 education going to integrate computer skills to prepare students for their future with budget cuts and cultural changes?

Educational challenges will always be present. Each local school district is responsible for developing a school culture that is safe and addresses the holistic academic and social needs of each student. This takes collaboration including open, honest discussions that empowers change. There is no cookie cutter as each school will make their own assessment of needs, goals, and implementation practices that includes the ability to be flexible.

Best wishes to all for a rewarding and relaxing summer!

Happy New Year’s Wishes!

Posted: January 12, 2018

Just think, in less than one year, 12 months and 365 days, the 66th Legislative Assembly will be convening. The challenges may be greater this upcoming session for elected officials as they address issues including department budgets, taxation, substance abuse, and, education. I strongly urge everyone to keep abreast of ND Interim Committees’ meetings and subsequent actions during 2018 as possible bill drafts are discussed and finalized. The ND Education Policy and Funding Committees have challenging tasks, respectively, as they were charged with researching and determining what legislative changes may be appropriate. Keeping informed via reading committee meeting minutes is just as critical as visiting with leaders from various professional organizations and local House and Senate members. Your involvement in the process is vital.

The Innovation Education Task Force has met a couple of times this past year and Governor Burgum has met with various schools and communities in addition to these meetings. The support from both his office and Superintendent Baesler’s (ND DPI) Office is commended as North Dakota’s state-wide leadership creates an atmosphere, including support, of educational transformation. Dr. Cory Steiner’s, Northern Cass Superintendent, recent interview on @TheCuttingEd podcast was informative and I suggest all to take the time to listen to what he shared. Points of interest included the importance of the local planning process, inclusion of all players, communication, vision, continued monitoring and revisions, while keeping student focus that includes accountability.

A topic point that stood out in my mind while listening to Dr. Steiner’s conversation was informational sharing. This was reaffirmed in my recent conversation with Representative Cynthia Schreiber-Beck when asked how much innovation is happening at our schools. We both agreed that there is innovation occurring and that this needs to be promoted and marketed. With that said, I urge all to consider sharing on #innovateND (notice lower case ‘I’) in addition to favorite Twitter accounts. I believe that a personal email to Representative Schreiber-Beck would be welcomed – suggest topic line ‘Innovation in ND Schools.’ Obviously, informing other elected officials is important also. Personally, I enjoy viewing online the happenings at North Dakota schools.

On a personal note, my mother will be turning 95 this January. Imagine all that she has seen and experienced in her long life. She is a cancer survivor, depression-era teenager, child/grandchild of German-Russian immigrants, one-room country school graduate, self-sufficient, recently stopped driving her car, and above all other accomplishes – she is my mom. My parents strongly believed in education as a road to a better life. I recall several conversations about her childhood school days and thought some topics may be of interest to readers. One was blizzards.

North Dakota winters can be brutal and unforgiving. Weather related decisions are gut wrenching at best. I asked my mom how they dealt with white-out or limited visibility situations. My understanding is they were taught to use fence lines; not sliding your hand on the barb wired fence but hand over hand to reduce the possibility of cuts. It appears they were fortunate as I assume there was a fence line located by the school house that lead to their farm. If they were lucky, the ‘boys’ would be allowed to take the horse and buggy to school. (Remember this was the late 20s. A one car family at best.) During stormy conditions, release the reins and the horse would know the way home (horse sense). How did they stay warm? Hot irons wrapped in towels.

Best wishes to each of you for a great 2018!

2017-2018 Back-To-School Blog

Posted: August 28, 2017

NDSOS gained seven new members this year – Devils Lake, Manning, Hettinger, New England, Turtle Mountain Community Schools, Oakes, and White Shield Public Schools. NDSOS now represents 145 ND public school districts. Thank you! Please take advantage of membership benefits through services provided by ND Center for Distance Education, ND Safety Council, SafePupil (Vertical Alliance), or Tom Nitschke’s ‘I Am Resilient’ mental health/suicide prevention professional development.

The Education Funding and Education Policy Interim committees are in place. Meeting notices, agendas and meeting minutes are posted on the website (URLs provided below). This provides you with the opportunity to provide committee members with data, concerns, and ideas. Committee work establishes a framework for the upcoming session. From personal experience at the 65th Legislative Session, I can attest legislators do listen to data that is clear and relevant. Mr. Brandt Dick and I plan to attend as many of these committee meetings as possible to listen and share data with committee members at the appropriate times. I would suspect that transportation may be discussed at some point. If this occurs, NDSOS members will be informed.

I realize the financial challenges that North Dakota school districts are facing these next two school years with flat state funding, enrollment fluctuations, tax valuation decreases and the economy. However, the passage of the Innovation Bill allows for grass root creativity by individual school districts to improve the delivery of education; improve the administration of education; provide increased educational opportunities for students; or improves academic success of students. For years administrators shared their frustration with state policies that limit change or practices. Districts are now free to develop and submit an innovation plan to ND DPI for approval to implement locally defined innovation practices addressing their unique needs and vision. This is a golden opportunity for local schools. Yes, there is innovation currently happening in schools such as SMART Labs, mobile meat processing labs, assessment approaches, etc. However, this provides a potential for non-traditional approaches to be explored and fully implemented – with success! I look forward to seeing what innovative ideas are developed.

The transparency that is available today provides individuals with immediate access. On example is ND DPI’s sharing of North Dakota’s ESSA Plan and other pertinent information specific to this plan ( I wish to compliment all the stakeholders on their efforts in drafting this plan in addition to addressing the issues voiced by the Department of Education. The choice ready model is a welcomed change, in my opinion, in addition to utilizing various assessment methods. Again, this has the potential for far reaching positive changes in the education process.

I recently watched the documentary ‘The Cars that Made America’ (History Channel). The word ‘innovation’ was used extensively throughout the entire documentary as car companies attempted to meet/respond to consumers’ wants and needs. I realize our students arrive with a predetermined set of skills and attributes and this clearly separates education from industry. However, there are some parallels such as not resting on laurels, be visionary, research, and marketing that we can apply in our efforts to meet the unique and individual needs of our students. Through challenges comes opportunities!

Best wishes to each of you, your staff, and students for a rewarding and successful school year.

Mr. ElRoy Burkle,
NDSOS Executive Director


Spring 2017 Comments

Posted: May 16, 2017

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” Henry Ford provided us with many quotes that are still applicable today. North Dakota’s student population landscape is ever changing with some districts gaining students, others losing students, and the remainder of schools experiencing stable enrollments. Quality education that provides students with the knowledge and skills to be successful both personally and professionally remains as our primary goal.

The current economic environment has indeed created frustration and increased stress for K12 school administrators, staff and patrons. Unlike other North Dakota agencies, K12 education per pupil payments remained at $9,646 (HB 1324 and HB 1013) for the next two years. The transfer from the ND Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund allowed for this to occur. Otherwise, well…we know the answer.

“Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford. Several legislative bills that passed (HB 1013 and HB 1318, for example) include language for interim committee studies specific to the K12 education; including the funding formula, delivery of services by educational agencies, and property tax for example. After the interim committee members are finalized, the respective committee schedules can be located at Meeting agendas and minutes will be posted for your review. Individual schedules and distance may not allow for people to attend these hearings. However, review of the minutes and providing input is very important. Informing board members, teachers, and patrons of this website maybe beneficial as a method for them to keep informed.

“Vision without execution is just hallucination.” – Henry Ford. SB 2186, commonly referred to as the Innovation Bill, provides local school leaders with the opportunity to implement a vision that is specific to their local surroundings using techniques outside the box of traditional North Dakota rules and regulations. More information will be forthcoming from ND DPI. Combine this bill with North Dakota’s ESSA plan using the student growth model to measures student success could lead to some fruitful results. Ford said it best, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Oh… so I yearn for the good old days when teachers could teach in their minor fields! HB 1098 is better than what was in place decades ago prior to NCLB, in my opinion. This could generate a greater enthusiasm for some educators, while increasing student achievement. A true win-win scenario. “The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.” – Henry Ford.

REAs, special education units, sports coops, high-tech consortiums, ITV, online and dual credit courses, AP course, etc. were all formed during times of declining enrollments, economic hardships, and increased government regulations. These examples are considered a strong part of the today’s educational landscape in North Dakota. I look forward to seeing what this generation of educational leaders will dream, design, and develop into practice. “You say I started out with practically nothing, but that isn’t correct. We all start with all there is, it’s how we use it that makes things possible.” – Henry Ford.

I just highlighted some of the bills that were passed during the 65th Legislative Session. Please continue to monitor updates from NDCEL, NDSBA, and NDSOS as to specifics about other legislation. And remember, “When everything seem to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it ….” – Henry Ford. Have a great summer!

Mr. ElRoy Burkle,
NDSOS Executive Director