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Published April 17 2010

Northern Cass school leader seeking West Fargo superintendent puts focus on technology, ideas

From driving a school bus to running the Northern Cass School District as its superintendent, Allen Burgad does it all.

“There are many arenas you’re involved in in a small school district,” he said. “You have a pretty good grasp … of all the different components in an education organization.”

Burgad is one of four candidates for West Fargo’s next superintendent and will be interviewed by the School Board on Sunday.

Leading the smaller Hunter, N.D.-based district, Burgad helps run everything from its finances to the lunch program and even fills in as a substitute bus driver.

He also led the district through developing its first strategic plan three years ago and received $1 million in grants to fund a new gym and classroom addition.

Plus, he helped Northern Cass become one of two districts statewide to be a laptop computer school. Now, all 140 students in grades 10 through 12 have a laptop.

It’s partly that emphasis on technology and starting new initiatives that he’s dubbed a visionary and innovative leader by those who recommend him.

“He’s done a great job at Northern Cass,” School Board President Doug Rensvold said, adding that Burgad excels at planning and getting input on the district’s vision. “He’s always striving to improve.”

West Fargo School Board Vice President Karen Nitzkorski commended Burgad for his energetic leadership, adding that “he’s innovative and he’s willing to try things.”

To generate new ideas, Burgad said he relies on research.

“I’m really open and listen to what other school districts are doing, and more importantly, what research says are really effective practices for student learning,” he said.

He credits implementing professional learning communities for Northern Cass students’ gains in both reading and math state test scores this year.

“We’re really sold on this process at Northern Cass,” he said. “Teachers strengthen teachers.”

In the Strasburg, N.D., native’s 21-year educational career, he’s taught in Napoleon, N.D., was a principal in Broadus, Mont., and both the principal and superintendent in Stanley, N.D., which has about 400 students.

He’s been the superintendent in the Northern Cass School District for the past six years.

Now, he said, he’s attracted to West Fargo because “it has the North Dakota community values and yet it’s also a really progressive community.”

He said he’d bring a team concept to the table as the district explores what to do next after two failed building referendums.

And, if selected, the

43-year-old said he’d stay until retirement.

He and his wife, a kindergarten teacher in Northern Cass, have three children who are in college and high school.

“I just really like North Dakota,” he said.

Burgad was a semi-finalist this year in Bismarck for the state’s largest school district’s next superintendent.

“Challenges in a small school are many of the same challenges (large districts face),” he said.

Now, if offered West Fargo’s top spot, he would oversee a $63 million budget in a growing 7,000-student district. In Northern Cass, he manages a $5 million budget in the 540-student district.

“It would be a big step, but I think he would be capable,” Rensvold said. “He thrives on challenges.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515