2023 MCEL Sessions

Pre-Conference Session
Wednesday, October 18, 2023

10:00 am - Noon
MTSBA Board Meeting
CONFERENCE ROOM 1 - Doubletree

12:30 – 2:30 pm 
MCEL Partners
BALLROOM A - Doubletree

The MCEL Sponsors’ Session could not occur at a more critical time in terms of the many interests of our members that are hanging in the balance at this time.

1.  Litigation and controversy over the 95 school equalization mills and potential loss of $160 million in funds appropriated for K-12 BASE aid by the 2023 Legislature;

2.  The November 1 deadline for applications to start a House Bill 549 Charter School next school year;

3.  Ongoing litigation over House Bill 562, Charter Schools without standards or elected school boards;

4.  Weekly meetings of the Early Literacy Advisory Council that is putting the final changes on a proposed rule that will create the gateway for student qualification and participation in targeted literacy intervention,

5.  Parallel efforts to create a structure for a statewide school health trust that will stabilize and improve health benefits for our employees.

The list goes on and uncertainty remains regarding whether we can succeed in each of these areas or whether we will fall short of our goals. “Navigating change with confidence in the future” is not just our theme for MCEL 2023, it is an approach to these issues that will make the difference if we remain unified and embrace the challenges on the horizon. We may not be able to change the direction of the headwinds we are facing, but we can adjust our sails to navigate to a successful future together.

We will also be unveiling and discussing inspiring and affirming results from the latest public opinion polling that we conducted in August 2023 regarding the perspectives of likely voters on a full range of topics of interests to and affecting public education in Montana.

2:45 – 4:45 pm

Creating Trust and Transparency with Stakeholders through Board and Committee Meetings

 – MTSBA Legal Staff
BALLROOM A - Doubletree

This session will focus on creating a positive culture in your communications with community members and parents.  One strategy to enhance effective communications is to ensure your board meetings are conducted in a manner which honor the constitutional rights of the public to know what is occurring in our local public schools and to participate in your processes.  We will discuss both requirements for conducting board and committee meetings and strategies to embrace community and parent engagement. 

4:00 pm
MQEC Board Meeting
CONFERENCE ROOM 5 - Doubletree

4:30 - 6:30 pm
MASBO Board Meeting and Dinner
SKYBRIDGE 1 - Doubletree

4:30 - 7:00 pm
SAM Board Meeting and Dinner
CONFERENCE ROOM 1 - Doubletree

*NOTE - Schedule is subject to change

Conference Session
Thursday, October 19, 2023

8:00 - 11:30 am

Opening General Session 
ALBERTA BAIR THEATRE - 2801 3rd Ave N, Billings

Awards Ceremony 
Strategic Legislative Leaders’ Panel  –  Presenters: Jason Dougal (facilitator), David Bedey, Shannon O’Brien, Llew Jones

Our facilitator, Jason Dougal,  president and COO of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), will set the stage for the panel discussion with an overview and cross reference of these Montana-specific priorities to NCEE’s Blueprint for a High-Performing Education System. Dougal will facilitate a discussion of panelists regarding their reflections on challenges and successes championing these priorities during the 2023 Legislative Session and their thoughts on the next steps in our work together.

Learning about the details of this initiative is perhaps the most important step you can take in the coming year to ensure the future success of your community schools.

1:00 - 1:50 pm

MCS - Underwriter - Unconventional Options to Manage Campus Growth and Expansion with Bonding & Funding Uncertainty  –  Presenters: Mark Qualman – QuEst Services, Dave Puyear – MCS Director, also Featuring MCS Partners: CD Architectural Services, Lakeshore Equipment, Hillyard

CONFERENCE ROOM 1 - Doubletree

This clinic session will address the ever-growing issue of how to manage the influx of students without overcrowding existing facilities. As we settle into the next chapter of our current economic cycle, Districts need to find unconventional models, means & methods to deal with this issue. Buildings are aging in Montana that house current educational programs as well as school support services. Many of these buildings are reaching way beyond their intended life, and, in some cases, have deteriorated to the point where they are becoming structurally unsound. This situation will require adaptive solutions that not only serve the District's immediate needs but will give them the tools to actually plan longer-term solutions for campus expansion as funding cycles become more favorable. Solutions to this crisis will be discussed in detail in our session.

Platinum Sponsor - McKinstry Inc. - ESSER Funding Sunset, What Now: Cost Saving Measures for Facilities, Construction, and Capital Planning – Presenters: Bob Moore, Senior Account Executive & Halvor Kamrud, Business Development Manager 

CONFERENCE ROOM 5 - Doubletree

McKinstry representatives will present Design-Build construction methods, energy cost savings measures, capital improvement planning, and alternative funding opportunities through grants to include the Inflation Reduction Act and the Renewing America's Schools grant.

Teams that Work - Superintendent and District Clerk Collaboration – Presenters:  Rita Huck, Business Manager and District Clerk and Mark Wandle, Superintendent from Huntley Project and Mike Waterman, Executive Director Business and Operations and Casey Bertram, Superintendent from Bozeman Schools.  

SKYBRIDGE 4 - Doubletree

Teamwork and communication between the Superintendent and District Clerk/Business Manager is vital for efficient operations and budgeting in your District.  A cohesive administrative team is the first step in creating clear communication and trust with your educational team and your community.  This session will provide tools and tips to ensure your team is working like a well-oiled machine. 

Ethical Requirements for School Trustees and Employees  –  Presenters: MTSBA Legal Staff

PONDEROSA - Doubletree

This session is a “must-attend” for any trustee or school district employee. The MTSBA Legal staff will discuss the ethical requirements under Montana law and how to effectively manage and comply with conflict-of-interest provisions impacting district operations and board decisions. 

2:00 - 2:50 pm 

MUST - Underwriter - Why is Healthcare so Expensive? – Presenters: Jim Mepham and Fabian Deneault


The US healthcare system is highly complex, with separate rules, funding, enrollment dates, and out-of-pocket costs for employer-based insurance, private insurance from Healthcare.gov, Medicaid, and Medicare.  We will dive into multiple topics on why the costs continue to increase.

Proficiency-Based Education: Moving from Definitions to Implementation – Presenters: Dr. Tricia Seifert (Dean of the College of Education, Health & Human Development at Montana State University) and Dr. Joshua Meyer (faculty member in the Department of Education at Montana State University)


This presentation consists of three parts. First, it reviews changes to Montana law pertaining to infusing proficiency-based education (PBE) into Montana’s educational system emerging from the 68th Legislative Session. Specifically, key definitions articulated in Senate Bill 8 and Chapter 55 Accreditation Rules of Montana will be clarified. Second, it provides an overview of PBE, competency-based education, mastery-based learning, 21st Century Skills, and other similar approaches by interpreting relevant definitional ideas and identifying areas of overlap and discrepancy. Lastly, this presentation reviews ways PBE-related literature recommends administrators and school leaders navigate the challenges associated with implementing PBE in schools and school districts. Participants will learn about the common pitfalls associated with PBE implementation and gain insight into supporting students, parents, and teachers as their school adopts proficiency-based approaches to curricular design and assessment.

New Funding to Address Lead in School's Drinking Water –  Presenter: Greg Montgomery, Reducation in School Drinking Water Rule Manager, Montana DEQ

SKYBRIDGE 4 - Doubletree

Lead Reduction in School Drinking Water is an important focus for schools across the state.  The costs of continued testing, remediation efforts, and continued filtration all add to our increasing facility expenses. Find out about remaining and new funding opportunities to address some of these costs.

ISBC - Underwriter - Overview of U.S. Federal Policies and How They Have Historically Impacted Indigenous Communities of North America –  Presenter: Deserae Kill Eagle

PONDEROSA - Doubletree

Despite governmental assimilative tactics, tribal nations still possess innate protective factors such as cultural resiliency to overcome historical loss symptoms of poverty, violence, discrimination, and oppression. This session will help create a sense of community by viewing the current assets of tribal nations as tools to overcome historical loss and contribute to sustainable solutions for future generations. The historical awareness this session provides will help educators understand the perspective and necessity of IEFA.

3:00 pm – 3:50 pm 

Montana's Public Bidding Laws - Tips, Tricks and Things to Remember – Presenters - Rich Batterman – MREA and MCS Chief Legal Counsel, Dave Puyear – MCS Director and MCS Partners: CD Architectural Services, Lakeshore Equipment, Hilyard

CONFERENCE ROOM 1 - Doubletree

This clinic session will feature a comprehensive review of state bidding standards and processes. Details on the flexibility that Montana Law provides for the cooperative bidding process will be included. 

Platinum Sponsor - T.E.S.T., Inc. - Three Tough Questions!!  – Presenter - Liz Cunningham, Owner T.E.S.T. Inc.

CONFERENCE ROOM 5 - Doubletree

When it comes to security, school districts are faced with three simple but tough questions. What should we do? How do we prioritize? How do we pay for it? Please join us for an overview of a variety of safety and security solutions that we have helped many schools across Montana implement. T.E.S.T. has built a premiere team of diverse employees and partners to serve Montana Schools. Join us as we help provide answers for those three tough questions!

Platinum Sponsor - DA Davidson - Building A Bright Future Through Capital Improvement Projects – Presenters: Dale Olinger, Superintendent, Lolo Elementary, Mike Perry, Superintendent, Arlee Public Schools, Lonnie Morin, Business Manager/District Clerk, Arlee Public Schools, Bridget Ekstrom, Senior Vice President, D.A. Davidson & Co. and Dan Semmens, Partner, Dorsey & Whitney LLP

SKYBRIDGE 4 - Doubletree

Despite challenges presented by COVID in recent years, many Montana School Districts have experienced good luck passing school bonds and completing school building projects. As schools look to a bright future ahead in the implementation of capital improvement plans, this MCEL session will provide an interactive format for attendees to learn from the recent favorable experiences of Lolo Elementary District and Arlee Elementary District. Officials for each District worked tirelessly with their community to pass bond elections for general obligation bonds (as well as impact aid revenue bonds for Arlee). This MCEL session will discuss how Districts successfully (1) developed a capital improvement plan, (2) communicated with the community in passing the bonds, (3) issued bonds with favorable financing terms, and (4) worked through the design and construction process of seeing the projects to fruition.

Effectively Managing District Policies – Presenters: Presenters: MTSBA Legal Staff

PONDEROSA - Doubletree

During this session, we will provide an overview of MTSBA’s new policy platform – Simbli.  MTSBA made a significant investment to enhance our policy services when we moved to the Simbli platform with our hosting of 200+ district policy manuals.  This platform is user-friendly, allows school leaders to easily navigate and search district policies, and meets ADA accessibility requirements.  If you are a member of our policy maintenance program, bring your device and follow along as we navigate through the platform.  If your district is not a member of our policy services, join us so you can see the benefits of our policy maintenance program.  

4:00 – 4:50 pm

Four Day School Week –  Presenters – Luke Kloker – Fairview School Superintendent, Rob Pederson – Plentywood School Superintendent

CONFERENCE ROOM 1 - Doubletree

Fairview School District is starting its 11th year working in the 4 Day School Week, while Plentywood is just beginning its first year in this new system.  These two districts will share how they planned, implemented, adjusted (in Fairview’s case), and what they will be looking to do in the future. 

Community Building Toolkit  –  Presenters – Moffie Funk, Jenny Murnane Butcher, Rob Watson

CONFERENCE ROOM 5 - Doubletree

Learn about what you can do to build support in your community for your schools, especially for levy elections. Walk away with tools to resolve conflict in your community and communicate the needs of your school district with the public.

Platinum Sponsor - Renaissance Learning - Effective MTSS Practices  –  Presenter – Tanna Thwait

SKYBRIDGE 4 - Doubletree

MTSS outcomes are improved when systems use their local context and data to align resources to student and educator needs. This session will provide ideas for evidence-based practices that can be implemented to evaluate Montana MTSS needs, as well as research-based practices that can improve outcomes within an MTSS. Join us to learn more about • Supporting MTSS requirements • Data visualizations and interactive tools that provide insights to accelerate learning • Determining how to answer the question, “Is what we’re doing working?" across all roles, teams, and departments.

Underwriter - MSGIA - Assessing Risks and Planning for Contingencies – A school district’s guide to compliance for recent legislative changes in an ever-growing important aspect of public education: School Safety! –  Presenter –  MSGIA Staff

PONDEROSA - Doubletree

Join Shawn Bubb, Annette Satterly, and Brenda Koch as they discuss ways to approach, develop, and continually enhance a school district’s annual review of their school emergency plans, threat assessment process, protocols and outcomes. We plan to review sample plans, templates, and key aspects to consider as your district works through the annual process for school district emergency plan reviews and threat assessment protocols.   School Safety continues to be front and center for school boards and administrative teams.  Let the Insurance Services team at MTSBA assist your district in making this process even better for this coming year.

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm

ISBC Board Meeting

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Joint MREA & MCS Reception – Everyone Welcome



Conference Session
Friday, October 20, 2023

7:00 – 8:00 am
MSGIA/MTSUIP Membership Breakfast Meeting 

8:00 - 9:00 am
SAM Membership Meeting
CONFERENCE ROOM 5 - Doubletree

MASBO Membership Meeting
BALLROOM B - Doubletree

MTSBA Delegate Assembly

9:10 - 10:00 am

Positive Classroom Management with CW-FIT - Presenters - Howard Wills, Ph.D. - Senior Scientist at Juniper Gardens Children’s Project Associate, Jacky Williams, M.Ed. - Project Coordinator Juniper Gardens Children’s Project, Katy Andrus - CW-FIT National Trainer

CONFERENCE ROOM 1 - Doubletree

Learn how you can be a part of bringing evidence-based strategies and professional development to Montana rural educators with Class-Wide FIT! CW-FIT is a classroom management intervention proven to increase student engagement, decrease disruptive behaviors and raise the academic performance of students. This unique opportunity brings researchers and educators together to develop a coaching model that fits the diverse needs of rural Montana schools. 

Platinum Sponsor - Edmentum - District Leaders Share Strategies for Building a Pathway to Success for ALL Students - Presenter - Jason Mitchell, Dr. Erwin Garcia, Superintendent of Billings Public Schools, and Gordon Klasna, Executive Director of Secondary Education

CONFERENCE ROOM 5 - Doubletree

Innovations in teaching and learning have created more learning opportunities for student success. In this session, we will outline and discuss successful blended and virtual learning options from the perspective of administrators, teachers, and students.  The discussion will start with how the Billings Public Schools leadership team thinks about incorporating and leveraging technology in their long-term vision to enhance teaching and learning and improve outcomes for all students. Next, the administrators will discuss the strategy and plan to support teachers with technology to enable data-driven differentiated instruction. Then, the discussion will pivot to how standards-based, prescriptive assessments are used to personalize learning and meet the needs of each student through engaging interactions.  The session will end with time for questions and answers. 

Continuity in Leadership - Cross Training and Succession Planning in the Business Office – Presenters MASBO Team - Shelley Turner, Steve Hamel, Donnie McVee

BALLROOM B - Doubletree

In an increasingly challenging environment with ever-changing regulations and demands upon our time, schools across the state are experiencing an influx in administrative turnover.  When the business office is vacant, many operations grind to a halt. Who has the passwords? How much money do we have? How will we get paid? Having a plan for retirement, long-term illnesses, or other life events will provide your Board, administration, and staff a sense of security. 

Innovations Supporting Personalized Learning and Family Engagement  – Presenters MTSBA Legal Staff

BALLROOM A - Doubletree

The focus of this session will be on key legislative initiatives focused on enhancing opportunities for students.  Come joint us for a discussion with the MTSBA Staff on the nuances of HB 352 – Targeted Interventions, HB 396 – Part-Time Enrollment Guaranteed, HB 203 – Open Public School Enrollment, etc., HB676 and SB 518 – Parental Rights and the obligations of districts to advise parents of available innovations and flexibilities, etc

10:10 - 11:00 am

Launching Careers for Montana's Youth – Panel

Join us for a dynamic panel discussion on some of the great programs that exist, giving Montana students opportunities to launch their careers of choice.

  • Adam Gilbertson, Senior Vice President, Field Technology and Innovation, RDO Equipment Co.
  • Vicki N. Trier, PHD, Dean, City College MSUB
  • Sarah Swanson, Commissioner of Montana’s Department Labor, and Industry
  • Donnie Wetzel Jr., Tribal Liaison for the Montana Department of Labor and Industry
  • Moderator: Lance Melton, Executive Director, Montana School Boards Association

During this session, these leaders will discuss the programs they have developed to both expand and modernize the educational offerings and opportunities available to Montana students.  Our public schools have vast opportunities to partner with colleges and industry and to engage with families to provide our students with every opportunity to succeed in life.  This puts our students on a path to success while filling workforce demands.

11:10 am - 12:00 pm

Bringing Artificial Intelligence to Schools: Embracing the Future  – Presenter - Jason Neiffer, Executive Director of the Montana Digital Academy (MTDA)


How can we harness the power of artificial intelligence to transform learning while still minding the science of learning and ethics?  Join Jason Neiffer, Executive Director of The Montana Digital Academy, as he delivers a General Session on Friday morning on the immense potential and critical challenges of integrating AI into education. Drawing on insights from the frontiers of research and practice, Neiffer will explore promising applications from personalized tutoring to life-long learning while addressing tough questions around transparency, bias, and the human role. Don't miss this timely talk on Friday morning that will get you thinking about how to leverage AI to expand access and opportunity in education in responsible and equitable ways.

12:10 - 1:00 pm

ISBC - Underwriter - Closing Keynote - Levi Horn


Levi Horn delivered such an inspiring and resilient closing keynote at last year’s MCEL, we asked him to return as our closing keynote speaker at MCEL 2023.  Levi was our highest-rated speaker at MCEL 2022 and brings a great message of youth empowerment inspired by his personal experience in overcoming odds and achieving success in college, the NFL, and beyond. Levi’s emphasis on empowering and supporting youth in pursuing excellence will give us just the right send-off at the end of MCEL 2023. We are excited to have him back in Montana and appreciate the support and leadership of MTSBA’s Indian School Board Caucus in making it happen.