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By Caroline Downs
Mike Lautenschlager of Berthold, president of the Lewis & Clark School District, is committed to excellence in K-12 public education across North Dakota.
“We have a great school system in our district and in this state, and this is the gift you’re given,” he said. “It’s free and available to everybody, so make use of it.”
In fact, Lautenschlager’s dedication to leadership in public education was recognized last month when he was elected to a two-year term as the Northwest Director for the North Dakota School Boards Association board of directors. The election took place during the NDSBA annual convention held in Bismarck.
Known for his quiet leadership style, Lautenschlager appreciated the limited campaigning opportunities granted to the candidates. “We got three minutes to speak [before the election],” he said, “so I told a story.”
Lautenschlager recounted a true story about a recent experience with an insurance agent trying to schedule a time to review some materials. “He gave me four or five different dates he could meet, and I had to decline four of the five,” said Lautenschlager. “I told him I had things I had to do with the school board, and he asked me why I did that.”
As the father of three sons, with the youngest a high school freshman and the oldest a senior in college, Lautenschlager didn’t have to think twice about his response. “I told him I’d just gone through this with my 14-year-old son,” he said. “I do this to give the gift of education to the next generation. I want to see that gift continue.”
Lautenschlager started his involvement with NDSBA by going to the conventions. “Our state association is a great organization, so there’s a lot to be learned by attending these,” he said. “If not from a session, it might be by visiting with board members from other districts around the state. I know [the conventions] made me a better board member.”
Eight years ago, he started working with the NDSBA Governmental Affairs Committee. “We stay up-to-date on national and state issues,” he said. “I try to represent this region.”
He continued, “We’ve been fortunate the last few years that a lot of things out of Governmental Affairs have been resolved legislatively. We try to stay on top of everything and keep everybody informed.”
Lautenschlager is interested in federal issues such as the No Child Left Behind act and state concerns with funding for the counties and school districts impacted by oil and gas development. “Basically, every district in this region is going through growing pains,” he said.
As the Northwest Director on the NDSBA board, he intends to represent the school districts at state and national levels. “I want to be a voice for the problems we face in this region,” he said.
Lautenschlager has been on the Berthold and Lewis & Clark School District school board for 16 years, and served on several committees. He has presented at NDSBA conventions about reorganization and at Negotiations seminars about labor/management issues. He is also a member of the National School Board Association’s Federal Relations Network.
He will be serving on the NDSBA board of directors with President Greg Allen of Jamestown, Vice President Jim Rostad of Minot, Past President Angela Korsmo of West Fargo, Southwest Director Ben Auch of Mott/Regent, Northeast Director Jennifer Johnson of Larimore and Southeast Director Jim Johnson of Fargo.
Lautenschlager’s participation in school district leadership through the years has been one way to demonstrate his commitment to serving the local, regional and state education community. “It’s about what we can do to keep our kids learning,” he said. “You can make a difference. Somebody has to step up and care.”