Past Event

The Future of Rural Public Schools

This program will be an opportunity to discuss challenges and opportunities facing public schools in predominantly rural communities.

  • What are the distinctive strengths of our rural schools? What are they uniquely suited to contribute to society?
  • What risks and obstacles do they face, and how should they be addressed?
  • How can we ensure that rural schools and the communities they serve sustain strong, mutually beneficial relationships?

The program will include a keynote presentation by Gary Funk, director of the Rural Schools Collaborative, and discussions featuring Gary Funk; Dave Ardrey, director of the Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools; Brad Misner, superintendent of the Egyptian school district; and Lamar Houston of the Egyptian school district board of education.

More about our Participants

Gary Funk is director of the Rural Schools Collaborative, an organization that seeks to strengthen the bonds between rural schools and communities.  Its work includes building capacity for rural philanthropy efforts, supporting place-based engagement through the Grants in Place program, leading the Rural Teacher Corps initiative, offering planning grants to appropriate regional efforts, providing selected technical assistance, and promoting a social marketing network.  From 1999 to 2013, Funk was president of the Missouri-based Community Foundation of the Ozarks.  During his tenure, the foundation experienced substantial growth in assets and grantmaking and earned recognition as a rural philanthropy innovator.  In 2009, the Foundation launched the Rural Schools Partnership, an effort dedicated to school-­centered philanthropy, place-based education, and the recruitment, preparation, and retention of outstanding rural teachers.  Its Ozarks Teacher Corps gained national media attention.  Prior to his work with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Funk spent two decades in public and higher education as a teacher, professor, and administrator.  While at Missouri State University, he co-founded the Southwestern Bell Literacy Center, the Storefront School for at-risk children, and the Center for Outstanding Schools.  He has authored and co-authored several books and articles on educational issues.  He and his wife, Jana, live on a small farm near Cambridge, Wisconsin.

David Ardrey is director of school partnerships and outreach at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.  He is also executive director of the Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools, which was chartered in 1987 with the purpose of presenting a unified effort to promote educational excellence in rural and small schools in Illinois.  It is the only statewide organization in Illinois devoted to that mission.  Mr. Ardrey is especially interested in developing partnerships between institutions of higher education and rural PK-12 schools that result in programs benefitting teachers, students, and communities.  Drawing upon his strengths in creative and strategic planning, policy guidance, financial oversight, and project management, he has assisted school districts in obtaining and implementing School Improvement Grants and 21st-Century Grants and in adapting to Common Core or Illinois Learning Standards.  His professional experience includes teaching and coaching; development, outreach, and grant-funded programming in higher education; and private-sector business.

More on Continuing Ed.

Continuing Ed. is a yearlong, statewide series working with parents, schools, and communities across the state – in Chicago, Decatur, Elgin, and Jackson County to move the conversation about public education back to parents. All Chicago events will be moderated by Laura Washington (Chicago Sun-Times). For the complete schedule and more information, see

If you require a sign interpreter or any other arrangements to fully participate in this program, please contact at least 72 hours in advance of the event. For more information, please call (312) 422-5580.