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The University of Mary has developed a new institute to help school districts across North Dakota "grow their own."

The university has created a Summer Leadership Institute Program for teachers who want to become school administrators. The program, offered through the Liffrig Family School of Education and Behavioral Sciences, aims to fill these positions in rural districts, where it is difficult to recruit and retain.

"Rural North Dakota, just like other rural areas in America, they have the hardest time attracting teachers and administrators due to various reasons," said Rod Jonas, dean of the Liffrig Family School. 

The University of Mary offers a master's degree in elementary and secondary education. Jonas said a lot of the candidates in this program are teachers in rural areas of the state who were asked by administrators or people in their communities to pursue a school administrator credential often because of retirements.

"They're kind of trying to grow their own," he said.

The institute, which is scheduled to start July 16, will let classroom instructors take the bulk of their administrative coursework during the summer, allowing them to maintain their teaching positions during the school year.

Over the three-year long program, teachers will receive training with two-week summer residencies. The rest of the courses are taken online.

The summer institute will offer hand-on learning opportunities for teachers, which Jonas says he hopes will help with administrator retention. Jonas cited information from the Institute for Education Statistics, which found that one in five principals in schools in the 2011-12 school year left their school by the 2012-13 year.

There have been multiple administrator retirements and resignations this year across North Dakota, including superintendents in Grand Forks, West Fargo and Bismarck.

The University of Mary degree program is unique in the state, offering the first summer-based program for school administrators, according to Jonas.

The university is accepting applications until June 1. Jonas said the initial cohort for the program will be 10 to 12 students, and scholarships are available to help support rural schools.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or


Education and Health Reporter