I was born in Phoenix, AZ in 1981. My mother worked in sales and my father was a carpenter. We spent most of my elementary years moving from community to community following the union jobs. We eventually moved to Pahrump, NV when I was in 5th grade and I graduated from Pahrump Valley High School in 1999. It was a struggle growing up with a parent who battled addiction and the childhood trauma that is associated with addiction. Fortunately, my life changed in the 9th grade when I moved into my grandparent’s house. My grandparents along with my teachers provided the stability I needed to change my life trajectory.
I am a public school success story. My home life was in disarray and impacted me throughout my elementary school years and into high school. School was always a sanctuary for me and teachers have had a profound influence on my development as a person. I have been so fortunate to have had strong supportive teachers in my life. Teachers motivated me to do better in school, and pushed me to leave my broken home to attend college in North Dakota. They have continued to support me throughout my professional and adult life as well.
I attended Valley City State University (VCSU) in North Dakota. I played football throughout my career at VCSU and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social science education in 2004. I accepted my first teaching job in Petersburg, ND. I taught six different courses and I coached football and basketball. I spent two years at Dakota Prairie School District.
I married my wife Mandy in 2005 and we eventually settled in Devils Lake, ND. I accepted a job in Devils Lake as a social studies teacher and I also coached football and basketball. In Devils Lake, I began working on my master’s degree in school leadership. The high school principal at the time was very influential in giving me the confidence to pursue school leadership. I graduated from the University of North Dakota (UND) with a master’s degree in educational leadership. I accepted my first administrative job in Velva, ND as a high school principal. This was a great leadership experience for me and it prepared me for my future superintendent role. We spent three years in Velva and I eventually accepted my current job as a superintendent in 2012.
I remained in the educational leadership program at UND and began to pursue my doctorate degree. I eventually completed my doctorate in 2014. I am now in my twelfth year serving our school community in Rugby, ND. Along the way, my wife and I have had four children. Mya is 16, Eli is 13, Annie is 11, and Bennie is 8. My wife and family are my foundation and they help me manage all of the ups and downs of the superintendency.
Past AASA North Dakota Superintendent of the Year Winners:
2023 North Dakota Superintendent of the Year: Dr. Rupak Gandhi
2022 North Dakota Superintendent of the Year: Leslie Bieber
2021 North Dakota Superintendent of the Year: Justin Fryer
About the Award:
The Superintendent of the Year program, sponsored by First Student and AASA, pays tribute to the talent and vision of the men and women who lead the nation’s public schools.
State-level winners are selected on the following criteria:
- Leadership for Learning
- Community Involvement