Kansas State University College of Education Hosts Inaugural Rural Education Summit


By K-State News

MANHATTAN — The College of Education’s Rural Education Center at Kansas State University is hosting the inaugural Rural Education Summit, featuring three of the nation’s top researchers in rural education-related issues.

The summit will be from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. June 13 at the Leadership Studies Building. Early bird registration is $75 and is available at Administrators and school leaders are encouraged to register soon as attendance is capped at 210. Organizers created a video to explain the driving concept behind the summit, which can be viewed at

Randy Watson, Kansas commissioner of education, will welcome attendees, ushering in the full program consisting of three keynote addresses and breakout sessions on a variety of topics such as teacher supply, professional development, instructional coaches, finances and more.

“Rural schools make up the majority of districts in our state,” said Debbie Mercer, dean of the Kansas State University College of Education. “It makes sense that our Rural Education Center, which is hosted by the college that produces the most teachers in Kansas and whose graduate programs prepare educators for administrative positions, takes the lead on a statewide conversation of this magnitude.”

J. Spencer Clark, associate professor of curriculum and instruction and director of the Rural Education Center, said he believes Kansas’ commitment to strong rural schools has attracted the attention of national leaders and brought them to our doorstep.

“We’re excited that three nationally recognized leaders in rural education enthusiastically accepted our requests to speak at this first-ever rural summit of the Rural Education Center,” Clark said. “It demonstrates that leaders around the country see this as a vital part of our nation’s conversation. We hope rural school educators and leaders from around the state will join us to be part of that conversation at a summit that is devoted to them and their districts.”

Jerry Johnson, incoming chair of the department of educational leadership at Kansas State University, will deliver his keynote “Four Durable Issues in Rural Education” at 9 a.m. Johnson’s areas of expertise are rural education, educational policy and community-based education.

Hobart Harmon, co-director of the Rural Math Excel Partnership grant at the Virginia Advanced Study Strategies and a leading expert in innovation in public education in rural America, will present “Innovation” at 9:35 a.m.

Allen Pratt, executive director of the National Rural Education Association, will present his keynote “Rural Schools and Communities: Successes and Challenges” at 11:50 a.m. Pratt’s areas of expertise include educational leadership, curriculum, assessments, advocacy, school law and ethics, and rural education.

Lori Goodson, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction and assistant director of the Rural Education Center, said the summit is a way to highlight all of the positives taking place in rural schools while also focusing on areas where work is needed.

“It’s time we push ahead with addressing our rural schools’ needs,” Goodson said. “We want to take action on those things, but we also want to celebrate all of the amazing learning opportunities that are taking place every day in our rural schools because they’ve built such a solid foundation for our state and our nation.”

For more information about the center, the Rural Education Summit or to discuss issues facing rural schools, please email Clark at or Goodson at

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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