Dave Ardrey was hired by the Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools in May 2014, to serve as Executive Director. The board of directors of AIRSS was looking to replace the retiring director and were implementing a new organizational and marketing strategy.


David Ardrey extensive work in rural school and community issues includes serving as chairman emeritus of the Rural Schools Collaborative, having served as its inaugural chairman in 2015-16. David also served as the Director of School Partnerships and Outreach at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He also serves as a founding member of the not-for-profit group, Rural Schools and Community Initiative in the southern region of Illinois. And now, as the Executive Director of the Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools (AIRSS)


Mr. Ardrey’s previous work focused on developing program and partnership opportunities in the rural school and community setting. The work is designed to create unique opportunities for Higher Education (universities) and PK-12 schools and communities to work as partners; to develop programs that support teachers, students and those associated communities.


In his role as Executive Director his work will include implementing the newly developed organizational structure and marketing plan for AIRSS. That will include developing a new communication system via web site and e-mail, the development of a comprehensive membership plan, enhanced visibility at the state and federal level on matters of policy and legislation and developing a unique premiere partnership program with local and national partners.


His self-described attribute of being a “pragmatic visionary” allows him to listen to an idea and convert it to a working project or program. Within this context he will provide support in the following areas; creative and strategic planning, critical thinking within the program and budget planning process, policy guidance, financial oversight, and program and project management including people/personnel development. Mr. Ardrey has put these skills to work with local districts working on School Improvement Grants (SIG), 21st Century Grants and most recently on issues regarding the new common core or Illinois Learning Standards.


Mr. Ardrey’ s professional experience working in higher education including development, outreach and grant funded programming and his personal experiences in the private business sector allow him to bring a unique perspective to strategic planning, succession planning, issues of sustainability, budget and financial oversight and program development, implementation and management.


Current work of note:


Stakeholder Group - Gov. Rauner’s School Funding Reform Commission

Member: National Gov. Association (NGA) task group – Teacher Shortages (Rural) in Illinois


Member: National Rural Education Association Coalition (NREAC) national policy group on rural school issues. Include a national policy agenda and annual meeting in Washington DC with all statewide Exec. Directors and monthly conference calls.

Sponsorship work – meeting with and developing sponsorship opportunities – ongoing.

REAP Funding support and legislative/policy research and review.