How many Kansas educators can claim to be in the one-name club? Randy? Heck, I have two Randy W’s in my contact list. John? A dime a dozen. Even at KASB, you get, “Which one?” But like with Madonna, Sting, Bo, and Cher, no Kansas educator says Dale who? (Sorry, Mr. Brungardt.) That is what 60 years of service does for you. Unlike Madonna, Sting, and Cher, Dale never set out to be famous; he doesn’t jump in front of cameras or rush to the limelight. Dale grinds.
As a superintendent, I knew that Dale would answer the phone if I called the KSDE number before 7 a.m. I also know first-hand that if Dale calls you at 9 at night, it is generally not with something you want to hear, but definitely something that you need to know. If a superintendent, a legislator, or a board member needed Dale, he was there no matter the time of day or day of the week. No one works harder, works longer than Dale. Even now, at over 80 years old, ask anyone at KSDE who turns out the lights on the way out the door.
Kansas is a state known for work ethic, and so putting in hours alone doesn’t get you one-name status. Dale knows more about Kansas school finance than anyone. Need to understand how the rationale for the at-risk formula and how it works? Dale can take you back to 1967 and walk it forward. I would wager that he knows more about YOUR district finances and history than you do. Dale knows Kansas like Bo knows, well, you know.
Kansans who put in the work and know their stuff are great people, but not unique enough to deserve a special status. Dale loves what he does, and what he does is Kansas education. Dale is driven by the mission of serving Kansas students. He demonstrates his commitment every day. He does it when no one is looking. He does it when the scrutiny of detractors is intense. He doesn’t waver. He supports your kids and mine because he believes public education is the best thing that a state can do for its citizens.
In Kansas, if you grind for 60 years, know your profession better than anyone else, and live a mission by serving, Kansans will eventually drop your last name, and you will become simply, Dale. The highest compliment that one can get.