The job of leadership in public school systems is very complex and leaders might encounter difficult situations such as issues with personnel, parents, communities or school boards. MASA wants to provide our members with as much assistance as possible. Therefore, in addition to the MASA legal support services, we have created the Professional Assistance Team (P.A.T.).

The Professional Assistance Team is made up of five individuals who have a wealth of experience in operating schools. The P.A.T. will use their experience to help their colleagues when they need consultation and/or advice if they run into a difficult situation. Each member has promised to treat every contact with confidentiality. The only case in which information may be shared is in the event that a situation is complex enough that a member may require legal assistance, and will be directed to the MASA Executive Director.

Examples of services the P.A.T. provides:

  • Answers to questions regarding your role as a superintendent or central office leader
  • Advice on how to handle specific situations involving the community, school board(s), employees, students, and operational situations
  • Communication situations

The P.A.T. will always maintain confidentiality when working with our members.

2022-23 Professional Assistance Team

Joe Gothard
St. Paul School District
Cell: 651-587-2895
Office: 651-767-8152

Joe begins his 27th year in education. He was a teacher, coach, assistant principal, middle school principal, high school principal and assistant superintendent in his hometown Madison (WI) Metropolitan School District prior to moving to Minnesota. Joe was named the superintendent of the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage Schools in 2013 and served for four years. Joe is entering his fourth year as the superintendent of Saint Paul Public Schools.  

Jerry Nesland
Cell: 218-640-0267
Office: 218-894-2439
Home: 218-385-3194
Jerry Nesland has served many years as superintendent of schools, most notably at New York Mills School District. Since his retirement, Jerry has served various assignments at the Northwest Service Cooperative, Menahga, Mahnomen, and most recently Director of the Freshwater Education District.

Jeff Olson
Cell: 507-340-0628
Home: 507-934-9195
Jeff Olson retired as Superintendent of Saint Peter Public Schools. He has more than 30 years of experience as a teacher, coach, curriculum director, principal, and superintendent in public education. Jeff now serves as an education consultant.

Patty Phillips
Cell: 651-357-0996
Patty Phillips has experience as a Principal, Curriculum Director, and Superintendent of the Virginia Minnesota Public Schools. Prior to her retirement, she served as Superintendent of the North St. Paul- Maplewood-Oakdale Schools in the Twin Cities area.

Don Lifto
Cell: 651-303-3721​
Don’s career in public schools spanned 33 years, the last 25 as a superintendent in rural, suburban, and intermediate districts.  He has provided consultation services to school districts since 2006 specializing in referendum planning.  Don has authored three books on that topic and currently works in collaboration with The Morris Leatherman Company.

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