A Focus on Growth and Success

Dear Superintendents,

Welcome to the newly designed template for my weekly update to district superintendents. I will continue to personally write the update each week and it will only go to superintendents on Fridays. To recap, the purpose of the update is to:

  • Keep you informed about what I am doing
  • Provide insight and information about salient topics in Wyoming education
  • Send memos before they are public for your preview/review

It’s important to keep the focus on our growth and success versus the aftermath of a rough budget legislative session. Here are a few:

Rawlins Elementary School was recognized at the Governor’s Arts Awards after applying for and receiving a sizable grant from Crayola. Crayola was, in particular, impressed with RES’s commitment to teaching Art in an integrated way.

RES faculty and Mike Lange of Wyoming Arts Council at the Awards Gala
RES faculty and Mike Lange of Wyoming Arts Council at the Awards Gala

Hulett High School students successfully brought a bill to make the Sagebrush Wyoming’s state shrub. It was met with opposition but, in the end, passed. Nearly 60 students traveled to Cheyenne for the bill signing. Senator Driskill reports that students are more interested in the Legislature than ever.

HHS students at signing of State shrub bill
HHS students at signing of State shrub bill

45 teachers received National Board Certification in 2015 and were recognized with a check for $1000, continued support from the Ellbogen Foundation, and an annual stipend. Wyoming ranks among the highest for the total number of board certified teachers. More Wyoming schools than ever achieved the status of having 10%+ board certified staff. This is unique in the nation and the envy of many rural states whose small districts struggle to grow a quality teaching staff.

Havely Holt of Douglas receives recognition after achieving Natl Board Certification
Havely Holt of Douglas receives recognition after achieving Natl Board Certification

This week marked Read Across America and Dr. Suess’s birthday. Schools across the state hosted “celebrity” readers and activities. I also serve on the advisory board for the UW Literacy Research Center and Clinic. Yesterday, we met and talked about how to better spotlight literacy and the wonderful activities happening across the state. More news to come…

Reading aloud to students on Dr. Suess's birthday
Reading aloud to students on Dr. Suess’s birthday

BUDGET OUTLOOK

Governor Mead signed the biennial budget into law late on Thursday. He did so with more line-item vetoes than ever before and concerns about not expanding Medicaid, blurred lines of responsibility among the executive and legislative branches, and significant cuts to education, local governments, and others.

As it stands, education was cut by $36 million (1% year one; 1.4% year two). The state projects a drop in revenue of $480 million in the upcoming biennium.

The WDE is beginning to field concerns about how cuts translate in your districts as you begin conversations with your stakeholder groups. Please feel free to reach out to us knowing that we need your input and ideas for solutions as well.

UPCOMING ASSESSMENT

The testing window for Aspire, the new online assessment for grades 9 and 10, opens on April 11th. This is our first foray into online state assessment since 2010. It’s imperative that all high schools are ready to successfully administer the test. The Wyoming ACT Aspire team and school district faculty/staff have worked together to provide many resources for districts to help ensure a smooth administration.

Here’s a short checklist for you to use to ensure readiness for the assessment:

  • Has your high school completed the online Infrastructure Trial? (If not, it should be completed well in advance of April 11th)
  • Has your high school set up testing sessions?
  • Have you reviewed and shared this week’s memo?

Memos to be released Monday, March 7, 2016:

Jillian