Weekly Update, a New Focus

Wyoming Department of Education > Uncategorized > Weekly Update, a New Focus

Greetings District Superintendents,

I wish to start by saying thank you again for your dedication to making each of your districts the best they can possibly be. It can be lost on most people, I know, the long hours you put in and how difficult your job is. Hang in there, and take care of yourself. Everything rises and falls on leadership – and you are the leaders of our educational communities that are preparing the future of America. Stay encouraged, you are doing great work.

This week, we are introducing a new format for this weekly communique. The look, as well as some new components will reflect a fresh start and new direction here at the WDE. As always, your feedback will be coveted and appreciated. I hope it will be helpful.

Vision & Focus

Future entries in this space will unveil – layer by layer, week by week – a vision for our Wyoming schools that will (hopefully) not only serve to sharpen our collective focus, but also help to reinforce a model of education that is consistent with the DNA and character of the good people of Wyoming.

In this edition, we’ll begin by restating an audacious possibility that has been referenced a couple times in other venues over the past two months: Wyoming is poised to lead the nation in education. That doesn’t mean it will, it just means it could – and if it could, it should. Is this a hollow Pollyannaish platitude, or a big-picture vision rooted in reality?  Hold that thought … to be continued.

The Primary Priority   

This new section will keep our singular most urgent statewide educational challenge front-and-center, until the problem is solved. In the last two years, that would have been the COVID-19 pandemic; presently, it is the crisis of the nationwide teacher shortage.

Learning everything we can about the best recruitment and retention strategies from those “in the trenches” (here at home), as well as from the innovative work going on in other states, we will seek to aggressively pursue and develop multiple break-the-mold pathways to the teaching profession. This could come via some very successful customized teacher-apprenticeship models, and/or some incredibly fruitful “grow-your-own” teacher residency programs. If Tennessee can go from 1,000-1,200 teacher vacancies per year to a waiting list of hundreds, so can we.

Please do not hesitate to send us your thoughts and ideas as we make this our primary priority.  Just as our schools function better when they listen closely and carefully to the parents as the owners of the schools, so we here at the WDE will function better as we listen closely and carefully to Wyoming’s professional educators. You can send that feedback directly to askthesuperintendent@wyo.gov.  More next week.

On the Road, In The Field

On April 8, I was given the opportunity to speak to more than 1,500 young people at the annual FFA Convention in Cheyenne. Besides the incredible energy level in that place (they were having so much fun), I was immediately struck by how gracious and respectful these FFA teenagers were. Their kindness and natural humility was for me a refreshing flashback to another more innocent time in this country, and reinforced again the emerging conviction that Wyoming – in many ways – is still what all of America used to be.

As I told the group that night, I have always been – and will always be – a big fan of the FFA, not only because there are some things you can’t learn in a classroom, but also because, in a society addicted to change for change’s sake, there are still some things, thankfully, that never change – FFA is one enduring example.

Mark Your Calendars

The Quantum Science Summer School at Casper College is set for July 10-23, 2022. The school is under the direction of Dr. Marlan Scully, a Casper native and member of the National Academy of Science. The camp will be a high-level summer quantum science program in conjunction with Scully’s colleagues at the National Academy of Science and his lab at Texas A&M University. There is no charge to participate, and dorm housing and food will be provided. Get all the details here.

Monday Memos