Cultural Drift

Wyoming Department of Education > Superintendent's Update > Cultural Drift

Dear Superintendents,

I’d like to use this space this week to share with you something I shared this week with our WDE team during our all-staff meeting. There have been understandable rumblings around the state based on some misunderstandings linked to some unfortunate misquotes and misrepresentations by the media on comments I made during a public charter school meeting here in Cheyenne.

In the speech I gave, referencing the cultural drift that our American communities and schools have been experiencing to varying degrees, I quoted former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett who was known to often say, “When the culture pushes hard against you and your family, you must push back just as hard.” I continued, “If we don’t, not only does our society become more toxic, so do our schools. And it is alarming how many schools in this country have become some of the most toxic places on earth for a kid to have to endure.”  Those were my exact words.

During the Q & A, an attendee felt I was disparaging Wyoming schools. My immediate response was that I was most certainly not talking about Wyoming schools. In response, I shared my experiences of visiting 19-20 districts around the state, and how impressed and amazed I was with what our district superintendents, principals and classroom teachers are accomplishing in our schools. I went on to say that Wyoming schools are what all schools used to be in America, and then shared specific examples. Finally, to reinforce it further, I said “Wyoming schools could set the standard and lead the nation out of this cultural wilderness.”

Of course I have no control over how the media reports any given story. Most often, if misquoted or misrepresented, I will not have time (nor will I feel the need) to follow up with contextual explanations. But this time it was important to do so. If ever you as superintendents hear something that bothers you, whether through the grapevine or in the media, please do not hesitate to call me and ask me about it. If I was wrong, I will listen openly if you challenge me, and I will have the grace and humility to apologize. If I was misrepresented, I will certainly share with you what I actually said.

In this case, what I shared above was true and accurate.I know that goes with the territory of this job, and I will have to buck up at times and move on. But please do have grace with me as I continue to grow into this role, learning to weigh my words carefully on the one hand, but remain as real and honest as possible on the other. Though everyone tells me I am now in the political role, I do not ever want to become politician-like. There will be times no doubt when my message will make some people upset. When that happens, the challenge will always be to fairly and carefully discern whether it was my issue or theirs. That fine line, I know, is something all of you as leaders can relate to.

Vision & Focus

Last week, we mentioned the key three things on the horizon for our Wyoming schools: (1) the Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative (see progress update in the next segment); (2) a multi-phased/multi-pronged literacy campaign; and (3) a school leader training paradigm.

In real estate, it’s location, location, location; in education, it’s literacy, literacy, literacy. As the foundation of everything we do, we have to get this right in our training endeavors as well as how we teach and test literacy. Our first discussions on the prospects of launching a statewide literacy campaign begin today with key WDE teammates.

We will discuss strategy, timing, goals and objectives. We will also begin a conversation about what the key pieces and phases of the campaign should be, as well as who the key people and partners might be. Stay tuned for updates as we move forward, step-by-step, with an eye toward a more expansive vision and clearer focus of where Wyoming schools can go in regard to literacy. This could be huge.

Finally, the school leader training paradigm. To reiterate, the desire here will be to incorporate what Dr. Scott Thomas and his team at the University of Wyoming will be doing with his principal training program in Laramie over the next few years, complemented by a school leader training regimen here at the WDE, complemented by what each district might be doing (or working toward doing) via on-going, in-the-trenches school leader mentoring. Interest is growing and excitement on this front is building as well.  Next step is to assemble a task force. We’ll keep you posted as things transpire.

The Primary Priority   

The application to request participation in the Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship pilot will go out to district superintendents on June 15. The three school districts chosen will begin collaboration with the WDE and PTSB this summer to stand up the local program. This work will inform the structure for the eventual statewide rollout, while allowing the opportunity to identify best practices and unique nuances at the district level. Exciting progress … more to come.

In the Spotlight

Ilaine Brown, Education Consultant on the CTE team is hard to miss. This “Jersey girl” has been with the WDE for three years after having been at the Department of Family Services for 11. Ilaine is well-known across the state for her depth of knowledge on SCED codes, programs of study, and CTE grants. Her previous experience as a paralegal has been utilized in writing all of the CTE contracts, RFP’s and rule changes.

Ilaine has recently taken on Method of Administration monitoring and is streamlining the process to increase efficiency and provide exceptional customer service to the districts. Since arriving at WDE she successfully completed her CPM with LCCC and now is a full-time student finishing her bachelor’s degree in business. When she isn’t working or attending class you will find her watching her daughter play hockey, organizing the annual Zonta art show, or hanging out with her family and dogs.

Ilaine, congratulations, you are in the spotlight. Thank-you for the significant contribution you are making on the CTE team. We are proud of you and blessed to have you working for the Wyoming Department of Education.

Mark Your Calendars

The 2022 RISE Award nomination form is now open. The purpose of the Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award is to recognize the excellence exhibited by classified school employees (anyone, who isn’t a teacher), who provide exemplary service to students. Nomination deadline is June 30 and anyone can complete the form.

Monday memos:

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