All posts by tgabrukiewicz

Wyoming Submits Plan for Federal Relief Dollars for Education

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) submitted its ARP ESSER State Plan to the U.S. Department of Education and is now collecting public comment on the plan. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act includes $303,709,391 in ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds for Wyoming. Funds will be distributed by the WDE directly to school districts based on the formula already established by Title I, Part A.

“Submitting a plan was required by the U.S. Department of Education,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “Wyoming’s plan looks different than most states because our school doors were open during the 2020-21 school year. School districts and community partners have a unique opportunity to strengthen teaching and learning for all students, especially those most negatively impacted by COVID-19 and its associated effects.”

Each state is required to reserve a portion of the ARP ESSER funds for statewide activities that extend and enrich the school day experience. Wyoming will focus on activities that strengthen collaborations between schools and community-based organizations, such as afterschool and summer programs.

“High-quality intervention and enrichment opportunities are not limited to the traditional school day,” Balow said. “Statewide activities and competitive grants will support local innovation, new and existing partnerships, and funding needs for programs.”

ARP ESSER State Plan and supporting documents can be found here. Public comment can be provided here.

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director

WDE Seeks Public Input on Health and Physical Education Content and Performance Standards

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education is collecting public input on the 2021 Wyoming Health Education Content and Performance Standards and the 2021 Physical Education Content and Performance Standards at the request of the State Board of Education (SBE). The input collected on the Health and Physical Education Standards will be shared with the SBE.

To provide input, review the Proposed 2021 Health Education Standards and/or Proposed 2021 Physical Education Standards.

Provide written/verbal input through any of the following options:

  1. Complete the Health Education Standards Public Survey by 11:59 p.m. on July 28, 2021.
  2. Complete the Physical Education Standards Public Survey by 11:59 p.m. on July 28, 2021
  3. Attend the virtual public input meeting from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. MST on July 16, 2021. (click link to Join Zoom Meeting or Dial +1-346-248-7799 US Meeting ID: 918 3470 4664)
  4. Attend the virtual public input meeting from 4:30-6 p.m. MST on July 18, 2021. (click link to Join Zoom Meeting or Dial +1 346-248-7799 Meeting ID: 984 4925 3310)

For more information, contact Rob Black, Health/PE Consultant, at 307-777-3747 or or Barb Marquer, Standards Supervisor, at 307-777-5506 or

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director

Summer Professional Development Opportunities

Dear Superintendents,

Summer professional development opportunities hosted or sponsored by the Wyoming Department of Education are listed on our website. We strive to keep the content relevant and engaging for educators and look forward to seeing you this summer.

An interesting article this week in Education Week  includes a poll that found 42% of teachers and administrators surveyed said more students would have to repeat a grade and 68% said more students would have to retake courses. The story also featured expert discussion on retention policies.

Federal Updates

  • The U.S. Department of Education released a new FAQ document on uses and restrictions with ESSER funding. 
  • The Office of Civil Right released “Dear Educator” Letter reminding schools of obligations to investigate and address all forms of harassment in educational environments, including harassment directed towards Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students. You can read the letter here.
  • The Office of Civil Rights OCR announced a virtual public hearing June 7-11 to gather information for improving enforcement of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  This hearing is part of OCR’s comprehensive review of the Department’s existing regulations and other actions related to implementing the President Biden’s executive orders regarding discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Members of the public may register to make live comments during the hearing.  They may also send written comments to, following guidelines in the hearing notice.


Student designers gave me a tour of the student-built cabin they staged. All are students at Pathways Innovation Center 21st Century School in Casper.

Memos to be released on Tuesday, June 1:


Blue Balow Signature

National Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative

Dear Superintendents,

Three-plus weeks of school and community visits was a success. Again, thank you for welcoming me into your classrooms.

As the summer break approaches, these updates will be sporadic and as needed. Enjoy a much needed respite.


Congrats Big Piney Principal Mr. Makelky on being the 2020 Secondary Principal of the Year

National Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative

The U.S. Dept. of Education, National Governors Association (NGA), Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and the Comprehensive Center Network launched the Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative. Dates for the virtual events are May 27, June 10, June 24, July 8, July 22, and August 12. The purpose of the collaborative is to support state and local teams, community partners, and other education stakeholders as they plan and implement learning and enrichment activities during the summer and beyond. Each session will have a short opening plenary along with concurrent discussions offering practical tools, strategies, and opportunities for peer sharing in the following areas: building school-community partnerships, effective use of fiscal resources, attracting/supporting staff for summer programs, evidence-based learning and enrichment strategies, addressing a full range of student needs, and tailoring supports to specific populations.

Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Federal Updates

Dear Superintendents,

There are EIGHT memos this week including an important survey, summer professional development, grant opportunities, and more.

It was a treat to be back in schools for in-person visits – I am amazed by the teaching and learning happening in every classroom, every day across our great state. Thank you for welcoming me warmly into your buildings and classes.


The U.S. Department of Education (USED) released this statement about the monthly NAEP survey results regarding reopening schools. Thank you Wyoming for setting the gold standard and for lending to America’s success.

U.S. Education Secretary Cardona thanked teachers in this letter. It is a touching ode to our teachers and the profession. I wholeheartedly agree with the statement, “Every day America’s teachers change lives, and every day those lives change the world.” Thank you teachers!


Celebrating WYTOPP scores with 3rd graders, Mrs. Cobb, Principal Thomas, and Supt. Hamel at Little Snake River Valley K-12 School


Rebecca Murray was named Laramie County School District #1 Teacher of the Year. Superintendent Brown, Principal Cox, and I were on-hand to surprise her.

Military Appreciation Month Continues! Please tag us on social media as you observe the month in your schools. This week Tech Sergeant Dudley, of the Wyoming Air Guard joined us for school visits.


Tech Sergeant Dudley joined me at a school visit to Evansville Elementary to congratulate Wyoming’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, Alexis Barney.

Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

State Superintendent Jillian Balow’s Statement on Proposed U.S. Department of Education Rule Prioritizing Critical Race Theory Curriculum in K-12 Schools

CHEYENNE – The U.S. Department of Education has proposed priorities for American History and Civics Education grant programs published in the Federal Register. Those priorities include encouraging districts to use curriculum related to divisive author Ibram X. Kendi and the New York Times “1619 Project.” This is an alarming move toward federal overreach into district curriculum and should be rebuked across party lines.

The draft rule is an attempt to normalize teaching controversial and politically trendy theories about America’s history. History and civics should not be secondary to political whim. Instead, history and civics instruction should engage students in objective, non-partisan analyses of historical and current events. For good reason, public schools do not promote particular political ideologies or religions over others. This federal rule attempts to break from that practice and use taxpayer dollars to do just that.

America needs to update and renew our expectations for teaching and learning about history and civics. Every school board, state legislature, and state superintendent should be working to build local consensus about what should be taught and what materials to use in classrooms. Every family should be engaged in activities that ensure the rising generation is properly prepared to be informed citizens. Every student deserves a rich and engaging education about America’s triumphs, treacheries, losses, and victories. Our touchstone is our shared principle that all Americans have infinite value and individual freedom and responsibility. We must strive to find common goals and values as a nation, not tear each other and our country apart.

The proposed federal rule is open for public comment until May 19 and can be accessed here, or by using the Google search for “Federal Register American history and civics education.” I intend to comment, and I urge you to research the issue and comment if compelled.

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director

May is Military Appreciation Month

Dear Superintendents,

In May, we celebrate high school seniors going to college or a trade school, or entering the military. Schools and communities are encouraged to celebrate SIGNING DAYS by posting on social media using #CollegeSigningDay and #MilitarySigningDay. 

*Please tag us in your posts so we can share on our social media as well!



Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, and Military Spouse Appreciation Day all take place in May. The month-long celebration gives us many opportunities to show our support and gratitude to all the men and women that sacrifice so much for our freedom.

Chances are that we have families in every school with close ties to active duty military members and veterans. These men and women have stories, lessons, and wisdom to share with all of us. Consider inviting a few of them to “zoom in” to classrooms in your district during the month of May.


State officials and 4th grade Arbor Day poster contest winner, Effie Maycock, plant a tree on Wyoming Supreme Court lawn.


  • During his address to Congress, President Biden announced the American Families Plan. Specific to education, the plan includes free community college and free universal pre-kindergarten for all three and four year old children.
  • President Biden and the U.S. Department of Education released this compilation of initiatives, funds, and actions taken during the President’s first one hundred days in office.
  • In a recent letter to district superintendents, Acting Assistant U.S. Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne Goldberg discussed 2020-21 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).
  • $200 million in state allocations for Homeless Children and Youth was distributed to states, along with a letter to state superintendents expressing the urgent need to identify those who are homeless, offer wrap-around services in light of the impact of the pandemic, and provide assistance to enable homeless students to attend school and fully participate in school activities.

These memos will be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Wyoming Student Selected to Attend the 2021 National Youth Science Camp

CHEYENNE – Danielle Jones has been selected to represent Wyoming at the 2021 National Youth Science Camp.

Jones will graduate in May from Thunder Basin High School in Gillette and was selected by Governor Mark Gordon to attend the camp.

“This will be a life-changing experience for Danielle,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “No matter what path Danielle takes after high school graduation, she will have a jump on the skills it takes to work and compete in the 21st Century.”

The National Youth Science Foundation cancelled the in-residence portion of the 2021 National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp). Held in West Virginia since 1963, this is only the third time that the annual program has not been held in the Mountain State.

One hundred eight delegates representing the United States, Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago will, however, have the opportunity to connect from home for an exclusive virtual program. The 2021 Virtual NYSCamp features a lecture series, directed studies, breakout seminars, special events, and a panel discussion with STEM policy experts.

Support from the National Youth Science Foundation allows delegates to attend the NYSCamp program free of charge.

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director

Seamless Summer Food Option

April 26, 2021

Dear Superintendents,

We received good news from USDA Food Nutrition Services this past week. Students will continue to receive free meals through next school year through the Seamless Summer Food Option (school enrollment in the program is required). WDE Child Nutrition Programs Director, Tamra Jackson, is in communication with your food service directors to provide details.

Here is a fact sheet on the three federal COVID-19 relief bills.


Students from across the state received congressional awards for achievements in personal development, physical fitness, and exploration. Photo Credit: Rachael and Steven Girt

Memo to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Month of the Military Child

Dear Superintendents,

Earlier this week, the CDC announced that nearly 80% of pre-K-12 teachers, school staff, and child care workers (nationwide) had received at least their first shot of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March.


April is the Month of the Military Child. Many active and part-time (guard, reserve) military members call Wyoming communities home. In a recent report, “Military Kids Now 2020 Survey,” over five-thousand parents, educators, and secondary students weighed in on academics and social and emotional support. Here is the report. 88% of participants reported having activities in their schools to support
military-connected students; most common events were:

  • Recognizing Month of the Military Child
  • Honoring military service members in ceremonies
  • Assisting new students (e.g., tours, lunch buddies, etc.)


Wyoming is participating in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2021 School Survey. Here is the first monthly report. Of the states that provided sufficient data, Wyoming has the highest percentage of students attending full-time in-person school for both January and February.


Did you miss this in hard-copy? The Casper Star Tribune celebrated the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage with stories about forty women who found success in Wyoming. Here is a link to the e-edition. 


Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature