Category Archives: Superintendent’s Weekly Update

State Superintendent Jillian Balow sends an update to school district superintendents at the end of every week so they can see the memos which will be sent out the following week and highlight statewide education work.

National Native American Heritage Month

Dear Superintendents,

November is National Native American Heritage Month. Native Americans enrich the history, diversity, culture, and future of our country, and of Wyoming.

In 2017 House Bill 76, Indian Education for All, passed the Wyoming Legislature and was signed into law. Soon after, work was underway to develop educational standards so that every student in Wyoming would have the opportunity to learn about the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes that have deep and ongoing roots in Wyoming. The standards are now complete and will be fully implemented across Wyoming next school year. In addition to standards Indian Education for All allows the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) to collaborate directly with tribal elders, leaders, educators, and others to develop a repository of instructional materials and resources. Education standards and the resource repository can be found here.  

Even before a law was enacted, many Wyoming educators were teaching their students about Native American history, culture, politics, and more. There are many ways to teach and learn during National Native American Heritage Month (or any month. Here are a few:

Basketball or Nothing (Netflix)

What Was Ours (Amazon Prime)

Miss Navajo (PBS documentary)

Native American Heritage Month – teacher resources

Direct Link to WDE Repository


In March 2017, then-Governor Matt Mead signed House Bill 76, Indian Education for All, into law.

On Veterans Day, November 11, we honored the men and women who served in the United States armed services. I recommend reading this inspiring story about Kendrick Lusk. He retired from the U.S. Army and began teaching high school. If you know a veteran or active service man or woman who might like to be a teacher, there are resources in Wyoming:

Troops to Teachers – Former Wyoming educator Bill Hardesty works directly with schools, higher ed, and veterans who want to become teachers.

University of Wyoming Veterans Services Center – Army veteran Marti Martinez works closely with veterans as they transition to campus and college life.



Slade Elementary Principal Heather Moro leads the Blue Ribbon Award assembly on Friday afternoon.

Slade Elementary and PODER Academy received awards for being National Blue Ribbon Schools. I had the opportunity to celebrate virtually with students and staff at Slade.

“[National] Blue Ribbon Schools show what’s possible when you focus on students and their achievement. Many of you show what’s possible when you’re forced to pivot and navigate uncharted circumstances — like during this COVID crisis — to keep learning going for all your students. We know that every child is unique. Different students in different places have different needs. We recognize different kinds of schools precisely because of this reality.”

— Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

Memos to be released:

  • 2020-172:   Educator Input for Mathematics Performance Standards

Wyoming Ag In The Classroom

Today Charter Spectrum and Wyoming Ag In The Classroom celebrated their partnership. Charter Spectrum presented a $2,000 check to the organization, as well as Samsung tablets for teachers who implement the Wyoming Ag In the The Classroom curriculum.

The Wyoming Ag In the Classroom curriculum (for grades 2-5) was developed by Wyoming teachers. It is free and fully aligned to Wyoming science standards, and focuses on agriculture, energy, natural resources, and outdoor recreation. During the pandemic, the organization has built out the Wyoming Stewardship Project and developed a Family Learning Series.

Charter Spectrum has partnered with communities and entities in Wyoming and other states for several years to ensure students who receive free and reduced lunch have access to adequate internet access and devices.


Memos to be released:

  • 2020-168:   Revised Final 2020-21 ESSA Consolidated Grant Allocations
  • 2020-169:   National Youth Science Camp Applications
  • 2020-170:   2021 PAEMST Nominations Open
  • 2020-171:   Wyoming Advisory Panel for Students with Disabilities

New Resources from USED

November 2, 2020

Dear Superintendents,

I want begin by thanking special education leaders in Wyoming: directors, teachers, paraeducators, and the team at WDE. This week at the School Finance Recalibration committee, WDE Director of Special Education Margee Robertson, and Chief Academic Officer Shelley Hamel, were asked to present on short notice. Not only did they make an excellent presentation but educators from across the state provided public testimony supporting Wyoming’s investment and programming. Both the committee and the third-party consultants spoke highly of the work and outcomes in Wyoming special education. I can’t think of a more important area to shine brightly!


WDE presents at the School Finance Recalibration committee meeting.


NEW Resources from the United States Department of Education (USED)


School District Response to COVID-19 (national report)

A new report on school district responses to the COVID-19 pandemic was released this week by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Here is the report link.

Key findings from this new research:

  • About two in five schools began the year offering an option for full-time in-person instruction, about a third were fully remote, and the remaining 25 percent offered a hybrid model or in person for select grades.
  • Overall, COVID-19 case rates were weakly related to reopening models, and higher percentages of schools returned in person in small, low-minority, low-poverty, and high-achieving districts.
  • Eleven percent of all schools shifted from remote-only instruction to more in-person instruction by October 1, and most of these schools were in red states.
  • Districts’ remote instruction offerings were, indeed, a large improvement from the “emergency learning” remote instruction in the spring, as measured by multiple indicators.


Ambassador Fellowship Program

Apply now for the USED 2021-22 School Ambassador Fellowship Program. The program enables outstanding teachers, principals, counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other school-based professionals interacting with students on a daily basis to bring their expertise to the national level.


NOVEMBER IS NATIONAL VETERANS AND MILITARY FAMILIES MONTH. Every community in Wyoming has veterans and many have active duty members. Please encourage teachers to invite U.S. military veterans into their classrooms (in-person or virtually) around Veterans Day (November 11). Veterans can share their experiences and teach students lessons about the history and significance of the holiday, helping students reflect upon the importance of the ideals of liberty, freedom, and democracy. 


I had lunch with these airmen (and others) at a recent Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce event.

Memos to be released today:

  • 2020-165:   2020-21 WAEA Exception Form
  • 2020-166:   Webinar on English Learners and Title III Funding
  • 2020-167:   CARES Act Grant Application Deadline

Prioritizing the Safety and Wellbeing of Students

Dear Superintendents,

It’s hard to believe we are crossing the first quarter threshold of the school year. Thank you for your careful course corrections and for prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and community. As I visit with each of you individually the theme is that the school year is very challenging but that students and learning make it feel more normal than not. Thank you for your leadership!

While my travel is very limited and we take extra precautions when I meet face to face with people, I visited Gillette’s urban farm, Equality State Farms, this week. The owners, Matt and Marlena Walker, have partnered with Campbell County School District to ensure the locally sourced produce is on students’ lunch trays – One more reason to love Wyoming! While you can’t tell from the photo below, we were standing in the open doorway of a loading dock and it was cold!


I toured Equality State Farms this week with owner Matt Walker and Campbell County Food Service Director Bryan Young. Some of the local produce goes to students in Gillette’s schools. Photo Credit: Veteran Move Media

Memos to be released:

  • 2020-162:   Malcolm Wallop Civic Engagement Program
  • 2020-163:   DonorsChoose Offers Classroom Project Funding Opportunities
  • 2020-164:   2020 National ESEA Distinguished Schools Application

Level Up, NAEP and In-Person Instruction

Dear Superintendents,

Over the past several weeks, WDE’s Robin Grandpre, Linda Finnerty, and I hosted regional zoom kick-off meetings for Level Up Cohort 2 participants Wyoming’s “best of the best” teachers and their principals offered insight, enthusiasm, and inspiration for the year ahead. We hope to meet face-to-face in early 2021. Visit this link for more about Level Up.

NAEP Testing for 2020-2021:

The NAEP will be administered this school year in its traditional format but have a smaller testing population and not include national-only assessments for eighth-grade U.S. history and civics and the age 17 long-term trend. This article in Education Dive summarizes the assessment plan and rationale.


On October 5, President Trump signed an executive order to address the negative impact of prolonged shutdowns on mental and behavioral health and increase suicide prevention efforts (fact sheet).  Through the order, the President is establishing a Cabinet-level working group to assess the mental health needs of the most vulnerable, including children.

 There are no memos this week.

Observations In Education

Dear Superintendents,

Happy October. This is a busy month of observations in education. Notably, October is National Principals MonthLearning Disabilities Awareness MonthNational Disability Employment Awareness Month, and National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.

Sponsors of the Wyoming Next Generation Sector Partnership Academy announced two upcoming virtual trainings:

  • October 12 – Next Gen 101
  • October 13 – Academy Training

The 101 training, in particular, is appropriate for superintendents and other educators who want to learn more about how education fits into statewide strategies that help industries and communities move forward.

The trainings and projects are sponsored by the Wyoming Workforce Development Council and Workforce Services, Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming Community College Commission, and Wyoming Department of Education.

The trainings are free. RSVP by October 5 at:


Happy Principals Month – featuring one of my favorites, John Balow, serving lunch to students.

Memos to be released:

  • 2020-155:   Secondary Workplace Discovery Grant
  • 2020-156:   Educator Input on Draft 2020 Math Performance Level Descriptors
  • 2020-157:   Public Comment on Proposed Ch. 10 Rules and Standards

Wyoming Education Summit A Success

With more than 200 participants, top-notch keynote speakers, and many of you as breakout speakers, this year’s Wyoming Education Summit (WES) was a success. Thank you!

I shared a few stats about Wyoming education during my opening remarks. Here are a few more:

  • Hundreds of Wyoming teachers are taking advantage of profession development to enhance virtual, remote, and blended instruction. Courses are being offered by WDE, UW, and independent providers.
  • Open Range Wyoming, Wyoming’s open education resources hub now has 3,864 resources aligned with Wyoming standards.
  • Wyoming WebEd Radio aired eight episodes and had 703 total views on YouTube.
  • During March and April a total of 1,400,504 meals were served to Wyoming children via school food service teams.


The LEVEL-UP 2020 cohort celebrated a virtual graduation after a year leadership development and networking.


Alexis Barney was named the 2021 Wyoming Teacher of the Year. She is an elementary teacher at Evansville Elementary School.

PODER Academy and Slade Elementary were named Blue Ribbon Schools by the United States Department of Education.

Memos to be released:

  • 2020-153:   Assessment Literacy Modules – Focus Group
  • 2020-154:   DRIVE: Developing Rewarding Integrated Vocational Experiences: A Paraprofessional Training Group

Wyoming Awarded $43.6 Million Literacy Grant

Dear Superintendents,

Last week, our office enthusiastically shared news of a $43.3 million grant to create a comprehensive state literacy program to advance literacy skills — including pre-literacy skills, reading, and writing — for students from birth through grade 12, including limited-English-proficient students and students with disabilities. The grant cycle is five years and one of our first steps is to put together a statewide literacy panel. Here is the media release. 

1776 Commission

President Trump announced the creation of the “1776 Commission” to counter more critical historical narratives of the American founding like the one popularized by the New York Times’ 1619 Project. The 1776 Commission will “restore patriotic education to our schools,” Trump said.

Health Guidance Update

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon announced the extension of current health orders this week. One significant change to the orders includes the addition of indoor close-contact activities and sports.

Governor’s news release

Twelfth Continuation of Wyoming Health Orders (schools mostly on pages 7-9)

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released indicators to help schools make dynamic decisions about in-person learning as local conditions evolve throughout the pandemic.  When coupled with local data about community spread, these indicators are an important tool to help local health officials, school administrators, and communities prepare, plan, and respond to COVID-19.  These indicators are the latest resource CDC has provided for schools during the pandemic, supplementing previously released guidance.

Rural Tech Project

Several weeks ago, I included an announcement for the Rural Tech Project in this update. The challenge invites schools to customize technology education programs for students and local needs. Up to five finalists will progress to Phase 2 and each receive an equal share of the $500,000 cash prize pool, on-the-ground-assistance, and access to virtual resources. One grand-prize winner will receive an additional $100,000.

Proposals are due by 5:59 p.m. ET on October 8. The Rural Tech Project has curated resources to help entrants develop comprehensive program proposals. The resources provide support around topics ranging from program design and delivery to engaging community stakeholders. To learn more about entering the challenge, see the recording of the information session and answers to frequently asked questions.

Memos to be released:

  • 2020-148:    Eighth Grade Unit of Study Certification Form Due June 11, 2021
  • 2020-149:    Call for Nominations: U.S. Presidential Scholars Program
  • 2020-150:    Chapter 20 Public Comment: Rules for the Pupil Transportation Component within the Education Resource Block Grant Model
  • 2020-151:    Roadtrip Nation Application Deadline October 4, 2020
  • 2020-152:    CARES Act Equitable Services Update