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.

 No Longer Forgotten: The Triumphs and Struggles of Rural Education in America 

Dear Superintendents,

Over the past eighteen months it’s been a privilege to contribute to a book project about rural education. The book, No Longer Forgotten: The Triumphs and Struggles of Rural Education in America was released earlier this week. I am grateful to have taught in a rural Wyoming school (Hulett) and believe our smallest communities have more strengths than challenges. My small town experiences are with me in every policy discussion as State Superintendent. Here are a few takeaways from the book and panel:

  • There is no consistent definition for “rural” except “areas that are not urban.” Rurality is defined at least 72 different ways by the federal government.
  • Think tanks, majorities, and education philanthropies are located in cities. This is just one of many reasons rural education reform doesn’t usually gain traction.
  • While diverse yet undefined rural “regions” exist (deep south, northeast, midwest, west, southwest), rural areas and schools have much in common especially around pride in schools, social cohesion, shared values, and parental involvement.

If you are interested in watching the panel, here is the link:

Here is an article summarizing a few main ideas from the book:

This week at the annual Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) convening we had many discussions about Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). I wanted to share three diverse documents on the topic because I know we all (leaders, school boards, parents, and teachers) are thinking about the SEL issues, such mental health, and its role education. None of the documents come with a specific endorsement from me other than having found each one insightful and thought-provoking:

Setting the Right Conditions for Learning

From a Nation at Risk to a Nation of Hope

What SEL Needs to Survive


STEM Teacher and State Board member, Ryan Fuhrman, engages in discussion with the computer science standards committee in Lander this week. The committee is reworking and refining the standards.


Who says you can’t be two places at once? I greeted the computer science standards committee via video from my meetings in Washington, DC.


It was so much fun to interview Hadi Partovi, founder and CEO of, on-stage after his keynote speech at the CCSSO opening dinner.



With Help From Microsoft, New Educator Training Opportunities

Dear Superintendents,

WDE and school districts are coordinating multiple training opportunities for the summer. Of note and in this week’s memos, Wyoming received a grant from Microsoft to provide Computer Science training for teachers and registration is available for the annual STAR conference.


WDE teammates were in Cheyenne Thursday with K-12 science teachers working in Performance Level Descriptors and Blueprints for the 2016 Science Standards. Thanks to all our educators who take the time to help strengthen Wyoming’s standards.


Look carefully, you may recognize faces of your former students. These UW biz students presented their investments to the State Loan and Investment Board on Thursday.

Memos to be released on Monday, April 8:

  • 2019-053STAR Conference Information
  • 2019-054: Health, Physical Education, and Fine & Performing Arts Standards Review
  • 2019-055: Time Sensitive: 2017-18 WDE950 Student Transcript Review
  •      2019-055a: Report Legend
  • 2019-056: Computer Science Training: Strategic Planning Tool for School Districts



Superintendent’s Policy Summit (S5S) Set

Dear Superintendents,

In case you missed the “save-the-date” announcement on social media or in last week’s memos, the Superintendent’s Policy Summit (S5S) will be held October 1-2 in Laramie. The theme “Pursuing Excellence Together” will overlay panels, breakouts, and information sessions. Please consider presenting on one of the following:

  • student safety and security
  • education law and policy
  • school improvement and support
  • accreditation

Presentation Proposal Form



I was on the Wyoming road again this week and visited Park County. The organization CodyForward invited me to speak at their annual dinner about economic development and education. Lines between workforce, economic development, and education are blurred as we stay focused on responding to workforce data, post-secondary attainment, and career, college, and military readiness.

Simply, Wyoming is evolving from needing a workforce to needing a skilled workforce and education is the key.


Wyoming’s five statewide elected officials comprise the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB). Recently, the Auditor, Treasurer and I visited Park County businesses supported over the years by our partnership. Powell Economic Partnership (PEP) organized a tour of GFHarvest. This company started as an FFA project for the owner, Forest Smith (also a State Board of Ed member).gw

Gunwerks is a Wyoming company that is expanding operations with a new building in Cody

Memos to be released on Monday, April 1:

  • 2019-050: Professional Development Opportunity for Computer Science
  • 2019-051: Mathematics Extended Standards Review
  • 2019-052: Perkins V Stakeholder Listening Sessions



On the Road Again

Dear Superintendents,

It was another busy week on the Wyoming road and a privilege to visit schools (with better travel weather this week).

Also this week, WDE hosted a workshop called the “Importance of Indian Education for All.” Teachers were trained on how to integrate new standards into Social Studies and other subjects. Schools have three full years to implement Indian Education for All content and performance standards.

There are pertinent memos this week including one about next steps for WDE and school districts after the legislative session. We are working to schedule a debrief call for superintendents to “attend,” as we have in the past. In the meantime, please contact WDE staff with questions.

There is also a memo about 21st Century Learning grants (21CCLC). Substantial grant awards to schools and other entities are available to build out a variety of activities including extended learning, computer science, and more.


Iva Moss-Redman, a STEM teacher with Fremont County School District #38, discusses how to bring STEM education to social studies curriculum during the Indigenous Tribes of Wyoming – Importance of Indian Ed for All workshop in Lander.sbe

The State Board of Education welcomed Valerie Bruce, Wyoming’s 2019 Teacher of the Year, to its meeting Thursday. Bruce is a first grade teacher at Rozet Elementary.rawhide

Elected student officials from Rawhide Elementary in Gillette greeted me and gave me a tour of their building.taiwan

Wyoming has an ongoing dialogue with Taiwan about energy, business, and education. Officials met early in the week to discuss teacher and student exchanges and Dual Language Immersion (DLI).

Memos to be released on Monday:

  • 2019-04621CCLC: Upcoming Cohort 13 Intent to Apply
  • 2019-047: Fall S5S Conference and Call for Proposals
  • 2019-048: Submission and Approval of Leader Evaluation Systems
  • 2019-049:  Important Information on Education Legislation


Our Dedicated Educators

Dear Superintendents,

While much of the state continues to dig out from our huge snowstorm, it’s not surprising that educators evaded the weather and roads to attend PLC trainings presented by Solution Tree.


More than 125 educators from across Wyoming traveled to Casper Tuesday for Solution Tree’s Collaborative Teams II Training with Aaron Hansen. We salute your dedication!


Educators from Green River, Evanston, and Pinedale navigated wet and snowy Wyoming roads to participate in the WDE’s Statewide Systems of Support-sponsored Solution Tree Collaborative Teams II workshop in Rock Springs. Aaron Hansen customized the training to meet the needs of these Wyoming educators!

Memos to be released on Monday, March 18:

  • 2019-43: Public Comment on Chapter 14 Rules
  • 2019-44: Hathaway Scholarship Success Curriculum Changes
  • 2019-45: EPA Webinars Available on Lead in Schools


Championing Education In Wyoming

Dear Superintendents,

It was a great week to be on the Wyoming road (despite a wintry 4.5 hour drive from Casper to Cheyenne on Wednesday night). Thank you to the superintendents who shared students, teachers, and innovations with me during my visits. It is truly a joy to be a champion for Wyoming education–there are so many great things going on! I also appreciated the opportunity to visit with educators about computer science, legislation related to reading assessment and intervention, and the Hathaway Scholarship.

My staff is working to “unpack” the impacts of the legislative session and we will announce a tele-conference debrief for superintendents soon.

On the national front, First Lady Melania Trump is promoting her Be Best initiative, which includes the well-being of children, online safety, and opioid abuse. I am particularly excited about this initiative as we continue to talk about student well-being (social-emotional) in the context of school and student safety.


Wyoming Teacher of the Year, Valerie Bruce, with her students.rivcte

Riverton FFA and Welding teacher, Taylor Haley, shows how her district spent Perkins funds.

Memos to be released on Monday, March 11:

  • 2019-037:  Eighth Grade Unit of Study Certification Form
  • 2019-038:  Accreditation Training
  • 2019-039:  Computer Science Summer Workshops
  • 2019-040ESSA Report Card Feedback
  • 2019-041:  2019-20 Digital Learning Award Nominations
  • 2019-042:  Data-Based Individualization (DBI) Summit


Analyzing New Legislation

Dear Superintendents,

The Wyoming Legislature adjourned for the 2019 session in the early morning hours of February 28. As has been our practice, we will analyze the impact of new legislation and schedule a debrief video conference with superintendents and others. Meanwhile, Governor Gordon continues to sign bills into law.

On the national front, President Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, providing funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2019 for all federal government agencies and programs not yet included in enacted appropriations.  While funding for the Department of Education was enacted back in September, the new bill contains $100 million for the Department of Justice’s STOP School Violence Act.  It also contains $110 million (an increase of $10 million above last year) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) STEM education programs.


The WDE celebrated Digital (Virtual) Learning Day in style–with Virtual 307 training and cake.busbill

Students, educators, board members, law enforcement, lawmakers, and others celebrated as Governor Gordon signed a bill to stiffen penalties for driving past a bus with the STOP arm down.

Memos to be released on March 4:

  • 2019-031:  Call for Proposals: 2019 Wyoming Innovations in Learning Conference
  • 2019-032:  OER Summer Workshop Registration
  • 2019-033:  Wyoming Advisory Panel for Students with Disabilities
  • 2019-034:  Public Comment, Application for Part B Federal Special Education Funds
  • 2019-035:  2019-20 Virtual Education Program Information
  • 2019-036:  Girls Go CyberStart Challenge


Bridging school security and student well-being

Dear Superintendents,

Last Friday the Wyoming House defeated a bill that would have created a framework for school safety and security. Specifically, it would have required inter-agency collaboration at the state level to develop guidelines and best practices for schools. Also, the bill would have emphasized specific aspects of school safety and security plans and professional development. Student safety and well-being is a priority we share. While I was disappointed in the outcome of the bill after unanimous passage out of the House Education Committee, I remain committed to keeping student safety and well-being on our front burners.

At times, it feels like a challenge to bridge school security and student well-being. Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Rachel’s Challenge student assembly. In a word, it was powerful; powerful for me, powerful for the students, and powerful for the safety and culture of the school. Many many schools in Wyoming and across the nation have hosted a Rachel’s Challenge events.

Here’s what our colleague, Superintendent Dave Nicholas from Worland, shared with me recently,

“This is the best student assembly I have ever hosted.  The training that accompanies the presentation is profound and is making a positive impact in our district. This message is ‘sticky,’ the precepts of Rachel‘s Challenge are simple and if implemented; life changing.”  David

Now, onto exciting news regarding Rachel’s Challenge: A supporter of the program has offered to pay a portion of the assembly fee for Wyoming schools. Because of the generosity of this Wyoming supporter, the “Immerse” program, that is typically $6500, is available for $2800. That price is “all-in.” This is a tremendous gift to Wyoming schools and the assembly is well worth it.

Rachel’s Challenge has partnered for years with Dr. Bob Marzano and is bringing on a new partner in Scarlett Lewis, founder of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation. 

Below are a few links with contact information. Please reach out to me personally if I can assist you in any way as you pursue Rachel’s Challenge in your community. This is a positive, local, and impactful step toward ensuring student well-being and a positive school culture.

Chain Reaction-Rachel’s Challenge
The Story that Changes Everything

Here is a link to the pricing and programming sheet with contact information. Once again, for Wyoming schools the “Immerse” package is $2800 versus $6500.


Cheyenne East High School FCCLA students worked to bring Rachel’s Challenge to their schoolprayer breakfast

Governor’s Prayer Breakfast (L to R) Superintendent Balow, Governor Gordon, Sergent Daniel Stech (Wyoming Army recruiter), keynote speaker Navy SEAL Commander Denver Rorkeddd

Milken Educator of the Year, Chris Bessonette (and son Karsten), recieves the official reward from Milken presented by SBE Board Chair Walt Wilcox and Superintendent Balow

Memos to be released on Monday, February 25:

  • 2019-026:  Virtual 307 Website Launch
  • 2019-027:  Douvas Memorial Scholarship Applications Open
  • 2019-028:  Positive School Climate Funding Opportunity
  • 2019-029:  Wyoming Education Trust Fund Applications Open
  • 2019-030:  Science Survey, PD, and Resources


Celebrating Milestones, People

Dear Superintendents,

We celebrated two worthy milestones in education policy this week:

  1. AdvancED accreditation for the Wyoming Cowboy Challenge Academy
  2. Signing of Senate File 0043 expanding the Hathaway Scholarship

We also hosted the 2019 Wyoming Teacher of the Year. She represented teachers and education with poise, passion, and professionalism.

The events are best told in photos. Enjoy!

Memos will not be public until Tuesday, February 19 because of the holiday.


Wyoming’s Adjutant General Luke Reiner and Superintendent Balow recap the work and collaboration it took to achieve the AdvancED accreditation status. Credits earned at the Academy can now count toward local graduation requirements. Here is a link to the media release: 


Governor Gordon signed a bill that expands the success curriculum to include CTE courses and makes the scholarship more accessible to students seeking workforce training after high school. Business, industry, educators, and policymakers celebrated Friday afternoon.

This evolution of the Scholarship also creates better alignment among Wyoming’s workforce demands, our education accountability system (which recognizes graduates who are prepared for college, careers, and military service), and scholarship opportunities.

Here is a link to the media release.


Valerie Bruce is a 1st grade teacher at Rozet Elementary in Campbell County. She is the 2019 Wyoming Teacher of the Year. During 2019, she will learn to advocate for the education profession and her passions in diverse settings. On Thursday she addressed the Wyoming House and Senate and talked about the importance of excellent teachers. Mrs. Bruce is a stellar advocate for teachers and Wyoming education.


Memos to be released on Tuesday, February 19:

  • 2019-022: 2020 Wyoming Teacher of the Year Application
  • 2019-023: Pacesetter Award Nominations Open
  • 2019-024: Preliminary Allocations for 2019-20 ESSA Consolidated Grant, McKinney-Vento
  • 2019-025: Webinar on English Learners and Title III Funding


Celebrating CTE Month in Wyoming

Dear Superintendents,

What a special week for Wyoming CTE students! State officers from DECA, FBLA, FCCLA, FFA, and Skills USA visited Cheyenne for a special day of discussions with legislators, a Governor’s Proclamation, and good old-fashioned networking.

We would love to see Wyoming educators, business and industry community members, and students participate in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month celebration. This is an annual Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) Twitter chat and it will take place February 19 at 3:00 p.m. Wyoming time.  Be sure to use #CTSOchat when responding and let others know Wyoming is represented.


State Officers from the Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) visited the Captiol this week. They represented all CTE students very well!biz

Members of the business and industry community celebrated Governor Gordon’s signing of the CTE proclamation. This was the third proclamation signed by Governor Gordon.


Every Student Succeeds (ESSA) Implementation

The USED released proposed, non-regulatory guidance to support school districts’ compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) requirement that federal funds supplement, and do not supplant, state and local funds.  The guidance explains how ESSA changed the long-standing requirement in order to reduce administrative burden, simplify the compliance demonstration, and promote effective spending.  (Note: The Department welcomes stakeholder comment on the proposed guidance directed to through February 25.)

While important and well-intentioned, the supplement not supplant requirement was restrictive and burdensome, to the point that some districts made ineffective spending choices in an effort to avoid non-compliance.  Under ESSA, the requirement changed to provide more flexibility to districts while still ensuring that federal funds are supplemental to state and local funds and cannot be used to replace them.

In order to comply, a district need only show that its methodology to allocate state and local resources to schools does not take into account a school’s Title I status.  For many districts, the requirement can be met using the district’s current methodology for allocating state and local resources. At the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) we are committed to supporting you to spend federal dollars as flexibly as possible.


Marzano training Phase IV- Proficiency Scales for Exceptional Learners in Casper this week


Funding Opportunity

Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3) is a unique initiative that offers state, local, and tribal governments more flexibility to innovate to improve the outcomes of some of the nation’s most disadvantaged youth.  Specifically, P3 enables government entities to obtain waivers of statutory or regulatory requirements that impede effective service delivery to disconnected youth and also gives them the ability to blend together funds from multiple federal programs, eliminating the need to account for and report on each of them.  The deadline for applications is April 29.  (Note: Examples of possible waivers are in the Federal Register notice, while a list of waivers previously granted for prior pilots is on the program page.)


Memos to be released on Monday, February 11:

  • 2019-016: ACCESS 2.0, ALT ACCESS Participation Rate Requirement
  • 2019-017: Celebrate Digital (Virtual) Learning Day
  • 2019-018: BOCES Survey Reminder
  • 2019-019: 2018-19 CTE Course Approval Timeline
  • 2019-020: Survey for ALT 1 Percent Cap (WY-ALT, ACCESS-ALT)
  • 2019-021: Call for Presenters for the 2019 Native American Education Conference