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.

Statement from Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow

CHEYENNE – “I am honored, and deeply humbled, to announce that Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has asked me to serve as Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. With a focused drive to lead on the front lines of educational transformation in this country, I have accepted. Therefore, I announce my resignation from the office of Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Serving as State Superintendent for the last seven years has been the greatest honor and challenge of my life.

“Governor-elect Youngkin made educational transformation the centerpiece of his campaign. There is no more serious time to be in K-12 education governance than now, and Virginia is on the cutting edge of this battle for the future of our public schools. The work we will do to restore parents’ voices in education, push for innovation and student success, enhance school choice, and to eliminate political ideology from the classroom will set a new tone in Virginia and the nation. We have made great progress on these very items during my tenure in Wyoming.

“As State Superintendent, I made parent voice a priority by including parents in our policy making decisions, such as state standards review committees. We pushed through the Capitol inertia to pass historic Computer Science education requirements for K-12 public schools, greatly enriching and modernizing the curriculum delivered to our students. I have always been an advocate for school choice, and at times, chosen to place my own children in private school. I supported groundbreaking legislation during the 2021 session of the Wyoming legislature to substantially increase the opportunity for charter schools to form in our state. And when it comes to politics in the classroom, I’ve made my position crystal clear that partisan politics and radical theories should not be forced upon our children.

“I started my teaching career in the small town of Hulett, Wyoming, population 386. From there I have built a 25-year career in education and politics, serving as a national literacy consultant, an executive in state government, a policy advisor in the governor’s office, and now the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction. I have served in leadership positions of national education organizations and led through COVID-19 with the highest percentage of students learning in-person in the nation. I am ready and more motivated than ever to engage at this critical time in our nation’s history serving alongside Governor-elect Youngkin as he leads Virginia through this historic opportunity to reset and restore public education with parents and students as the priority.”

– END –

High-resolution photo of Jillian Balow

New Year, New Memos

We are ringing in the new year with seven memos. Stay warm.

Memos to be released on Monday:

 

Blue Balow Signature

NAESP Resources Available

Dear Superintendents,

Earlier this month, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) released the second brief in the Leaders We Need Now (LWNN) research series titled Evolution of the Principalship: Leaders Explain How the Profession Is Changing Through a Most Difficult Year. The brief reveals that in 2020–21, principals’ work priorities shifted in response to the new challenges caused by the pandemic, and principals took on new responsibilities in community-wide crisis management and social media communications. The second brief, Evolution of the Principalship, is available here. You can also access the Leaders We Need executive summary and the first brief in the series, Leaders in the Tumult.

Related, the Wallace Foundation shared a new guide for school district leaders on leveraging federal sources to fund principal pipelines.

Finally, U.S. Education Secretary Cardona penned this letter describing strategies for addressing teacher and staff shortages that can be funded through ARP ESSER.

Memos to be released today:

Have a blessed holiday break.

Blue Balow Signature

“The SEA of the Future is Already Here and It’s Wyoming”

Dear Superintendents,

Thank you for being great partners in education. We proudly share this recognition with you and many others: “The SEA of the Future is Already Here and It’s Wyoming” 

Tis the Season

Each year we select one Wyoming school to create an ornament for the National Christmas at the White House. This year a 6th grade art class at Eastside Elementary School in Rock Springs took the sleigh by the reins. The theme, “What makes your state beautiful?” was evident in every art piece. The ornament below is hanging on the National Christmas Tree this year. Congratulations Eastside 6th graders!

21orn

Wyoming’s ornament on the National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC

Memo to be released today:

2021-135-Public-Comment-on-Proposed-School-Accountability-Rules-PDF

Blue Balow Signature

Computer Science Education Week

Dear Superintendents,

December 6-12 is Computer Science Education Week. Learning celebrations in classrooms and at afterschool programs across Wyoming are great for sharing on social media – and we would love for you to tag us in your posts. Whether it is an hour of code, hack-a-thon, and other activity – please use the hashtags #CSEdWeek and #BootUpWyo and tag us at @WYOEducation

All Wyoming schools will implement computer science standards in grades K-12 next school year. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson hosted a kick-off event this week and several state superintendents were invited to speak about efforts in their states. Wyoming remains a national leader in computer science education!

bucs

ND State Supt Kirsten Baesler, AR Secretary Johnny Key, and I discussed K-12 computer science education


Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

WDE’s FASFA Campaign Underway

Dear Superintendents,

As we enter the week of Thanksgiving, I want to let you know how thankful I am to lead alongside you. Thank you for your tireless efforts on behalf of students. Because of the holiday, there will be no update next week.

The FAFSA completion campaign, “Unlock Your Future – FAFSA is the Key” is well underway. The dashboard link is live and you can see how your schools are doing – Stats are updated each Wednesday. Remember there is a *cash prize* for the counseling department with the highest rate of completion. FAFSA is one of the many on-ramps for students to access post-secondary education. Many students discover they are eligible for college grants through the FAFSA application process.


UPDATE ON FEDERAL VACCINE MANDATE

Messaging and direction from the federal government changes frequently but I am doing my best to keep you apprised of what I learn from the state and federal authorities in real time. I am opposed to the federal government imposing these mandates and am happy to see that not only did the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals put a stay in place, now the federal OSHA has stated it will stop enforcing the mandate. But the White House and the U.S. Department of Education still appear to be pushing forward. We will continue to follow the lead of Governor Gordon and Attorney General Hill to sort through the legal morass.


wyag21

I was on-hand last week when Spectrum-Charter presented a check to Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom. We also recognized educators across the state.

There are no memos this week.

 

Blue Balow Signature

Special Update from State Superintendent Balow

Dear Superintendents,

In my update last week I mentioned the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that the Biden Administration is implementing. We have received some inquiries about what exactly school districts should do. I want to be clear that I oppose this mandate. Second, I am following the lead of the Governor and Attorney General on how Wyoming will handle the situation. Third, since my update, over the weekend we learned that the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a stay against the ETS. The decision gives some momentum to states like Wyoming who are pushing back against the ETS.

I provided the information to keep you informed in real time on the matter. I will continue to provide you with updates as they come my way. It is both my hope and belief that the vaccine mandate will not come to pass for Wyoming’s school staff, but you should consult with your school district attorney on how best to handle the conflicting opinions of the federal government and state governments.

Here are a few resources for additional or more in-depth information (some included in last week’s update):

OSHA ETS 2021-23643.pdf (federalregister.gov)

White House Fact Sheet

OSHA State Plans

Additional materials provided by the U.S. Department of Labor

Nat’l Law Review article on 5th Circuit stay

Governor Gordon’s media release

Sincerely,

Blue Balow Signature

OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard

Dear Superintendents,

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for public inspection on the Federal Register 2021-23643.pdf (federalregister.gov)Wyoming school districts are included in the ETS, which is effective immediately – school districts should plan for compliance. 

Why Wyoming? Wyoming has an OSHA-approved state plan along with 25 other states plus two territories.

Among requirements, employers must:

  • Provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and to allow for paid leave to recover from any side effects.
  • Determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination status from vaccinated employees and maintain records and a roster of each employee’s vaccination status.
  • Require employees to provide prompt notice when they test positive for COVID-19 or receive a COVID-19 diagnosis. Employers must then remove the employee from the workplace, regardless of vaccination status; employers must not allow them to return to work until they meet required criteria.
  • Ensure each worker who is not fully vaccinated is tested for COVID-19 at least weekly (if the worker is in the workplace at least once a week) or within 7 days before returning to work (if the worker is away from the workplace for a week or longer).
  • Ensure that, in most circumstances, each employee who has not been fully vaccinated wears a face covering when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.
  • Comply with most requirements within 30 days of publication and with testing requirements within 60 days of publication.

Litigation against this vaccine mandate has been swift, including from Wyoming. Here are a few related articles and releases:

Our staff and the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services (entity that houses OSHA) began the discussion about this eventuality several weeks ago. We both anticipate learning more from federal agencies next week – We will share information with you as it becomes available.


toy

Wyoming Teachers of the Year (Dane Weaver-2020, Alexis Barney-2021) met with Senator Barrasso during their trip to Washington, DC


Veterans Day is November 11

Many events taking place across the nation will be streamed, including the popular wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery. According to the website, this year’s event can be “viewed online at @ARLINGTONNATL” at 11:00AM.

Here are a few Veterans Day reads that I have enjoyed over the years:


Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

A Podcast Worth Your Time

Dear Superintendents,

Congratulations to WDE’s Dr. Michelle Aldrich, Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director. She received the Rising Star award from the national organization, Advance CTE. Dr. Aldrich and her team work with Wyoming schools, businesses, higher education, and other partners to ensure all students have access to high quality CTE opportunities.

Do you listen to podcasts? Share good podcasts with students or colleagues? The WYpod is worth a listen. Host Eric Ruckle interviews Wyoming people with interesting stories. From ultramarathon runners to cowboys to scientists – this is a good one and a personal favorite of mine.


hall

WDE directors and chiefs did a service project at the Boys and Girls Club of Cheyenne this week – Here, Dicky Shanor and Margee Robertson call out Halloween Bingo


FEDERAL UPDATES

  • The White House announced additional actions to increase school-based COVID-19 screening testing for students and staffHere is the full memo.
  • The U.S. Department of Education (USED) will host (virtually and in-person) the National ESEA Conference on February 16-19, 2022. Formerly called the National Title I Conference, the National ESEA Conference welcomes thousands of K-12 educators from across the country each year. Conference details, including registration materials, are available here.
  • The IRS released FAQs on Rehiring Retirees to Address Labor Shortages. You can find more information on this employer relief to address school labor shortages here

Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Federal Updates

Dear Superintendents,

Congratulations to Scott Marion, Executive Director at the Center for Assessment, who was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). Scott was the Director of Assessment and Accountability in Wyoming until 2003. He continues to work with the Wyoming State Board of Education, the WDE, and the Wyoming Legislature on education accountability. Until 2020, former Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer served on NAGB. It’s always good to have Wyoming ties in national leadership positions.

Federal Updates

On October 8, President Biden signed into law the K-12 Cybersecurity Act, aimed at protecting sensitive information maintained by schools across the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its quarantine guidance for K-12 schools.

rita

Happy Birthday to the Heart of WDE, Rita Watson (middle). In addition to her birthday, she celebrates 52 years with the State of Wyoming this month.

Memos to be released to be released today:

2021-124-ESSER-Funds-Prior-Written-Approval-for-Construction-Projects-PDF

Blue Balow Signature