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.

Introducing Level Up, Our Teacher-Leader Development Program

Dear Superintendents,

During our recent Superintendent’s Summit (S5S), I announced a new teacher-leader development program called Level Up. In coming days, you will receive the official announcement, along with some of the exciting activities planned for this next year. In a few bullets, I want to describe the impetus for this program:

  • Every teacher is a leader; all teachers need opportunities to hone their skills outside of the classroom and school. When quality teachers access relevant professional development, retention rates are higher.
  • Since I have been Wyoming’s state Superintendent, each Wyoming Teacher of the Year has asked me how I could utilize them as an advocate for the profession and educational policy. Level Up is my response.
  • Beyond the recognized teachers of the year, there are many promising teachers across our state, and not enough opportunities to develop teachers as leaders.

There will be more to come regarding Level Up!

October is Disability Awareness Month and educators everywhere are highlighting topics of awareness for learning disabilities, dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Down Syndrome, blindness, disability employment, and more. This year’s theme is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2019: The Right Talent, Right Now and celebrates contributions of workers with disabilities and spotlights the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents.


plan a

Plan A School Counselor Professional Development Days continued across Wyoming this week. The forum explored changes in the Hathaway Scholarship Program post the passage of Senate File 43. WDE teammates brought the forum to Cheyenne, Rock Springs, Thermopolis, Casper, and Gillette.

Memos to be released:

  • 2019-122:   WDE684A Fall Subgroup Review Window Now Open
  • 2019-123:   Nominations Open for Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award
  • 2019-124:   Hathaway Scholarship Day – November 15
  • 2019-125:   Public Comment on Proposed Leader and Teacher Evaluation Rules
  • 2019-126:   Digital Threat Assessment Training Opportunities November 4-5



Recapping Some Education News and Information

Dear Superintendents,

Memos and this update are released to superintendents on Friday for weekend review. The same information becomes public on Monday.

I’d like to underscore a couple of memos this week:

First, there were changes to the literacy and dyslexia statute during the 2019 legislative session. The WDE and many others have rallied over the past year to identify best practices, provide training, and ensure that implementation of the law results in improved literacy teaching and learning. Here are two articles that highlight some of the hard work in our state:

Second, as of the 2018 session, Wyoming has a new state song, Wyoming Where I Belong. The associated memo provides music teacher-friendly resources and standards alignment information. It’s a beautiful song that students will love to learn.

In the News

Wyoming received  another substantial grant for computer science education. This time the grant is a federal Perkins grant for innovation and modernization. Here is the release. I am so proud of the partnerships that are the key to moving forward.

When we are serious about preparing students, we quickly recognize that education decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. Thanks to schools, business, and best practice partners:

  • Carbon County School District #1
  • Fremont County School District #14
  • Uinta County School District #1
  • University of Wyoming
  • Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board
  • Wyoming Workforce Development Council
  • Computer Science Teachers Association, Wyoming Chapter
  • American Institutes for Research

Laurel Ballard and the WDE team have done an outstanding job leading this charge!



Chelsie, Aimee, Danielle, and Michelle are part of the WDE team that made S5S a success last week

National Title I Conference is Rebranded

The National ESEA Conference will convene February 4-7, 2020, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia.The conference theme “Together for Equity” will focus on supporting disadvantaged children. Participants include state agency officials, school district administrators, school building leaders, and teachers – all gaining new knowledge, instructional strategies, and skills needed to transform student learning. Conference details, including registration materials, are available at:

Memos to be released on Monday, October 14:

  • 2019-117:   2020 Social Studies Workshop – Call for Presentations
  • 2019-118:   Fall 2019-20 Student Climate Survey for Alternative School Accountability
  • 2019-119:   Wyoming’s 2nd state song “Wyoming Where I Belong”
  • 2019-120:   K-3 Reading Assessment and Intervention Guidance
  • 2019-121:   Let’s Celebrate Digital Citizenship Week!



Congrats to Our 2020 Teacher of the Year, Dane Weaver

Dear Superintendents,

Good afternoon and thank you for attending S5S 2019 – Pursuing Excellence Together – this week. It was a remarkable event and to those who participated, you brought with you enthusiasm, ideas, and questions. I hope you left feeling as inspired and motivated as I did. It was so great to see so many of you; and to those who were unable to make it to Laramie, we missed you!

During the conference, we announced the 2020 Wyoming Teacher of the Year – Dane Weaver, a 7-12 grade social studies teacher from Ten Sleep K-12 School. Dane’s charisma is infectious, and I am so excited that he will represent rural education, Wyoming, and the teaching profession.


Wyoming’s 2020 Teacher of the Year is Dane Weaver of Ten Sleep K-12 School!


Congratulations to all the District Teachers of the Year who traveled to Laramie to accept their awards during S5S. 

There are no memos this week.


Congratulations to Our Blue Ribbon Schools

Dear Superintendents,

The Blue Ribbon School winners were announced this week – CONGRATULATIONS to Sheridan #2 and Sweetwater #2! Meadowlark Elementary in Sheridan and Truman Elementary in Green River are National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2019. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. I look forward to celebrating with both schools!

As I compose this update, the Joint Education Committee (JEC) is meeting in Cody to discuss possible K-12 and higher education bills and issues. Here is a link to the agenda and materials. 


Dirk Andrews, teacher from Casper, was in Washington, DC at the same time I was. We saw each other at Congressman Cheney’s office under the watchful eye of “Hank” the Boxer.


Teachers in Gillette participated in Computer Science training this week. The training not only prepares teachers to teach CS but also works with schools to strategic plan around incorporating CS into the school culture.


It was easy to brag on the great work Wyoming is doing with Computer Science to Microsoft President Brad Smith.

Memos to be released September 30:

  • 2019-113:   Holiday Cards For Our Military Challenge
  • 2019-114:   Open Range Wyoming Launch
  • 2019-115:   New 1% Threshold District Reporting and Monitoring of Student Participation in WY-ALT
  • 2019-116:   Remote Education Information


Honoring Wyoming’s Women Leaders

Dear Superintendents,

It was a privilege to attend and honor women leaders from across our state at the Women of Influence event this week. The Education category was fielded by great nominees:

  • Carrie McCulloch-Chizek, Boys and Girls Club of Carbon County
  • Darrah Perez, Student/Artist/Entrepreneur/Freelance Reporter/ WildLand Firefighter, Central Wyoming College/Wyoming Public Radio/BIA Forestry WildLand FireFighting
  • Deb Riker, Special Education Director (retiring at the end of June 2019), Carbon County School District #2
  • Haley Seilbach, First grade teacher, Sage Elementary; Sweetwater County School District #1
  • Heather Fleming, Co-Founder of WY LIT and Decoding Dyslexia Wyoming
  • Kathleen Engle, Induction Mentor, Weston County School District
  • Keri Shannon, Principal, Stocktrail Elementary School
  • Dr. Laurel Ballard, Student/Teacher Resource Team Director, Wyoming Department of Education
  • Lynette St. Clair, Native American Education Coordinator, Fremont County School District 21, Fort Washakie School
  • Maryellen Tast, Dean of Outreach and Workforce Development, Laramie County Community College
  • Dr. Michelle Aldrich, Wyoming State Career and Technical Education Director, CTE Section Supervisor, Wyoming Department of Education
  • Paige Fenton Hughes, Superintendent, Converse County School District #1
  • Peggy Miller, Chair, Board of Trustees, Fremont County School District #2

Congratulations to all of these amazing leaders and a special congrats to the winner, Lynette St. Clair. 


Lynette St. Clair is named Wyoming’s Woman of Influence in Educationhath

The Hathway Team (Danielle, Bradley, Jen) tailgate before the UW football game. The line for swag was long!

Memos to be released on Monday, September 23:

  • 2019-110:   Wyoming Alternate Assessment (WY-ALT) Participation Guidance Document
  • 2019-111:   Coloring Books for Third Grade Students
  • 2019-112:   U.S. Presidential Scholars Program



Celebrating The Constitution In Our Classrooms

Dear Superintendents,

On September 17, the signing of the U.S. Constitution will be commemorated in schools across the nation. Undoubtedly, many learning opportunities are planned for Wyoming students in your communities. As always, we encourage you to share pictures from your Constitution Day events on social media and either tag us – @WYOEducation on Twitter, or upload a photo to the Wyoming Department of Education page on Facebook – or send them to and we will share them out on our social media channels.

Teaching the Constitution to students is a requirement. Beyond this requirement, though, the study of civics is a vital part of any democracy.

With encouragement by the organization Liberty Lives Forever, I joined many other elected officials across the U.S. and made a video that explains the importance of the Constitution and civics education. The video is meant for students and others to view and comment on through social media and YouTube.

Video Link:

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education has provided the following links to teaching and learning resources:

Finally, the U.S. Census Bureau also has more resources available at its Statistics in Schools website.


Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, visited Wyoming last week. Many librarians from across the state welcomed her at a reception in advance of their annual conference.

Memos to be released:

  • 2019-103:  Revised: Public Comment: Perkins V Performance Assessment Targets
  • 2019-107:  ISTE Leadership to attend the Wyoming Innovations in Learning Conference
  • 2019-108:  WDE949 – Student Transcripts
  • 2019-109:  WDE950 – Graduating Student Transcripts


Sharing Two Educational Opportunities

Dear Superintendents,

I’m excited to share two opportunities for Wyoming communities, schools, and students.

Governor Mark Gordon has proclaimed September 28 as Wyoming Public Lands Day. Legislation for this celebration passed during the 2019 session. Learning opportunities in schools are specifically mentioned in the signed proclamation:

I (Governor Mark Gordon) encourage our public schools to observe this day by discussing the role Wyoming’s public lands play in our state’s history, economy, and the diverse benefits we derive from these same lands; and by creating opportunities to connect our youth with the federal and state public lands and land managers within our borders.”

With over half of Wyoming’s land being publicly owned, chances are good that space is very near your schools. Land managers, rangers, public land lessees, and other experts are a phone call away and generally eager to talk to students about one of Wyoming’s great treasures.

If field trips or guest speakers are just not possible, Wyoming teachers have developed curriculum specific to public lands through the Wyoming Ag in the Classroom (WAITC) Stewardship ProjectHere is one example of a WAITC public lands lesson (that could be adapted for almost any grade or class). All lessons are aligned to Wyoming’s science standards and they are available for free at the Wyoming Ag in the Classroom website.


Wyo Rep. Andy Schwartz sponsored legislation in 2019 that recognizes September 28 as Public Lands Day in our state. Governor Gordon signed the proclamation in Grand Teton National Park.

Also, on September 6, 1870, Louisa Swain cast the first vote by a woman right here in Wyoming. Throughout 2019 and 2020, Wyoming commemorates the vote and women’s suffrage with a number of celebrations. I know firsthand that our future history makers are spending time in your schools learning and innovating each day and I want to hear their stories! I’ve included a memo (How will you make Wyoming History) announcing an essay contest. While this contest is only open to girls in grades 7-12, I’ll gauge participation and success and look for opportunities to include other grades and student groups. Please share the announcement with teachers, leagues of women voters, and other school and community organizations. I am so excited to stand with the winner on December 10 in our Capitol.

Memos to be released on Monday, September 9:

  • 2019-103:  Public Comment: Perkins V Performance Assessment Targets
  • 2019-104:  UW Offers Free Transportation to Campus Pass Day
  • 2019-105:  “Breaking Through” Casper Star Tribune Free Subscription
  • 2019-106:  Essay Contest: How will you be part of Wyoming’s history?


WY-TOPP, ACT Scores Available

Dear Superintendents,

Statewide WY-TOPP and ACT scores were released this week. Thanks to Superintendents Rose and Curtis for joining the media call to share “on-the-ground” insights. Here are a few highlights:

  • Scores are available to the public a full month earlier than last year.
  • Participation rate for interim and modular assessments averaged around 80% statewide.
  • Assessment scores will be part of the accountability determinations which will be released publicly on September 16, which help us identify the schools and districts that need to improve and direct state and federal resources to them.

Interim and modular assessment windows open soon:

  • Fall Interim: Sept. 10 – Oct. 4, 2019
  • Modular: Sept. 10, 2019 – June 12, 2020

For additional information, please visit the WY-TOPP assessment page.

*Thanks to WDE staff (Data, Assessment, and Comms in particular) and the numerous Wyoming educators who worked on standard-setting, cut scores, test administration, data collation, and communications.


Memos to be released on Tuesday, September 3:

  • 2019-095:  Innovations Showcase Nov. 6
  • 2019-096:  2019-20 State Superintendent’s Policy Summit
  • 2019-097:  Career Development Facilitator Training
  • 2019-098:  Plan A School Counselor Professional Development Days
  • 2019-099:  Literacy Initiative Focusing on Students with Significant Intellectual Disabilities
  • 2019-100:  Wyoming Office of Homeland Security and TSA Resources for K12
  • 2019-101:  Wyoming Next Step Assessment Clinic Oct. 25
  • 2019-102:  WAPSD Public Meeting Sept. 12



School Safety Survey Posted

Dear Superintendents,

As the school year begins, here are a few stats from our great state and beyond:

  • 93,029 students were enrolled in Wyoming’s 48 public school districts in the 2018-19 school year. This was a slight increase from the 2017-18 school year.
  • State data for 2019-20 enrollment will be collected on October 1.
  • About 56.6 million students will attend elementary, middle, and high schools across the United States during the 2019-20 school year.
    • 50.8 million students in public schools
    • 5.8 million students in private schools
  • About 19.9 million students will attend colleges and universities in fall 2019.
    • 11.3 million female students
    • 8.6 million male students

Student Safety

When a tragic shooting occurs in our nation there is an unfortunate urge to place blame and focus on only one or two aspects of safety. However, it is critical to approach student safety from a broad-based perspective — addressing a range of preventative and safety measures both at individual schools as well as at the district and community levels. One size never fits all, especially in Wyoming which is why I am active at the national and state levels to ensure that all communities (large and small) are represented in the conversation and that safety also encompasses student well-being.

There is no way to confidently predict human behavior, even when it comes to safety in our schools. However, there are tools, actions, and strategies that can reduce incidences of school violence and help create safe and supportive school environments that address the needs of all students. I remain committed ensuring Wyoming’s communities have the knowledge, tools, and resources to help ensure our students are safe. As part of this commitment, there is a memo this week with a link to a school-level survey. We need to better understand what steps Wyoming schools are currently taking to evaluate risks related to school violence – this is a first step. Please encourage principals in your district complete the survey by September 23, 2019.

At the national level and following the deadly attacks in Dayton, OH, and El Paso, TX, in early August, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tasked the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) with identifying ways to improve school safety. On Aug. 9, Senate HELP Chairman Lamar sent a letter to Committee members, asking for input on how to prevent future school shootings. This is on the heels of a report released by the Federal Commission on School Safety in early 2019. I look forward to staying abreast and involved in the national discussion, as well as discussions here at home.


Trent Carroll, Chief Operating Officer, and Superintendent Balow “compete” in the Pink Ribbon Run 5K

Memos to be released on Monday, August 26:

  • 2019-089:  Threat Assessment Survey
  • 2019-090:  Final 2019-2020 ESSA Consolidated Grant Allocations
  • 2019-091:  2018-19 School Performance Confidential Reports Available
  • 2019-092:  Hathaway Technical Assistance
  • 2019-093:  Annual Accreditation Due November 1
  • 2019-094:  Constitution Day September 17, 2019


Professional Development Opportunities a Chance to Revitalize

Dear Superintendents,

A full summer of professional development for educators across the state is almost in the rear-view mirror! These opportunities to network informally – and learn more about our trade – allow us to open the school year revitalized.

Here are a few stats from summer trainings and conferences hosted by the WDE:

  • A record-setting 619 people participated in last week’s Native American Education Conference in Riverton.
  • At the Wyoming School Nutrition Conference, five schools were awarded for increasing breakfast participation.
  • Participants at the same conference scrambled around the Ramkota in the Amazing School Nutrition Race.
  • The National Assessment Governing Board, an independent, bipartisan federal board that sets policy for NAEP, commonly known as The Nation’s Report Card, held its quarterly meeting in Cheyenne.
  • Dr. Patrick Schwarz talked about co-teaching at the Week of Academic Vision in Excellence (WAVE) conference in Laramie.
  • Through a Microsoft grant, the WDE hosted 17 districts, two private schools for a total of 100 people in Strategic CSforALL Resource & Implementation Planning Tool (SCRIPT) training. Two more trainings are scheduled in Gillette and Afton. (Note to districts: The Afton training on September 16-17 still has space. Register here).


Teens who attended the Native American Education Conference had the opportunity to learn about Arapaho horse culture, taught by Elk Sage, suicide prevention coordinator for the Northern Arapaho Tribe.


First Lady Jennie Gordon and Superintendent Jillian Balow pose with the Breakfast Challenge winners during the School Nutrition Association of Wyoming’s annual conference in Casper.


CSforALL SCRIPT training asked educators to work on how to engage their communities to help bring computer science to the classroom. The groups then shared out in a ‘gallery walk’ to promote and share ideas.

Federal Funding Update:

On August 2, President Donald Trump signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, which sets discretionary spending limits for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021. House and Senate appropriators may now proceed in approving spending bills for the ongoing activities of the federal government, including education.

In Wyoming, staff members at WDE are working with school districts to spend down remaining funds from FY17-18. If you have questions about spend down, please contact us. 

Memos to be released on Monday, August 19:

  •  2019-084:  Wyoming Cowboy ChalleNGe Academy
  •  2019-085:  Chapter 38 Public Comment: Hathaway Scholarship Program
  •  2019-086:  NCII Spotlights Wyoming SPED Work
  •  2019-087:  Chapter 46 Public Comment: Early Childhood Grant
  •  2019-088:  2019 Back-To-School Toolkit Available