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.

Hathaway Day

Dear Superintendents,

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday there will not be an update from me next week. If there are memos, they will be sent to superintendents on Wednesday, November 22 and publicly released the following Monday.

It was great to see many of you this week in Casper at various education events. Thank you, Kevin Mitchell, for the time during your business meeting to update superintendents on various topics.

A special thank you to Converse County #1 Superintendent Fenton-Hughes, the local board of trustees, and Nutrition Director Monty Gilbreath for taking advantage of the local producer cost share program to bring local beef and pork to students. It was a privilege to be part of your celebration of local producers. I hope many other districts take advantage of this new grant program to bring local meat to schools and to promote agriculture in our schools.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow stands with Converse County School District #1 board members and local donors while holding the signs recognizing their donations to the school district.
Converse County #1 Board recognizes local producers as donors

On Monday, Governor Mead signed two education proclamations–Hathaway Day (November 16 was the official day) and Homeless Children and Youth Awareness Month. We hope many communities found ways to recognize these occasions in schools.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead stands with State Superintendent Jillian Balow and WDE staff following the Hathaway Day proclamation signing.
Hathaway Day proclamation signing ceremony

A portrait of former Wyoming Governor Stanley Hathaway that reads "Stan the Man" and "#Hathaway Day" and features the Hathaway Scholarship Program logo

Memos to be released on Monday, November 20:


Elementary School Hosts Naturalization Ceremony

Dear Superintendents,

On Monday, I experienced one of the greatest privileges of my tenure as State Superintendent. I was the speaker at the naturalization ceremony for ten new United States citizens who reside in Wyoming. It was held at Meadowlark Elementary School in Cheyenne and the entire student body of 5th and 6th graders attended. Meadowlark’s choir sang and the band and orchestra performed (good job Jack Balow). It was moving for everyone and I am grateful to the Honorable Judge Nancy Freudenthal for asking me to speak and to Principal Jim Fraley for including the students. It was a moving experience for all.

The front row of people in an auditorium stand with their right hand raised to take the Oath of Citizenship before a federal judge.
New citizens take the oath of citizenship
A fifth-grade boy hands cards to the citizens sitting in the front row of an auditorium.
A Meadowlark student hands cards to new citizens PHOTO CREDIT: STEVE GIRT

WY-TOPP Interim Assessment 

The WY-TOPP interim assessment window opened on October 23. To date 40 of 48 districts have accessed the interim assessment. The feedback has been positive and we have resolved tech and other issues within one day. The only way we are able to achieve success with WY-TOPP is through the ongoing collaboration between districts and the WDE. Your tech and assessment coordinators have been engaged with this process worked in partnership with WDE from the beginning and it is deeply appreciated!


Many educators expressed an interest in participating on the accreditation task force. Your willingness to serve strengthens our ability to ensure that the new accreditation structure reflects both the needs of school districts and the requirements in statute. Thank you. We have selected the accreditation task force and will set up meeting dates soon.  As a reminder, Wyoming will change the process for accrediting schools beginning SY18-19. This is based on financial constraints as well as feedback from school districts. Click here for the recent accreditation memo.

Next Week

I look forward to seeing many of you next week at your meeting held in conjunction with the WSBA conference and JEIC. Additionally, I’ll attend UW Board of Trustees and State Board meetings and speak at the Casper Chamber of Commerce luncheon. It will also be an honor to help the Casper Rotary pass out dictionaries to students. My Chief of Staff, Dicky Shanor, will update the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees on computer science and Chief Academic Officer, Brent Bacon, will attend the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in St. Louis on my behalf. Indeed, it’s a busy week. Representing the great work in classrooms across the state is my most important responsibility no matter the event.

Memos to be released on Monday, November 13:


Inaugural K12 Digital Learning Innovations Awards

Dear Superintendents,

It was great to see some of you at the Innovations conference held this week in Laramie. Previously the community colleges and the university held separate events to highlight technology and digital learning. K12 incorporated the information into other, various events. This year we joined forces and the feedback was excellent–I predict this event will grow each year. Participants heard from state and national speakers, learned how to better leverage Canvas, our statewide Learning Management System (LMS), discussed teacher certification, talked about reporting dashboards, and much more. We all benefit from the strong partnership between K12 and higher education.

For the first year ever Wyoming K12 innovation leaders were recognized for their efforts. This year Erin Moore of Gannett Peak Technology was awarded the partnership award. To accept the award was her colleague, Tighe Fagan. Erin and Tighe have helped bring “Coders of the West” from vision to reality. They are excellent partners in education.

Cameron Kukuchka is an innovator in Johnson County. He was recognized for his leadership as an administrator and technology pioneer at Johnson County School District. Cameron embraces his unique role of leading both staff and students to better utilize new technologies.

Library/Media Specialist Julie Weitz works at Sheridan Junior High School. She has fostered a love for reading and technology that extends far beyond the walls of her library.



State Superintendent Jillian Balow stands with award winners in the banquet hall.
Tighe Fagan, Cameron Kukcuhka, and Julie Weitz receive awards for K12 innovation and leadership

Cheyenne will be a busy city next week with a Revenue Committee meeting, the Governor’s Business Forum, and a special event, the Tech Jobs Tour.

Revenue Committee Agenda

Brief Article about Tech Jobs Tour

Business Forum

Another week to note is December 4-10–Computer Science Education Week. For the second year, we are asking all schools and all grades to consider participating in at least one hour of coding. Governor Mead will once again sign a proclamation. This year, I intend to visit schools again as well as “makerspaces.” If you have a school or makerspace in your community that you’d like me to visit, please reach out (especially if it’s a space where students and adults are working together). I am really looking forward to the week!

About a dozen Wyoming Department of Education staff sit around a conference table working during a meeting.
A cross-agency team from WDE gathered for two days to analyze data collected by Education Northwest. The goal (besides collaboration) is to better align support we provide to school districts through the multi-tiered and state systems of support.

School Visits

Lastly, I have an opportunity to travel next week to rural New York toward the end of next week to visit a unique community school model. This is an exciting and challenging time for all of us to rethink how to enable students to learn and thrive. This community school model in rural NY in focused on family and community engagement for student success. I’ll visit university-assisted community schools where university administration, faculty and students support the development, implementation and evaluation of community schools as an economic and community development strategy and civic engagement initiative. I look forward to sharing what I observed during my visit.

Superintendent Balow sits in the backseat of a red convertible with her dad in the front seat for the University of Wyoming's homecoming parade in Laramie. A sign on the car reads, "UW Homecoming, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow."
My dad was my +1 at the UW Homecoming Parade. Go Pokes!

Memos to be released on Monday, November 6:



Dear Superintendents,

This week I was humbled to accept the SETDA State Policy Maker of the Year award in Washington, D.C. SETDA is focused on expanding learning opportunities through technology. Together our work to increase access to quality and relevant learning opportunities is making a difference for students. Here are a few of our accomplishments:

  • Formation of and work by the Wyoming Distance Education Task Force
  • Virtual Education Act of 2017
  • Establishment of a K-20 Learning Management System
  • Became a Future Ready state
  • First ever Computer Science Education Week in Wyoming
  • Classroom Connectivity Initiative
  • K12 Digital Learning Conference
  • Computer Science Task Force and policy work

Superintendent speaks from the podium while accepting her award from SETDA during their Leadership Gala. A banner behind her reads, "SETDA, Leadership, Technology, Innovation, Learning"

Hathaway Scholarship

Included with this week’s memos is our second annual Hathaway toolkit. Increasing the number of students eligible for the Hathaway Scholarship is one of five focus areas in our statewide vision for education (see for information about the statewide vision and focus areas).  At the WDE we continue to market the scholarship program to students and families while also working with schools to make information easily understandable and accessible. One key is making the Hathaway Scholarship program part of our culture by talking to students and families in elementary schools. Included in the toolkit are certificates for 6th graders. It is my hope that ALL sixth graders are awarded the certificate this year with the message that the certificate “turns into” real scholarship money after graduation from a Wyoming high school and we are all there to support students on their educational journey.  If you have questions or need additional information, please contact our Hathaway team, Jennifer LaHiff or Bradley Barker at (307)777-7675.

There will be a proclamation signing for Hathaway Scholarship Day on November 13, 2017 in Governor Mead’s office.

Upcoming Event

One more time, the Governor’s Business Forum will be held in Cheyenne November 7-9 at Little America. There are multiple conversations that directly and indirectly impact education. Education funding, computer science, academic standards, and CTE are on the minds of many as we discuss the strength and future of our state. It is vital that educators are talking to and partnering with business now and going forward. Leaders from WDE, K12, and higher education are slated to speak at the conference. There is a special government rate that educators qualify for and the deadline to register is November 1. Here is a link to the registration site and agenda:

Memos to be released:


Quality Professional Development

Dear Superintendents,

Since 2015, the WDE has worked strategically and diligently to strengthen professional development offerings. So far in 2017, over 1,500 Wyoming educators have attended conferences and trainings sponsored by the WDE. To meet the demand for quality professional development we have:

  • Evaluated all trainings and made adjustments to ensure relevance and evidence base
  • Co-sponsored events with our partners
  • Added an annual State Superintendent’s Policy Summit (S5S)
  • Aligned all professional development with Wyoming’s education vision and the statewide system of support
  • Provided a number of micro-trainings delivered via web conference or on-site in schools

Our marquee conferences are in the works for 2018, including S5S. Training opportunities continue throughout the school year with smaller cohorts of teachers, leaders, and other education professionals. Also, there are many opportunities to be involved on task forces, committees, and ad-hoc policy groups. We welcome new teachers, leaders, superintendents, and others to the conversation.

I firmly believe the the greatest wisdom and expertise about education in Wyoming comes from within our communities and schools. Whether we are learning from one another or making policy decisions collaboratively, the students of Wyoming benefit the most when we work together.

Wyoming Teacher of the Year (WTOY)

It is a privilege to announce Sara Reed as Wyoming’s 2018 Teacher of the Year. She teaches Kindergarten at Hillcrest Elementary School in Gillette. We’ve built the WTOY program over the past several years even with reduced fiscal resources. In addition to utilizing the WTOY to provide input on policy and to advocate for the teaching profession, we have asked past and present teachers of the year to weigh in on policy decisions, standards, budgets, and more. I look forward to continuing to showcase this program through Sara’s leadership and advocacy in 2018.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow and Sara Reed stand in front of a large banner that reads, "Congratulations Sara Reed, 2017-2018 Wyoming Teacher of the Year"
Sara Reed is Wyoming’s 2018 Teacher of the Year
The five finalists stand holding their framed certificates for being state finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.
Finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching
A WDE staff member talks into a microphone and points at a presentation on the WY-TOPP assessment to a room of educators.
WDE presents on the WY-TOPP at the Math and Science Conference in Casper this week

Memos to be released on Monday, October 23:


Partnering with Higher Ed

Dear Superintendents,

There will be no update from me next Friday. Memos will still be sent to superintendents on Fridayin advance of Monday’s public release. I will be at the Women’s Antelope Hunt in Ucross.

Wyoming is embarking on so much work to improve teaching and learning for students. I am particularly encouraged by partnerships that impact policy where government, teachers, education leaders, the employer community, higher education, and others work together. Solutions only arise when all the right people are working together.

It is a pleasure to represent K12 education as a member of the Community College Commission and as a trustee at the University of Wyoming. Seamless transitions from high school to post-secondary is something we talk a lot about but struggle to operationalize. In our math standards review and development work we are moving full steam ahead.

The math standards review committee has representation from higher education, K12, and business. We intentionally boosted the involvement of post-secondary members and asked them to work across grade bands. They give valuable input on the progression of math skills from Kindergarten through 12th grade and beyond.

We all know there is no such thing as a “silver bullet” to solve complex education issues like college math remediation. That’s one reason we will continue to think carefully about how assessment, professional development, and more can be utilized or enhanced to improve student outcomes. Underpinning this work are ongoing conversations between the K12 and higher education communities.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow, Community College Commission Executive Director Jim Rose, and University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols sit at a conference table having a discussion.
Superintendent Balow, Dr. Jim Rose, and UW President Laurie Nichols discuss math alignment between high school and college
State Superintendent Jillian Balow stands at the podium speaking at the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance conference. A banner behind her reads, "Creating Partnerships, Building Programs, Strengthening Youth."
Superintendent Balow at the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance Fall Conference in Cheyenne
State Superintendent Jillian Balow and U.S. Senator John Barrasso with Wyoming's FFA State Officer Team at a fundraising event.
The FFA State Officer Team at the Blue Jeans Ball in Bar Nunn

Memos to be released on Monday, October 9:


A Busy Week

Dear Superintendents,

It was good to see many of you at this week at various meetings. There’s a lot of great work being done in every corner of this state!

Governor Mead sits at a desk to sign the proclamation with State Superintendent Jillian Balow and four principals standing behind him.
Governor Mead proclaimed October National Principals Month in Wyoming.
Five students and a teacher sit at a table facing members of the Joint Education Interim Committee to testify about computer science.
Students from Powell and Laramie testifying about computer science at the Joint Education Interim Committee meeting in Casper.
WDE staff sit at a conference table talking and laughing.
Staff from the Individual Learning Division working on a data drill down.
WDE staff sit and talk with AIR staff at a conference table in the WDE.
WDE content area and assessment teams meeting with AIR to get ready for the new WY-TOPP assessment.

Memos to be released on Monday, October 2:


Boys & Girls Club Breakfast

Dear Superintendents,

It was, once again, a pleasure to attend the Boys and Girls Club of Central Wyoming annual breakfast. This year Henry Winkler, best known as “The Fonz” was the keynote speaker. He told his compelling story about growing up with dyslexia and his drive to be an actor.

Each year the Boys and Girls Clubs across the state select “youth of the year.”  Local and state winners receive scholarship money. At the breakfast, UW President Nichols announced that the university will increase scholarship dollars to club students and expand college visit opportunities. Best of luck to all of the outstanding youth who are finding their way with the help of clubs.

The Boys and Girls Club of Central Wyoming and other clubs across the state receive Title IV-B funds, also known as 21st Century Community Learning Center (21CCLC) grants. Here is how this important federal funding is utilized in Wyoming:

  • In 2015-16, over 8,100 students participated in 21st CCLC school year programs with 52% or 4,265 attending regularly (30+ days each year). Summer programs served over 7,000 students.
  • Active 21CCLC grants in 21 of 23 Wyoming counties.
  • Grants range from $94,075-$200,000
  • 53% of Subgrantees are school districts with community partnerships and 47% are community-based organizations, primarily non-profit, with school district partners.
  • FY 2016 21CCLC Allocation to WY was $5,716,698 with 95.5% of allocation going direction to subgrantees.

Peter Wold speaks from a podium on the stage at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Wyoming's Back-a-Kid Breakfast in the Casper Events Center.
Peter Wold accepts recognition at the BGCCW Breakfast

Business and Industry Partnerships 

This week, WDE staff and education leaders from across the state attended and presented at a number of conferences including Wyoming Working Together, an annual conference sponsored by the Wyoming Economic Development Association, Chambers of Commerce, and the Business Council. As computer science and career pathways gain a greater foothold, partnerships between education and business/industry become even more essential.

The Wyoming Business Alliance will host the Governor’s Business Forum in Cheyenne on November 7-9. Former State Superintendent Judy Catchpole, Dr. Laurel Ballard of WDE, and Senator Affie Ellis who is a member of the Senate Education Committee, are all presenting. Again, the connections between business, industry, education, and economic growth are at the forefront of many conversations in our state.

Link to WBA agenda                                                        WBA Registration Link

Judicial Learning Center

Wyoming PBS will feature our state’s Judicial Learning Center (JLC) in an upcoming episode of Wyoming Chronicle. This week, Former Chief Justice Marilyn Kite and I took PBS’s Craig Blumenshine on a tour through the JLC. This is a one-of-a-kind experience for students and patrons of all ages. The JLC, open for less than a year, has been enjoyed by many classes, groups, and citizens. The JLC is full of learning opportunities with all activities aligned to the Wyoming Content and Performance Standards.

Do you have teachers in your district who could develop a great lesson plan about Wyoming’s judicial system? The JLC is holding a contest and the deadline to submit lesson plans is extended. The grand prize winner receives $2500.

JLC Website                                                                    Lesson Plan Contest 

State Superintendent Jillian Balow stands with Former Chief Justice Marilyn Kite in the Judicial Learning Center while filming a PBS special.
Former Chief Justice Marilyn Kite and I take Wyoming PBS on a “tour” through the Judicial Learning Center
 Memos to be released on Monday, September 26:


Thunder Basin High School Dedication

Dear Superintendents,

It was an honor to help dedicate the new Thunder Basin High School in my hometown, Gillette. This was one stop of several I made across the state–I really appreciated seeing so many many students, educators, and citizens in my travels this week.

Campbell County School District Superintendent #1, Dr. Boyd Brown, stands at the podium in Thunder Basin High School gym full of students, staff, and community members while a staff member reads the Governor's proclamation.
Dr. Brown is presented with a Governor’s Proclamation during the dedication of Thunder Basin High School
Students sit in the bleachers at Thunder Basin High School's gym during the dedication ceremony for the school. The words "BASIN NATION" are written in blue on the wall above where they are sitting with thunderbolts painted on each side representing the new schools' mascot.
Thunder Basin Bolts

Federal Funding

The U.S. House of Representatives passed FY18 appropriations for education this week. This is not a final budget, but, rather, the order of business that advances the budget process. Both the House and the Senate budget bills maintain Title I funding. However, the House Bill eliminates Title II funding, while the Senate bill keeps it. This discrepancy is a significant concern and I will be involved in national efforts to restore important Title II funding for schools.

Visit from Secretary DeVos

Wyoming welcomed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as she kicked off the ReThink School tour. She visited two schools, Woods Learning Center-Casper and St. Stephens High School-Fremont County. At both sights, the secretary emphasized the importance of tailoring education to the unique needs of students, communities, and our state.

Dr. Hales talks to the runners before they begin their race at the Hereford Ranch.
Dr. Hales shares history of the Hereford Ranch with runners before the Wyoming Ag in the Classroom 5K run

There are a number of pertinent memos this week for teachers, counselors, and federal funds managers. Thank you for your consistent review of memos before they are released and for helping to ensure they are passed onto appropriate staff.

Memos to be released on Monday, September 18:


ACT Results and WY-TOPP Testing

Dear Superintendents,

ACT scores for the class of 2017 were published this week. Here is a link to the media release from WDE:

Media Release: Class of 2017 ACT Results

A few key takeaways for Wyoming:

  • Wyoming saw incremental growth across the board–partial point gains are important on this measure.
  • Wyoming scored in the top half of states that administer the ACT to all students with less than a point separating us from #2 Colorado.
  • 49% of students reported they were interested in a STEM career or STEM major. Wyoming workforce and labor data indicate that high demand occupations include semiconductor processors, wind turbine technicians, OT/PT aides, and nurse practitioners.
  • Students taking the test two or more times had an average composite score of 22.4.

WY-TOPP Test the System Day

On Tuesday, September 5, about 25% of the districts participated in a “test the system” day. The purpose of the day was to test the state infrastructure for WY-TOPP with actual student traffic and to give schools an opportunity to interact with the new assessment. WDE staff visited 17 schools during the “test the test” day and debriefed afterward. Here are a few takeaways:

  • The state infrastructure handled the statewide traffic and almost all were able to access the WY-TOPP platform without assistance.
  • Kinks occurred at the local level and most were easily addressed, i.e. secure browsers, firewalls, etc.
  • Students used computers, laptops, and tablets in mobile labs and in hard-wired labs. We were pleased to see the variety and how the state infrastructure handled it.
  • WDE will continue to work with schools and districts.
  • All schools should set up a local “test the system” date and use the training test that will remain live at

Two fourth-grade boys sit at a table in their classroom looking at laptops in which they are taking the training test for Wyoming's new statewide assessment. One of them has his tongue sticking out slightly in a look of concentration.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow smiles while sitting next to a fifth-grade student as he concentrates on a laptop which hosts the training test for Wyoming's new statewide assessment.

Memo to be released on September 11: