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.

Level Up to Elevate Wyoming’s Education Professionals

Dear Superintendents,

Early this fall, I announced a new leadership program for educators called Level Up. Through this program we seek to elevate Wyoming’s education professionals by providing authentic and innovative leadership development opportunities. In partnership with model districts, other states, Leadership Wyoming, the Wyoming National Guard, and others, we are eager to have a strong first cohort in 2020.

Each District Teacher of the Year (DTOY), along with that educator’s principal (or another leader in the district), is invited to participate in Level Up. While the DTOY program is optional, most districts participate. Thus, they are eligible to also participate in Level Up. The good news is that it’s not too late to select a DTOY in your district and be eligible to participate in Level Up.

Robin Grandpre at 307-777-5315 or is available to provide technical assistance on the process for selecting a DTOY and/or applying for the 2020 Level Up cohort through December 16.


Another opportunity for educators, this time at the national level, is the School Ambassador Fellowship Program. The U.S. Department of Education (USED) is accepting applications for the 2020-21 cohort. This program is designed to enable outstanding teachers, principals, counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other school-based professionals who interact with students on a daily basis to bring their expertise to the USED and expand their knowledge of the national dialogue about education. In turn, fellows facilitate the learning and input of other educators and community members. The application period closes at 11:59 p.m. EST on December 31.

Memos to be released on December 9:

  • 2019-149:  Special Populations on Target (SPOT) Training
  • 2019-150:  State Registration Requirements Under the Military Selective Service Act
  • 2019-151:  2019-20 National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program



Federal Update on STEM

Dear Superintendents,

On November 8, National STEM/STEAM Day, the United States Department of Education (ESED) announced a  $540 million in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education investment including computer science, through discretionary and research grants in Fiscal Year 2019, in accordance with the President’s directive to foster expanded opportunities in these in-demand career fields.   

These funds deliver on a commitment to support STEM education, as well as on the overall goals of the five-year federal STEM education strategic plan. A new progress report offers an update on federal activities related to the plan.  

The funds — about $200 million for new awards and almost $345 million for continuation awards — will be used to prepare the STEM teacher corps, provide graduate student fellowships in areas of national need, increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education, and support state initiatives to expand and improve the transition of high school career and technical education (CTE) students to postsecondary education and employment through apprenticeships, among other areas.


This group of 4th graders is one of the very first classes to tour the newly renovated Wyoming Capitol.

Memos to be released on Monday, November 25:

  • 2019-139:   CTE Transportation Sector Connector December 10
  • 2019-140:   2019-20 Girls Go CyberStart Challenge
  • 2019-141:   WDE Policy for Isolation and Maintenance Reimbursement
  • 2019-142:   2018-19 Student-Level Graduation Data Verification Process



Support for Career and Technical Education

Dear Superintendents,

The annual Governor’s Business Forum was held in Cheyenne this past week. I was enthused by members from Wyoming’s employer community (business and industry) who clearly value career and technical education and strong partnerships with local schools. It was heartening to learn how schools, boards, community colleges, and businesses are tackling workforce gaps together by developing apprenticeship and training programs that are connected directly to jobs. Multiple educators, students, and policymakers discussed this issue during panels, keynotes, and breakout sessions. Student representatives from our Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) participated on a panel and I received so many positive comments about their depth of knowledge and earnestness. Wyoming is in good hands with this ongoing and strong partnership!


Council of Chief State School Officers

Earlier this week, I assumed the role of president of the board of directors for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). I have the honor of serving in this capacity for one year and have selected “Beyond the Bell” as a presidential platform – to better link learning opportunities outside of school to student outcomes.

In addition to a platform, I’ll have many opportunities to advocate nationally for students, schools, and education policy. One such event will take place in January when I co-chair a summit of state chiefs joined by national experts, educators, and other partners to examine what we know works and what must be done to improve literacy for all kids.

During my speech this week, I highlighted great “beyond the bell” work happening in Wyoming and other states. Thank you Boys and Girls Clubs, 21st Century Community Learning Center grant recipients, and numerous schools for sharing your stories about computer science and STEM learning after school and during the summer.


Memos to be released on Monday, November 18:

  • 2019-138:   Webinar on English Learners and Title III Funding



Literacy Opportunities With The Big Read

Dear Superintendents,

If you attended the final day of the recent S5S conference, you felt the energy and inspiration when our 2020 Wyoming Teacher of the Year (WTOY), Dane Weaver, spoke. His impromptu acceptance speech worth watching and sharing!    Mr. Weaver’s Speech

THE BIG READ – As Wyoming sharpens its focus on early literacy teaching and learning, we have many opportunities to provide literacy opportunities both during school and beyond the bell. The National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) announced a grant opportunity for local governments, libraries, school districts, colleges and universities, and non-profit organizations.

The Big Read, established in 2016, supports Americans reading and discussing a single book within their communities.  Entities can apply for one of an estimated 75 grants to be awarded for programming occurring between September 2020 and June 2021.  The application deadline is January 29, 2020.  Besides the grant, communities will receive resources, such as reader’s and teacher’s guides and audio guides with commentary from artists, educators, and public figures.  Communities will also receive publicity materials.

In this cycle, communities will choose from 32 selections (novels, short stories, memoirs, poetry, and books in translation), including several works by female authors in honor of the 100th anniversary of national women’s suffrage.

For technical assistance in filling out the grant application, contact Arts Midwest to schedule a consultation with staff; visit the Application Advice page for tips and best practices for applications; and review the NEA Big Read Survival Guide to gain wisdom from past grantees.



In celebration of Farm to School Month, states throughout the Mountain Plains Region (CO, MT, MO, KS, NE, UT, ND, SD, WY) competed to see which state could get the most “crunches” into a local apple or other local produce. Here are WDE Crunchers on Halloween! Many schools across the state participated their own “Crunch” competitions.

Wyoming has great resources for local Farm to School programs including available funding for meat processing for schools. Take a look at the Farm to School web page. 


Rita Watson celebrates 50 years as an employee for the State of Wyoming this month. She is currently the longest-serving employee in our state. Governor and First Lady Gordon hosted a special lunch in her honor on November 1 (pictured above with her husband, Floyd). Earlier in October, Rita was recognized during the Buffalo Gals Luncheon at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. She is one of the women profiled in the project, Women of Wyoming. Her profile, and others, can be found here. 

To know Rita is to call her Friend!

Memos to be released on Monday, November 4:

  • 2019-129:   2019-2020 National ESEA Distinguished Schools Application
  • 2019-130:   Wyoming Advisory Panel for Students with Disabilities
  • 2019-131:   2020 PAEMST Nominations Open
  • 2019-132:   National Youth Science Camp Applications
  • 2019-133:   Educator Input for Math Extended Standards and Science PLDs



Giving Parents Accurate School Performance Information

Dear Superintendents,

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Wyoming and all schools receiving Title I-A funds have new requirements for publicly reporting various metrics about schools, scores, and students. Last month, the United States Department of Education (ESED)  released information about how local education leaders can make sure parents and caregivers have accurate and accessible information regarding the performance of schools in their state. The guide, Opportunities and Responsibilities for State and Local Report Cards, is aimed at assisting educators with both the design and implementation of report cards.  It follows the release of a special Parent Guide to State and Local Report Cards by the USED late last year. 

The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) has been proactive and worked with schools and stakeholders across the state. A number of state-generated resources can be found on our website.


Wyoming was well represented at the Batelle for Kids Rural Education Conference. Andrea Wood (middle), a Wyoming teacher, presented “Digital Stories of Wyoming” at a breakout session.troy

Troy Riechert, CTE teacher in Guernsey, received recognition and a $50K check from Harbor Freight Tools for Teachers this week.

Memos to be released on Monday, October 28:

  • 2019-127:   Suicide Prevention Programs and Resources
  • 2019-128:   University of Wyoming Seeks Student Teacher Supervisors


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