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.

Wyoming Awarded $43.6 Million Literacy Grant

Dear Superintendents,

Last week, our office enthusiastically shared news of a $43.3 million grant to create a comprehensive state literacy program to advance literacy skills — including pre-literacy skills, reading, and writing — for students from birth through grade 12, including limited-English-proficient students and students with disabilities. The grant cycle is five years and one of our first steps is to put together a statewide literacy panel. Here is the media release. 

1776 Commission

President Trump announced the creation of the “1776 Commission” to counter more critical historical narratives of the American founding like the one popularized by the New York Times’ 1619 Project. The 1776 Commission will “restore patriotic education to our schools,” Trump said.

Health Guidance Update

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon announced the extension of current health orders this week. One significant change to the orders includes the addition of indoor close-contact activities and sports.

Governor’s news release

Twelfth Continuation of Wyoming Health Orders (schools mostly on pages 7-9)

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released indicators to help schools make dynamic decisions about in-person learning as local conditions evolve throughout the pandemic.  When coupled with local data about community spread, these indicators are an important tool to help local health officials, school administrators, and communities prepare, plan, and respond to COVID-19.  These indicators are the latest resource CDC has provided for schools during the pandemic, supplementing previously released guidance.

Rural Tech Project

Several weeks ago, I included an announcement for the Rural Tech Project in this update. The challenge invites schools to customize technology education programs for students and local needs. Up to five finalists will progress to Phase 2 and each receive an equal share of the $500,000 cash prize pool, on-the-ground-assistance, and access to virtual resources. One grand-prize winner will receive an additional $100,000.

Proposals are due by 5:59 p.m. ET on October 8. The Rural Tech Project has curated resources to help entrants develop comprehensive program proposals. The resources provide support around topics ranging from program design and delivery to engaging community stakeholders. To learn more about entering the challenge, see the recording of the information session and answers to frequently asked questions.

Memos to be released:

  • 2020-148:    Eighth Grade Unit of Study Certification Form Due June 11, 2021
  • 2020-149:    Call for Nominations: U.S. Presidential Scholars Program
  • 2020-150:    Chapter 20 Public Comment: Rules for the Pupil Transportation Component within the Education Resource Block Grant Model
  • 2020-151:    Roadtrip Nation Application Deadline October 4, 2020
  • 2020-152:    CARES Act Equitable Services Update

Register now for the Wyoming Education Summit

Dear Superintendents,

The Wyoming Education Summit (formerly S5S) will take place on September 21-22, 2020. Registration is open. Many sessions geared toward leaders, but all educators and education partners are welcome to register and attend. Topics include:

  • education leadership
  • high-quality instruction
  • virtual learning
  • social and emotional learning (SEL)
  • Wyoming Teacher of the Year award.

The agenda can be found here.

The theme of the conference is “Pursue Excellence Together” and it will be an honor to co-keynote with Wyoming Governor Gordon. Other presenters and speakers include:

  • Dana Winters from the Fred Rogers Institute will keynote the morning of September 21. Her presentation, “Affirming and Promoting Deep and Simple Moments” focuses on the whole child.
  • Nancy Frey will present “Learning at a Distance” based on her newest publication with renowned educators Douglas Fisher and John Hattie, The Distance Learning Playbook.




Memos to be released today:

  • 2020-145:    Professional Development Opportunity for Teachers
  • 2020-146:    Conventional Literacy for Students with Significant Intellectual Disabilities
  • 2020-147:    Educator Input for Science Performance Standards


Civics Education and Engagement Opportunities

Dear Superintendents,

Last week, Secretary DeVos penned “A Letter to America’s Parents” assuring them, “At the end of the day, we want everyone to have the choices to make the best decision for them. Some may choose to learn at home. Some may choose to return to their school. Some may choose to do a combination of both. Each of you needs to be able to choose what’s best for your own families because you know your children and their circumstance better than anyone. Your child. Your school. Your way.


The Wyoming Joint Education Committee met on Thursday to hear updates about K-12 and higher education.


Women’s Suffrage

This year is the 150th anniversary of the women’s vote in Wyoming. The first vote by a woman was cast on September 6, 1870 by Louisa Swain in Laramie, WY. The event was commemorated with a full year of celebrations. Events culminate this week with the final stop by a semi-truck, wrapped in Louisa Swain information. The semi, driven by four female truckers, was driven across the country. There is great information about how Wyoming codified the women’s right to vote a full fifty years before the 19th Amendment was ratified at . Students and others can follow the route of the truck (which made stops along I-70 to commemorate famous women) at

This is also the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which extended the right to vote to all women in America.  In celebration, First Lady Melania Trump opened an art exhibit outside the White House commissioned from the nation’s children (readout).  Some 450 artworks were submitted, with the First Lady, the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, and the White House curator’s office choosing the winners.

Constitution Day

September 17 is Constitution Day/Citizenship Day, commemorating the September 17, 1787, signing of the U.S. Constitution. In recognition, Congress has mandated that every educational institution receiving federal funding hold an educational program about this seminal document. To assist students and educators in their studies, the National Archives and Records Administration offers key resources, including a free online version of its U.S. Constitution Workshop. Likewise, free online resources are available from the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the U.S. Census Bureau. 


The Louisa Swain semi-truck made a stop at the Captiol. It was a thrill to speak about how she started a movement that led to the 19th Amendment.

Memos to be released on September 8, 2020:

2020-143:    CTE Thursday After Hours
2020-144:    Nominations Open for the Carol Mead Leaders in Literacy Award

COVID-19 “Rapid Results” Tests

Dear Superintendents,

Earlier this week President Trump announced the impending availability of millions of COVID-19 “rapid result” testsHere is a recent article from the Wall Street Journal. In a phone call with other state superintendents, USED Deputy Secretary Mick Zais and Brigadier General David J. Sanford, United States Air Force, who currently serves as Deputy Director for the White House COVID Response Supply Chain Task Force, provided critical information about how K-12 students will be prioritized in the testing initiative. The tests will be made available to students and staff at public and private K-12 schools, with priority going to states with both high COVID rates and large numbers of students receiving in-person or hybrid instruction. There are many unanswered questions at this point but I will update you along the way.

Rural CTE Opportunity

Secretary DeVos announced a new challenge to advance high-quality technology instruction in rural communities. The Rural Tech Project, with a total cash prize of $600,000, invites high schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) to develop competency-based distance learning programs that enable students to master skills at their own pace. This is a great fit for many Wyoming schools!

Memos to be released on Monday, August 31:

  • 2020-137:    DRIVE: Developing Rewarding Integrated Vocational Experiences: A Paraprofessional Training
  • 2020-138:    Wyoming Innovations in Learning Conference
  • 2020-139:    Hathaway Technical Assistance
  • 2020-140:    New CTE Teacher Orientation
  • 2020-141:     Guidance for Temporary School Closures

Staff COVID-19 Testing Program Overview

Dear Superintendents,

Staff COVID-19 Testing Program Overview

Surveillance testing will be an opt-in protocol and would extend to all school staff, including volunteers. The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) will ask that 20% of the staff members be tested at least once every two weeks and each sample should include a representation from a range of staff roles. The individuals selected should be rotated every two weeks to get nearly 100% of the staff within 10 weeks. The test will detect current COVID-19 infection. Anyone with a COVID-19 infection within the previous
three months should not participate. Staff cannot be required to participate. Both negative and positive results will be reported by the WDH and staff that test positive will be required to follow the existing state protocols for quarantine and contact tracing.

The goal of this effort is to detect infected individuals who don’t have symptoms, or before they develop symptoms. This would allow public health officials to intervene. The WDH will work with school districts directly if movement between tiers is necessary based on testing results. There is no cost to school districts or staff for participation. The current goal of the WDH is to determine the interest of the school districts, as they try to define contracts for the tests.

Rural Career and Technical Education Event:

At 4 p.m. MDT on August 25, the Rural Tech Project is hosting a virtual panel of experts to discuss community engagement and coalition building.  The panel will share how Rural Tech Project entrants can approach building and maintaining partnerships among schools, school districts, and community organizations.  They will also explore topics ranging from assessing community needs to creating structures and systems for sustainable partnerships.

New National Resources as Schools Reopen:

Fact Sheet – Supporting Safe School Reopenings 

School Reopening Recommendations

CDC Guidance on Face Coverings for K-12

Content and Performance Standards

Content Standards are the content and skills students are expected to know and be able to do by the end-of-grade or gradeband.

Performance Standards are the standards all students are expected to learn and be assessed on
through the district assessment system. They specify the specific degree of understanding or
demonstration of the knowledge and/or skill for a particular content standard. Districts give students multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency and provide appropriate supports for student success.

Standards work in Wyoming is ramping up. Here’s a (very) brief primer of the upcoming work:

  • Public input opportunities for Computer Science Performance Standards memo and press release.
  • Educator input surveys for Science and PE Performance Standards and Performance Level Descriptors (PLDs) memo.
  • Call for Health Content and Performance Standards Review and Development Committee memo. Committee members include educators, parents, practitioners, business and industry.

Memos to be released today:

2020-131:    Innovations Showcase
2020-132:    2020-21 Hathaway Success Curriculum Course Verification
2020-133:    Wyoming Advisory Panel for Students with Disabilities
2020-134:    Educator Surveys and Call for Health Standards Committee
2020-135:    School Improvement Plans

USED Updates Its Title IX website

Dear Superintendents,

The United States Department of Education (USED)  launched a new website with Title IX resources for parents, students, schools, and other partners. The resources were released in conjunction with final Title IX rules.

The new website serves as an online hub for information and resources that students and others can use to understand rights and due process under Title IX. It also provides a fact sheet specifically for students and schools.

Here is a link to the news release.


Marissa Cornelison was named the Wyoming Ag In the Classroom Teacher of the Year during the Wyoming State Fair and received awards presented by Congresswoman Cheney, First Lady Gordon, and Superintendent Balow

Memos to be released today:

2020-125:    2020 K-12 Digital Learning Awards
2020-126:    Career Development Facilitator Training
2020-127:    2020-21 Back-to-School Toolkit
2020-128:    District Representative School Improvement Plan Training
2020-129:    WDE Professional Development Opportunities: 2020–21 School Year