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.

Successful Literacy Models

Dear Superintendents,

Congratulations on closing out another school year in your district. I’m sure you’re all exhausted and I hope you are able to get some good downtime and rest this summer. Thank you again for all your hard work, as well as the leadership you provide to our local communities and our Wyoming schools.


Vision & Focus

Along with and beyond the Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative (see update ahead), our vision for future days will extend to a literacy focus that will pursue, strengthen and reinforce the best and most successful literacy models. We just convened our first meeting here at the WDE on the prospects of launching a multi-phased/multi-pronged literacy campaign. The long-term objective will be to clarify the focus and intensify the commitment to our early literacy efforts in each of our Wyoming schools. Moreover, the challenge before us through this campaign will be to get this right once and for all.

As we dedicate ourselves to this doubled-down effort, we will seek to work it on three fronts:  (1) the legislative front (fostering good literacy policies), (2) the school front (working closely with our schools), and (3) the home front (encouraging family reading efforts).

The multiple phases of this campaign are yet to be fully defined, but the key distinctives will incorporate the training aspects of teaching reading effectively along with the actual teaching side of it (best evidence-based practices), as well as a testing model that is designed to effectively and thoroughly assess reading proficiency. It is critical that we pursue a policy of excellence at laying a strong literacy foundation as it is essential to everything else we do with our students.

The success or failure of this effort will of course (like anything else in life) hinge entirely on leadership. Hence, the corresponding effort to simultaneously begin developing a School Leadership Training Regimen, which will seek to bring together state-wide school leadership training on three levels:  the degree level (college/university), the department level (WDE) and the district level (in our schools). More on that next time …


The Primary Priority   

The application to request participation in the Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship pilot went out to district superintendents on June 15. The three school districts chosen will be notified by July 8, and will begin collaboration with the WDE and PTSB this summer to stand up the local program. Meanwhile, the WTA Work Group is working diligently on putting details in place to support the pilot.  So in a nutshell, things are moving forward according to plan with our Teacher Apprentice Initiative and we will continue to keep you posted every step of the way.


In the Spotlight

Small but mighty is what I heard from day one about our WDE communications team, and with a duo like Thom Gabrukiewicz and Ed McCollum, new technology means fun new ways to reach people. Lately Thom has been mastering the utilization of our new access to digital marketing through the Google Ad Network and YouTube to get the word out around the state about some of our events and programs. But these campaigns can’t get off the ground without the creative…enter Ed! They use 15-second video spots that need to attract attention and get folks to click through to the PTSB landing page on its website. A new Hathaway campaign will be starting on YouTube in July.

Recently, Deputy Superintendent Chad Auer and CFO Trent Carroll challenged these guys to create a set of 15-second videos that could run on YouTube and be targeted to specific counties in Ohio, California, and Northern Colorado. The goal was to inspire folks to ‘picture themselves teaching in Wyoming’ and hopefully click through for more information. Check out the videos here. Turns out that the folks at CFD liked them so much, they are going to run them on the big screens at the rodeo this year. Hitting the teacher shortage from all angles is just good strategy, so Thom and Ed, you are in the spotlight for your contribution to the cause!


Mark Your Calendars

.The Embracing Literacy Conference is a virtual conference that will take place over a three-week time span, with three sessions offered every Tuesday and Thursday from July 5-July 21. All sessions will be presented live, but will be recorded and available via Zoom for ongoing access to registered participants. The theme for this year’s conference is “The Science of Reading” and includes topics such as early childhood literacy, special education literacy, phonemic awareness, dyslexia, comprehension, and much more. The cost is $50/person. Register here.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

BSchroederSig

Cultural Drift

Dear Superintendents,

I’d like to use this space this week to share with you something I shared this week with our WDE team during our all-staff meeting. There have been understandable rumblings around the state based on some misunderstandings linked to some unfortunate misquotes and misrepresentations by the media on comments I made during a public charter school meeting here in Cheyenne.

In the speech I gave, referencing the cultural drift that our American communities and schools have been experiencing to varying degrees, I quoted former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett who was known to often say, “When the culture pushes hard against you and your family, you must push back just as hard.” I continued, “If we don’t, not only does our society become more toxic, so do our schools. And it is alarming how many schools in this country have become some of the most toxic places on earth for a kid to have to endure.”  Those were my exact words.

During the Q & A, an attendee felt I was disparaging Wyoming schools. My immediate response was that I was most certainly not talking about Wyoming schools. In response, I shared my experiences of visiting 19-20 districts around the state, and how impressed and amazed I was with what our district superintendents, principals and classroom teachers are accomplishing in our schools. I went on to say that Wyoming schools are what all schools used to be in America, and then shared specific examples. Finally, to reinforce it further, I said “Wyoming schools could set the standard and lead the nation out of this cultural wilderness.”

Of course I have no control over how the media reports any given story. Most often, if misquoted or misrepresented, I will not have time (nor will I feel the need) to follow up with contextual explanations. But this time it was important to do so. If ever you as superintendents hear something that bothers you, whether through the grapevine or in the media, please do not hesitate to call me and ask me about it. If I was wrong, I will listen openly if you challenge me, and I will have the grace and humility to apologize. If I was misrepresented, I will certainly share with you what I actually said.

In this case, what I shared above was true and accurate.I know that goes with the territory of this job, and I will have to buck up at times and move on. But please do have grace with me as I continue to grow into this role, learning to weigh my words carefully on the one hand, but remain as real and honest as possible on the other. Though everyone tells me I am now in the political role, I do not ever want to become politician-like. There will be times no doubt when my message will make some people upset. When that happens, the challenge will always be to fairly and carefully discern whether it was my issue or theirs. That fine line, I know, is something all of you as leaders can relate to.


Vision & Focus

Last week, we mentioned the key three things on the horizon for our Wyoming schools: (1) the Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative (see progress update in the next segment); (2) a multi-phased/multi-pronged literacy campaign; and (3) a school leader training paradigm.

In real estate, it’s location, location, location; in education, it’s literacy, literacy, literacy. As the foundation of everything we do, we have to get this right in our training endeavors as well as how we teach and test literacy. Our first discussions on the prospects of launching a statewide literacy campaign begin today with key WDE teammates.

We will discuss strategy, timing, goals and objectives. We will also begin a conversation about what the key pieces and phases of the campaign should be, as well as who the key people and partners might be. Stay tuned for updates as we move forward, step-by-step, with an eye toward a more expansive vision and clearer focus of where Wyoming schools can go in regard to literacy. This could be huge.

Finally, the school leader training paradigm. To reiterate, the desire here will be to incorporate what Dr. Scott Thomas and his team at the University of Wyoming will be doing with his principal training program in Laramie over the next few years, complemented by a school leader training regimen here at the WDE, complemented by what each district might be doing (or working toward doing) via on-going, in-the-trenches school leader mentoring. Interest is growing and excitement on this front is building as well.  Next step is to assemble a task force. We’ll keep you posted as things transpire.


The Primary Priority   

The application to request participation in the Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship pilot will go out to district superintendents on June 15. The three school districts chosen will begin collaboration with the WDE and PTSB this summer to stand up the local program. This work will inform the structure for the eventual statewide rollout, while allowing the opportunity to identify best practices and unique nuances at the district level. Exciting progress … more to come.


In the Spotlight

Ilaine Brown, Education Consultant on the CTE team is hard to miss. This “Jersey girl” has been with the WDE for three years after having been at the Department of Family Services for 11. Ilaine is well-known across the state for her depth of knowledge on SCED codes, programs of study, and CTE grants. Her previous experience as a paralegal has been utilized in writing all of the CTE contracts, RFP’s and rule changes.

Ilaine has recently taken on Method of Administration monitoring and is streamlining the process to increase efficiency and provide exceptional customer service to the districts. Since arriving at WDE she successfully completed her CPM with LCCC and now is a full-time student finishing her bachelor’s degree in business. When she isn’t working or attending class you will find her watching her daughter play hockey, organizing the annual Zonta art show, or hanging out with her family and dogs.

Ilaine, congratulations, you are in the spotlight. Thank-you for the significant contribution you are making on the CTE team. We are proud of you and blessed to have you working for the Wyoming Department of Education.


Mark Your Calendars

The 2022 RISE Award nomination form is now open. The purpose of the Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award is to recognize the excellence exhibited by classified school employees (anyone, who isn’t a teacher), who provide exemplary service to students. Nomination deadline is June 30 and anyone can complete the form.


Monday memos:

  • No memos this week.

Sincerely,

BSchroederSig

Three Things on the Horizon

Dear Superintendents,

As you lead your districts to the finish line of yet another school year, we hope you finish strong and enjoy the graduation celebrations of the class of 2022. These are exciting times for our seniors and their families, days they will never forget. How gratifying to be able to play such an important part in this milestone of their lives.

I do want to again focus some thoughts on the tragedy that continues to affect the families and citizens of Uvalde, Texas. The grief we all continue to feel for them propels us to be ever vigilant in making sure our own schools here in Wyoming are as safe and secure as they can possibly be. We would be remiss, therefore, not to reassess our policies and procedures, school by school, district by district.

As we look at the appropriate role in this potential review process for the WDE, please be prepared for a conversation about what more we (our agency and your district) need to do on this front. We will keep you posted as to what this review process may look like. Thanks for your cooperation and help with this.


Vision & Focus

Let’s cut to the chase … there are three things that I see on the horizon for our Wyoming schools:

First, the Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative (see the progress update in the next segment).

Second, a multi-phased/multi-pronged literacy campaign (more to come on that in subsequent months).

Third, a school leader training paradigm, seeking to dovetail the training regimens at the degree (college and university level) with the same at the department (WDE) and district levels (our local K-12 schools).

Be prepared for more conversations on each initiative in the days ahead.


The Primary Priority   

The Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship initiative continues to move forward this week with a presentation by Deputy Superintendent Chad Auer, and co-leads Brendan O’Connor and Laurel Ballard, at the Joint Education Interim Committee meeting in Casper. Based on the response, the committee members are pleased with the progress and as excited as we all are to see the work come to fruition.

The work group will be receiving the feedback from the advisory group on June 7, and will also begin to dig deeper into the details that need to be fleshed out to support a fall pilot rollout.


In the Spotlight

Last year, the WDE awarded a Wyoming Education Trust Fund Grant to Sublette County School District #1. Priority is given to Computer Science and Innovation. SCSD#1 has served 3,200 students (students are using the room multiple times), and 511 adults in six months. The project has led to a number of partnerships between local businesses and the district. Watch the video here, careful, it’s a tearjerker. What you see in this video was made possible by everyone from the state level to the district level and from the school to the classroom, and I thank you all.


On the Road, In The Field

Last week took us to two charter public school information meetings for interested parents, one in Cheyenne related to the prospects of the start-up of Cheyenne Classical Academy in the fall of 2023, and the other in Casper with potential start-up of Wyoming Classical Academy, also in the fall of 2023. The energy and excitement at both meetings was high for both groups, as well as the level of interest in a classical approach to education.

This coming week will take us to Washakie County on Friday to visit the Wyoming Boys School in Worland. This will be an especially meaningful time for me as this is the world I worked in for 14 ½ years. Under the leadership of Superintendent Dale Weber, I look forward to touring both the school as well as visiting the classrooms of this great institution.


Mark Your Calendars

Register now for the inaugural Wyoming Computer Science Education Conference on July 20-22, 2022 at Central Wyoming College in Riverton. The Computer Science Education Conference is an opportunity for administrators and educators from kindergarten through higher education, to share and explore computer science teaching and learning practices for classrooms and after school programs. This conference is hosted by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA-Wyoming) and the WDE. Register here.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

BSchroederSig

Tragedy in Uvalde, Texas

Dear Superintendents,

Given the recent tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, it seems not only appropriate, but necessary, to forego most of the other regular segments in this Update to offer the following thoughts and reflections:

As we all endure the horrors of yet another school shooting, we are again left sickened and grief-stricken beyond words. The terror that that classroom of innocent, defenseless, beautiful 10- and 11-year olds must have experienced in their final moments on this earth is not only unspeakable, but one of the saddest, most painful things about the realities of life in this world any of us have ever been faced with.

The safety of our schools has always been sacrosanct in our nation, and to even have to consider the prospects of something so hideous happening at the local community schoolhouse, for most of us, never once crossed our minds when we were kids.

Though the traumatizing effect on all of us will be somewhat intangible and hard to measure (unless we’ve just become numb), it will nonetheless be hard to avoid. This is especially true of our young people. The effects potentially will be varied, deep and life-long: some will become increasingly cynical about life and the nature of the human condition, while others may actually grow deeper spiritually, guided by the verities of their faith. Most, however, will not know how to process this. Without guidance and intervention, they will be vulnerable to paralyzing levels of confusion and even despair.

In one of my former lives, I worked for 14½ years with traumatized children (and families), and heard from not a few kids how pronounced the darkness was in their own hearts as well as some of the evils they fantasized about enacting. In almost every other way, these were regular, loveable, delightful kids, but deep down inside, they were tormented. Finding someone they could talk to about their torment (and still feel loved and accepted after having done so) did offer them some relief.

So while it is human nature to deal with this stuff by not dealing with it, going on through life as if nothing happened, that is exactly what we can’t do. You don’t have to be a mental health worker to care. You don’t have to be a professional counselor to listen. And you don’t have to be a pastor to weep with those who weep and pray for those who need it – which at this point, it goes without saying, is pretty much all of us.

In these days of heaviness, it falls to all of us to become more human, and in doing so, more divine. There is a time to work, and then there is a time to lay aside the duties of the day, move in, and become the healing presence some of our students need. This is one of those times.


Mark Your Calendars

A Wyoming Seal of Biliteracy is being created for students proficient in two or more languages. An advisory committee of language educators will convene to recommend assessments and levels of proficiency on assessments that will enable students to earn a Seal of Biliteracy, including a seal with Advanced Distinction.

The WDE is collecting public input to be shared with the Seal of Biliteracy Advisory Committee, which will develop recommendations that will be forwarded to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

To provide input, complete the Seal of Biliteracy Public Input Survey by 11:59 p.m. on June 2, 2022. The Seal of Biliteracy was created by Senate Enrolled Act 47 of the 2022 Wyoming Legislature.


Monday memos:

 

Sincerely,

BSchroederSig

Vision & Focus

Dear Superintendents,

I was hoping to be able to say this round that “Spring has Sprung!” But given the recent weather relapses, apparently not. Hopefully by the time you get this, things will have changed. In the meantime, we’ll hold off on any premature proclamations.

Nonetheless, we hope these final days of school prove smooth and productive as you wind things down in your districts, and do let us know how we can better support and serve you here at the WDE. Thank you for all you do.


Vision & Focus

In terms of the prospects of casting the first glimpses of a vision for our Wyoming schools, it will of necessity be rooted in identity (the character of the Wyoming people), courage (the tenacity of our school leadership), clarity (regarding the purpose and priority of education) and commitment (to being the very best).

To reiterate, the contention that Wyoming is poised to lead the nation in education does not mean that it will, it simply means that it can. Identity, courage and clarity only set the stage, they do not determine the outcome. Like anything else in life, commitment will ultimately determine that. Vision gives birth to commitment, and commitment sustains focus. We need both, vision and focus. To be continued …


The Primary Priority   

On the Teacher Apprenticeship initiative, we met with Governor Mark Gordon on May 18 to present key details and aspects of the draft framework.  I am pleased to report that he was excited about what he heard, and very affirming about the prospects of what this initiative can mean for our schools across the state.

We’ll continue to keep you posted about next steps as progress happens. The desire at this point (knock on wood!) is to pilot Phase One this fall in three school districts (small, medium and large). We welcome any related thoughts or questions; reach out to linda.finnerty@wyo.gov.


In The Spotlight

The WDE Deaf and Hard of Hearing Outreach team, consisting of Billie Wortham and Christy Fritz, uses on-site visits and data to identify areas of need in educational services for students with hearing loss across the state, from birth through grade 12. To address these needs, the team provides a high level of personalized technical assistance, training, coaching, and resources. This team recognizes a significant need in early intervention services to support language and early literacy skills.

Addressing these needs has led to the creation of a ground breaking service model in Wyoming called the Wyoming Early Intervention Initiative Plus Program (WEII). WEII Plus will officially be rolled out on July 1, 2022 During the nearly three years development, strong partnerships between the WDE, Wyoming Early Hearing Detection and Intervention, Early Intervention and Education Programs, Wyoming Families for Hands & Voices, Child Development Services and the Marion Downs Center.

Billie and Christy, thank you for all you do!


On the Road, In The Field

This week’s travels took me to two wonderful districts, Sheridan #2 and Sheridan #3, headed up by Superintendent Scott Stults and Superintendent Boyd Brown respectively.  Both of these seasoned leaders have learned a lot in all their years of service and have much to share. For my part, I gained a wealth of knowledge and perspective interacting with them and picking their brains, and came away (again) inspired by and grateful for the interactions.

It was very apparent how blessed both districts are, having some very special teachers and staff. Moreover, the Professional Learning Communities philosophy that both districts embrace is a thing of beauty when done right, and bears incredible fruit on so many levels. While many schools across the nation have become some of the most toxic places on earth for a kid to have to endure, these two districts live out the dynamics of what a healthy (not perfect) community in the school setting looks like. Two more examples of why Wyoming schools can lead the nation.


Mark Your Calendars

The Wyoming State Board of Education (SBE) has launched a second round of public input sessions around the Profile of a Graduate initiative. The public can provide input on a draft profile created utilizing statewide input received during the first round of listening sessions. The Phase II virtual vetting sessions will take place on the following dates:

  • From 4-5 p.m. on May 23; register here.
  • From noon-1 p.m. on May 26; register here.
  • From 8-9 a.m. on June 1; register here.
  • From 6-7 p.m. on June 7; register here.

Wyoming-based organizations may schedule a virtual session by contacting Diana Clapp, State Board of Education Coordinator, at diana.clapp@wyo.gov. The public is also encouraged to provide feedback through an online survey, which can be found here.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

BSchroederSig

Wyoming’s 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars

Greetings District Superintendents,

In this week’s update, in addition to another layer of vision casting and the latest on the Teacher Apprenticeship initiative, we proudly recognize Wyoming’s two U.S. Presidential Scholars, and eagerly share our most recent “on the road” excursion. We then conclude with the details of our Week of Academic Vision for Excellence (WAVE) Conference and some important memos from our department chiefs.


Vision & Focus

Besides being rooted in a solid identity, if a national leadership role is in the cards for us, it will require tenacity, integrity, and a good measure of vision, determination and perseverance – some of the core ingredients of courage. This week, some mild musings on this crucial leadership trait.

Among all the decisions, big and small, we as leaders face every day – sometimes several times a day – we must decide whether to give in to our fears (we all have them) or push through and overcome them. Leadership is an enterprise that only functions well when it yields to courage; therefore, fear-based leadership is not leadership.

If courage is about doing the right thing – the thing that needs to be done no matter the consequences, personally or professionally – then healthy leadership is synonymous with courage. So if Wyoming schools are poised to take the lead, it will be in large part because Wyoming schools have a courageous quality to them. With few exceptions, this quality trickles down from its leaders. Everything does rise or fall on leadership, but leadership rises or falls on courage.


The Primary Priority   

Recently, several of us here at the WDE participated in a webinar hosted by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Tennessee Commissioner Penny Schwinn called “Grow Your Own: Tennessee’s Teacher Apprenticeship, A National Model.” In response to the teacher shortage crisis that the Volunteer State had been experiencing for the last several years, leadership there developed an innovative program that became wildly successful in solving this serious problem, and have been equally excited about sharing it with the rest of the nation.

This special digital presentation was not only informative and instructive, but tremendously inspiring, as we continue to work toward launching our own Wyoming version of a Teacher Apprenticeship initiative. While our work group puts on the finishing touches, the anticipation builds in preparation for our presentation to Governor Mark Gordon on May 18. We’ll keep you posted as things move ahead on this front.


In the Spotlight

Congratulations go out to Isabelle Radakovich from Cody High School and Keegan Allen Miller from Laramie High School – Wyoming’s 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars! U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the 58th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, recognizing 161 high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields.

The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as a demonstrated commitment to community service and leadership.

“Our 2022 Presidential Scholars represent the best of America, and remind us that when empowered by education, there are no limits to what our young people can achieve,” Cardona said.


On the Road, In The Field

Deputy Superintendent Chad Auer and I had the pleasure of touring the now legendary WyoTech, a true Wyoming treasure. Homegrown in Laramie, the school has survived 60 years of ups and downs, including corporate purchases, expansions, closures and bankruptcy. In the summer of 2018, through the last-ditch efforts of Governor Matt Mead, several legislators and Jim Mathis (a former student, teacher and executive across the years), the doors remained open with only 12 students. The student count had gone as high as several thousand at times in the past.

Fast forward to 2022, thanks to the visionary and tireless leadership of Mr. Mathis and his team, every square foot of the school’s many buildings are now bustling with the sounds of students and staff toiling away on vehicles and equipment of every kind. In addition, a plan for significant expansion is nearing implementation. What a terrific place to have right in the backyard of our high school students as they consider college, military and career ready options going forward.

You can learn more about WyoTech here.


Mark Your Calendars

The WDE’s Special Education Programs Division announces the return of the annual in-person Week of Academic Vision for Excellence (WAVE) Conference to be held at the Central Wyoming College in Riverton from July 26-28. The WDE will offer this conference at no cost for 2022. This conference is relevant for educators, parents, and other Wyoming stakeholders. State and national presenters will cover topics such as trauma response, behavior/discipline, and Special Education law.

Join department staff for a meet-and-greet reception on July 26 at the Riverton Country Club. Due to limited space, pre-registration for this event is required by July 5. A ticket will be provided for admittance when you pick up your name tag at the conference registration table.

Registration will close on July 5, 2022.

  • Register for the conference here.
  • 2022 WAVE Conference schedules, presenter session descriptions, presenter bios, and venue information can be found here.

For more information, contact Deana Smith at 307-777-5326 or deana.smith@wyo.gov or Jennifer Duncan at 307-777-3530 or jennifer.duncan@wyo.gov.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

BSchroederSig

Teacher Job Satisfaction

Dear Superintendents,

Governor Mark Gordon proclaimed May 1-7 as Teacher Appreciation Week, and we were honored here in Cheyenne by the presence of two of our illustrious Wyoming teachers who attended the governor’s proclamation signing at the Capitol. We thanked them for their long-term diligent commitment and we again thank you for the same. Stay encouraged and take care of yourselves – our students and parents need you to stay in the game for the long haul.


Vision & Focus

Leading the nation in education is a multi-splendored thing to be sure, but one of the key guideposts will be identity – knowing who we are and who we are not. Security breeds leadership and leadership breeds security. Wyoming is poised to lead the nation in education because it knows who it is and who it is not.

The same goes for our schools. Over time, like our local communities, our schools develop an identity based on a culture. If healthy (or becoming healthier), it will serve as an anchor for our young people. If it endures, it can serve as an example for our entire nation. That’s the vision.


The Primary Priority   

According to the Merrimack College Teacher Survey, teacher job satisfaction has hit an all-time low. Representing more than 1,300 teachers, this representative poll paints a picture of a disillusioned, exhausted workforce.

It is unclear to what extent this “heaviness” is affecting Wyoming teachers, but we know the teacher shortage crisis is real. Therefore, the primary priority for the WDE is the Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative based in part on the highly-successful Tennessee model.

Our newly-formed work group (a robust cross-section of all the key stakeholders) had another very productive meeting recently. The excitement builds as we prepare for our meeting with Governor Gordon on May 18, when we present the draft apprenticeship framework. We will keep you posted as things transpire on this front every step of the way.


In the Spotlight

If you recall back in the fall of 2020, the WDE announced that it had been awarded the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant by the United States Department of Education. Year one funding for Wyoming was $8.6 million. With continued eligibility over the following five years, the total could reach $43.3 million. The grant is being used 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. As of May 2022, the full amount has been granted through 2025 to the 24 school districts that have applied.


On the Road, In The Field

The past couple weeks have brought several more inspiring school district visits. The first one took us up to beautiful Sundance at Crook County #1, hosted by Superintendent Mark Broderson, while the second one was just around the corner at home here in Cheyenne at Laramie County #1 with Dr. Margaret Crespo.

A third trip ventured up to Campbell County #1 with Deputy Superintendent Kirby Eisenhauer, complemented the same day with a stop at the delightful Youth Emergency Services House in Gillette with Clark Fairbanks and some of his dedicated colleagues. Thursday took us to Natrona County District #1 with Superintendent Mike Jennings and his Associate Superintendent Walt Wilcox, and Friday capped it all off at Johnson County School District #1 with a visit to Superintendent Charles Auzqui and his Buffalo schools.

I wish time and space allowed for some highlights from these visits, but suffice it to say, each one has again yielded an enriched perspective on all the good things going on in our schools as well as an appreciation for how hard our district and school leaders are working to get the job done. While much going on across our nation in education is very concerning, Wyoming schools give me hope.


Mark Your Calendars

The 2022 Summer Technical Assistance Retreat (STAR) Conference will be held virtually from June 21-23, and June 28-29, 2022. The STAR Conference will focus on Grants Management System, Homeless Education, Consolidated Federal Grants, and more. From June 21-23, the sessions will focus on Federal Programs management, and from June 28-29 the annual McKinney-Vento Homeless Education post-conference will be offered.

Registration is open for both conferences. The cost for the STAR Conference is $45. There is no registration fee for the McKinney-Vento post-conference, but registration is required. For detailed information about the conference, keynote speakers, and registration, follow these links:

• Registration

• Session Schedule


Monday Memos

Sincerely,

BSchroederSig

Leading the Nation

Dear Superintendents,

Spring has sprung (we hope), and as you lead your schools to the finish line, I hope the change of season recharges your batteries and renews your resolve. At the same time, Spring is a great reminder of the need to get outside and smell the flowers! The work-life balance is a challenge for all of us, and at times seemingly impossible to achieve – but strive for it we must or burn out we will. Take care of yourselves, protect that all-important family time and enjoy the great outdoors of Wyoming!


Vision & Focus

Continuing our thoughts from last week, how is it conceivable that the smallest state in the Union in population could lead that Union in education? Or in the words of one who shares this vision, UW Ellbogen Dean, Dr. Scott Thomas: “Second to none by 2030!”

Are we both dreaming? Maybe, but sometimes it takes an outsider (or two) to share a fresh take on just how unique Wyoming is and how very special the people of Wyoming remain. Our country is losing itself, yet Wyoming as a whole, has still not drunk the Kool-Aid. So for starters, we can lead the nation by not following the direction that much of it is going, and helping our kids resist the cultural abyss that is clawing at them. That will be the essential piece if we are to emerge as leaders on the education front. More next time.


The Primary Priority   

Things are moving at a brisk pace with the teacher apprenticeship initiative. A workgroup has been formed that represents key stakeholders and will have its first meeting next week.

WDE and PTSB team members had a very productive meeting this week with key staff from the Tennessee Department of Education. Working closely with the US Department of Labor, these trailblazers were the first state in the country to sponsor Teacher Occupation Apprenticeship programs. Registered apprenticeship programs will allow for high-quality, industry-driven, work-based learning pathways that provide individuals with hands-on work experience while earning a wage that increases during the progression of the program.

Tennessee has paved the way for other states and are graciously sharing the results of multiple years of work in the form of a Playbook and other key materials and supports. Although the materials will not be available until early May, our team was able to gather significant information that not only confirmed various aspects of our own evolving framework, but will also allow us to keep things moving forward. While we do not intend to simply mirror what Tennessee has done, Wyoming will use these valuable resources to accelerate the process here at home.


In the Spotlight

We would be remiss if we did not “give honor to whom honor is due.”  Our own Dustin Brown and Laura Budd are doing some cutting-edge work with Wyoming Project Aware, so they will be our first WDE staffers to be put in this new Spotlight segment.

Dustin and Laura oversee the WDE efforts to provide behavioral health and substance abuse services within ten of our Wyoming school districts.  As they design theoretical models to maximize student class attendance, they also provide important support to other state agencies working on healthcare.

No surprise then that they are receiving growing recognition for their work:

  • Their Wyoming Project AWARE Referral Pathway and Wyoming NOMS data collection processes are nationally recognized as a Best Practice.
  • Their Wyoming Tier 3 Clinical Intervention Services has been deemed “innovative” by the National Leadership Team.
  • Their Telehealth concept design is considered revolutionary by the CDC.
  • They have been asked to provide presentations to the national or cohort audiences four times in the last year and twice this year currently

Congratulations, Dustin and Laura, you are in the spotlight.


Mark Your Calendars

The Fifth Annual Wyoming English as a Second Language and Dual Language Immersion Conference is April 29-30 in Gillette. The conference will offer a stimulating environment to share participants’ work, network, and learn from one another. Register here for free. View the conference schedule for more information.


Monday Memos

Sincerely,

BSchroederSig

Teacher Apprenticeship Efforts

Dear Superintendents,

This week, Wyoming PBS will be launching a new digital series designed for students/kids from kindergarten through third grade, focused on science exploration and outdoor learning. The name of the series is Nature WY. Here’s a sample. They will be hosting a webinar starting at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13 for educators to showcase this content and show teachers where they can go to access the supplemental materials. Just a heads up for some of your teachers who you know might be interested in getting in on this.


Teacher Apprenticeship

Also, it will be important to continue to research some version of a Teacher Apprenticeship program in Wyoming, as we seek to respond to the teacher shortage problem we face. On this end, some select members of our WDE staff are working on getting our hands on the Tennessee playbook, as well as other related materials they are so willing to share.

I do want to make you aware that this process is in its infancy stage, and we will move forward judiciously, as we put concrete to our foundational plans.

We have searched for all related elements to this initiative from across Wyoming, whether that be from what some of the schools within our districts have already developed in this regard, or at the community college/university level. If you have some insights to share that could help us as we work on this, email our Communications Director, Linda Finnerty, at linda.finnerty@wyo.gov.

Deputy Superintendent Chad Auer has made contact with Representative Jerry Paxton from Encampment, and I will be meeting with Governor Mark Gordon to discuss how best to move this initiative forward. From there, we will begin conversations with Dr. Scott Thomas at the University of Wyoming, along with Dr. Sandy Caldwell with our community colleges, and Ryan Fuhrman with the State Board of Education and other stakeholders.

Look for an update in this space, hopefully on a weekly basis, to keep you fully informed as to the progress we hope to make on this initiative.

Thanks again for all you do.


Memos to be released today:

 

Sincerely,

BSchroederSig

FASFA Awardees

Dear Superintendents,

Last fall the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) kicked off a campaign to encourage and support the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). UNLOCK YOUR FUTURE…FAFSA IS THE KEY encourages students to unlock the possibilities, and reach the next level in life. The statewide campaign includes digital media, a website, and support tools for schools and communities.

On October 1, 2021 we launched the FAFSA Completion Challenge. The WDE tracked FAFSA completion percentage rate by high school, in four size categories. A cash prize of $500 is being awarded to the winning schools’ counseling departments.

Congratulations to our winners for this year, and look for the challenge to start again on October 1, 2022.

  • Dragon Level – Ten Sleep K-12 in Ten Sleep with 80% completion.
  • Buffalo Level – Southeast High School in Yoder with 84.6% completion.
  • Rocket Level – Mountain View High School in Mountain View with 75% completion.
  • Space Level – Lander Valley High School in Lander with 59.3% completion.

fasfa


Teacher Apprenticeship

On another note, the CCSSO conference last weekend in Washington, D.C. was a very encouraging experience, hearing so many exciting “wins” from other State Chiefs. The big one for me came from Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn of Tennessee and the Teacher Apprenticeship program that was pioneered there.

In response to the teacher shortage crisis, suffering 1,000-1,200 teacher vacancies each year, the Tennessee Department of Education targeted para-professionals, support staff and TAP students. Academic coursework via evening classes (all paid for) coupled with paid on-the-job training as an instructional aide (under a mentor/master teacher for two years), teacher apprentices would not only be compensated for skills gained, but could potentially receive raises incrementally.

With apprentice candidates able to earn a living wage (with no debt), and begin teaching with only two years of prior experience, this revolutionary paradigm shift not only answered the teacher shortage problem in Tennessee, but is now poised to do so in many other states across the country.

So as we begin talking with some of the key related stakeholders here in Wyoming, we will keep you posted on the prospects of bringing this teacher recruitment model (or some version thereof) to our state.

Memos to be released today:

BSchroederSig