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.

Educational Opportunities Available

Dear Superintendents,

Please take a few moments to preview this week’s memos.

Highlights:

  1. An application for early literacy funds and participation in Wyoming’s full court-press literacy initiative, Wyoming Believing in Literacy Together (WY BILT). Professional development for teachers and leaders, high quality curriculum and assessment, and scientifically-based instructional methods are keys to success.
  2. Surveys that inform our work and priorities at the WDE.
  3. A very special opportunity for two+ high school civics and journalism classes.

Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Education Celebrations & Observations

Dear Superintendents,

This week is a big week for education celebrations and observations:

And, we continue to celebrate Career and Technical Education (CTE) for the whole month of February. Governor Gordon signed a proclamation earlier this week.

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Handbook from CDC and U.S. Department of Education

One week ago the CDC and U.S. Dept. of Education released a guide for reopening schools across the nation. The focus of the guide is on the implementation of the strategies that Wyoming implemented before we began this school year. Thank you, Wyoming educators, families, and students, for setting a high standard for in-person instruction in America. I am anxious to continue sharing our success story.

Both the CDC and U.S. Department of Education recommend that schools that have safely reopened do not shift course based on the guidance, but that we ensure safety strategies are still in place.

Other Resources

These are not from the CDC or U.S. Department of Education but may be of help as you plan for summer learning and the use of local CARES/ESSER funds.

  • New Spotlights Share Innovations for Providing Educators Professional Development on Trauma: Looking for ways to train district and school staff about trauma? The National Center for Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE) recently released a new set of spotlights highlighting innovative practices for providing educators professional development on trauma based on the work of the Promoting Student Resilience grantees. Providing high-quality professional development activities can build the capacity of school staff to create safe, supportive learning environments that offer stability and positive relationships that reduce the negative effects of traumatic events on youth development. Each state spotlight includes a point of contact for the grantee who can share additional information about the implementation of these practices.
  • New RAND study on Summer Learning: RAND recently published Every Summer Counts: A Longitudinal Analysis of Outcomes from the National Summer Learning Project, which examined the implementation and effectiveness of voluntary summer learning programs in five school districts and shares key findings and recommendations for future summer programming. Among the recommendations:
    • Districts offering voluntary summer programs that seek to provide academic benefits should offer at least five weeks of programming, and preferably six, with at least three hours of academic instruction per day.
    • To increase program effectiveness and maximize their return on investment, districts should focus on ensuring strong student attendance, productive use of instructional time, and high-quality instruction.

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WDE takes a quick Zoom break to share a few random acts of kindness during #RAKWeek

Memo to be released today:

 

Blue Balow Signature

Summary of Federal Education-Related Actions

President Biden has approved many executive actions (orders, directives, memoranda, proclamations, etc.) that concern schools, students, and families.  Below is a summary of the major education-related actions:

Of course, two additional actions negatively impact education funding for Wyoming and other states with mineral production on federal lands:


FAFSA

I am excited to see the rollout of a new FAFSA campaign in Wyoming – more to come. In the meantime, since the 2021-22 FAFSA form became available on October 1, 2020, the completion rate among high school seniors is down 12% compared to the same time last year. Students, educators, counselors, and parents can access resources at StudentAid.gov and via the myStudentAid mobile application using a computer, tablet, or cell phone.


CYBER SAFETY RESOURCE

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) launched a Reduce the Risk of Ransomware campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of ransomware among schools and other organizations that hackers have particularly targeted.


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February is CTE Month. It feels very different in 2021 and I miss the students, teachers, & advisors coming to the Capitol to visit with legislators and others.


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Last week some of WDE’s senior staff volunteered for the Friday Food Bag Foundation in Cheyenne. We know programs like this exist all over the state and we are grateful that school serves as the hub for distributing weekend meals.

Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Random Acts of Kindness Week

Dear Superintendents,

Governor Gordon signed a proclamation recognizing February 14-20, 2021 as Random Acts of Kindness Week. In the past, schools in Wyoming have been very involved in making the most of this week. Here are several resources as we navigate random acts of kindness in a COVID-19 world.

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Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Wyoming 2030

The Wyoming Afterschool Alliance is leading a discussion called Wyoming 2030. Recently, the Alliance hosted a conversation with Wyoming students called Wyoming Youth VoicesStudents discussed what they love about school and life and what they need to keep it that way – It is worth the watch.

The Wyoming Legislature met virtually this week to continue the business of debating bills and moving legislation. You can check on the status of bills and watch previous and live meetings and sessions at wyoleg.gov.

Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Remembering Sen. Hank Coe

We said goodbye to a friend, a leader, and a colleague last week. Senator Hank Coe, or, “Mr. Chairman” to many of us, passed this week after a brief battle with cancer. This is a true loss. Senator Coe led the Senate Education Committee for many years. He approached every topic with a wealth of wisdom and thoughtfulness. Senator Coe’s legacy and impact on education will last for generations to come.

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Senator Coe, Representative Freeman, and Representative Roscoe escort me into the House Chambers at the beginning of the 2019 legislative session.


UPDATES

The WDE Communications Team is making much-needed updates to our website and branding. Thank you for your patience if you encounter a temporary glitch or two when you visit our website. Note the new template for this update – all WDE branding will transition to this look with the tagline, “Opportunity Through Education.” We truly appreciate working with each one of you to provide opportunities for Wyoming’s young citizens.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology (OET) released two new resource guides: the Teacher Digital Learning Guide and the School Leader Digital Learning Guide. The guides provide strategies to help teachers and school leaders effectively incorporate digital learning strategies both inside and outside the classroom.


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Inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20

Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

SPECIAL STATEMENT: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow’s Comment on the Passing of Senator Hank Coe

CHEYENNE – Today I, alongside many in Wyoming, grieve the loss of Senator Hank Coe. He was my friend, a mentor, and a colleague. To my family and I, Hank is remembered as a friend and a supporter – always generous, always kind. Professionally, Hank was a mentor to me – infusing wisdom, history, and thoughtfulness into all of our work together.

Among Hank’s many legacies, he was key in developing and overseeing Wyoming’s equitable funding model. This work transformed Wyoming education. Hank led the Senate Education Committee with a keen sense of the business that would keep Wyoming schools moving in the right direction. My heart goes out to Hank’s family today, and in the days to come.

Wyoming Broadband Survey

Dear Superintendents,

Attached to this week’s memo, 2021-003, is the flyer pictured below. The flyer is printable – please consider sharing and displaying the flyer to promote completion of the survey by Wyoming families.

Wyoming Legislative Session

The 2021 legislative session kicked off this week for a one-day session. Here is Governor Gordon’s message. The session will reconvene January 27.

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Memos to be released on Tuesday, January 19 (The WDE will observe Martin Luther King Day on Monday, January 18):

Important Federal Updates

Dear Superintendents,

There are several important updates from the federal level and two memos from our department. Welcome to 2021!

U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION

As you likely know U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, resigned. In her resignation letter, Secretary DeVos clearly expressed the reasons for resigning and outlined several successes during her tenure.

Looking forward, President-Elect Biden has nominated Dr. Miguel Cardona as his pick for U.S. Secretary of Education. Dr. Cardona is the current State Superintendent in Connecticut.

CARES II FUNDING FOR STATES

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CARES II) was signed into law on December 27, 2021. The Wyoming Department of Education is working to set up the state allocation and distribution process for the new Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) funds. Here are a few stats about the new funding:

  • $81.9 billion in the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) for higher education, K-12, Bureau of Indian Education, and other education entities.
  • $54.3 billion (67% of the total ESF) for K-12 education (new ESSER II funds).
  • $21.7 billion for higher education (HEER).
  • $4.1 billion for governors (GEER).
  • Wyoming’s allocation for K-12 schools is substantially higher than last spring (approximately $135 million for K-12).
  • Allocations are based on relative share of Title I, Part A.

CARES II funds are to be used for emergency needs to address issues responding to the coronavirus, including measuring and addressing learning loss, which may be addressed through the use of grants and contracts.

Allowable use of funds is similar for ESSER I and ESSER II with key differences, including the period of availability, equitable services to non-public schools, maintenance of effort, and a report on efforts to measure and address learning loss. ESSER I funds should be expended before ESSER II funds are used. Here is a fact sheet that offers further details.

Our staff at WDE can provide technical assistance and will offer a webinar once we receive adequate information about the funds, purpose, timeline, and process.

SCHOOL NUTRITION

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted nationwide waivers, through June 30, 2021, to support access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19. These waivers relate to the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Seamless Summer Option, and the Summer Food Service Program.


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I spent time with family over the holidays and took this photo of my great nieces and nephew at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens.


Memos to be released today: