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.

Celebrating CTE Month in Wyoming

Dear Superintendents,

What a special week for Wyoming CTE students! State officers from DECA, FBLA, FCCLA, FFA, and Skills USA visited Cheyenne for a special day of discussions with legislators, a Governor’s Proclamation, and good old-fashioned networking.

We would love to see Wyoming educators, business and industry community members, and students participate in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month celebration. This is an annual Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) Twitter chat and it will take place February 19 at 3:00 p.m. Wyoming time.  Be sure to use #CTSOchat when responding and let others know Wyoming is represented.


State Officers from the Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) visited the Captiol this week. They represented all CTE students very well!biz

Members of the business and industry community celebrated Governor Gordon’s signing of the CTE proclamation. This was the third proclamation signed by Governor Gordon.


Every Student Succeeds (ESSA) Implementation

The USED released proposed, non-regulatory guidance to support school districts’ compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) requirement that federal funds supplement, and do not supplant, state and local funds.  The guidance explains how ESSA changed the long-standing requirement in order to reduce administrative burden, simplify the compliance demonstration, and promote effective spending.  (Note: The Department welcomes stakeholder comment on the proposed guidance directed to through February 25.)

While important and well-intentioned, the supplement not supplant requirement was restrictive and burdensome, to the point that some districts made ineffective spending choices in an effort to avoid non-compliance.  Under ESSA, the requirement changed to provide more flexibility to districts while still ensuring that federal funds are supplemental to state and local funds and cannot be used to replace them.

In order to comply, a district need only show that its methodology to allocate state and local resources to schools does not take into account a school’s Title I status.  For many districts, the requirement can be met using the district’s current methodology for allocating state and local resources. At the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) we are committed to supporting you to spend federal dollars as flexibly as possible.


Marzano training Phase IV- Proficiency Scales for Exceptional Learners in Casper this week


Funding Opportunity

Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3) is a unique initiative that offers state, local, and tribal governments more flexibility to innovate to improve the outcomes of some of the nation’s most disadvantaged youth.  Specifically, P3 enables government entities to obtain waivers of statutory or regulatory requirements that impede effective service delivery to disconnected youth and also gives them the ability to blend together funds from multiple federal programs, eliminating the need to account for and report on each of them.  The deadline for applications is April 29.  (Note: Examples of possible waivers are in the Federal Register notice, while a list of waivers previously granted for prior pilots is on the program page.)


Memos to be released on Monday, February 11:

  • 2019-016: ACCESS 2.0, ALT ACCESS Participation Rate Requirement
  • 2019-017: Celebrate Digital (Virtual) Learning Day
  • 2019-018: BOCES Survey Reminder
  • 2019-019: 2018-19 CTE Course Approval Timeline
  • 2019-020: Survey for ALT 1 Percent Cap (WY-ALT, ACCESS-ALT)
  • 2019-021: Call for Presenters for the 2019 Native American Education Conference


Understanding the New Tech-Biz Wave

Dear Superintendents,

Over the past several years there has been a great deal of attention focused on blockchain, bitcoin, and cryptocurrency. Legislation, task force recommendations, and business advancements have brought these tech-biz innovations to our communities in the Cowboy State. Simply, these high-tech business structures are just around the corner for everyone and Wyoming is banking on early implementation in the near future.

As education leaders, we don’t necessarily need to understand the particulars of high-tech biz…yet. But we do need to know that the children we are teaching today will live in a world where high-tech business is the norm. A strong K-12 foundation in Computer Science, STEM, technical skills, and executive skills, like communication, help to ensure that our students are prepared for tomorrow, not yesterday.

Here are a couple of resources I found helpful in explaining the new tech-biz structure:

Caitlyn Long is from Wyoming. She is bitcoin & blockchain enthusiast, 22-year Wall Street veteran, Wyoming Blockchain Coalition co-founder, former chairman/president of Symbiont. She wrote this article, “Game Changer” in 2016. 

This youtube video was posted by the Wyoming Association of Municipalities (WAM) . It features Wyoming attorney, Matt Kaufman. He ties new statutes and pending legislation to Wyoming’s developing high-tech business environment.

sci fair

Barb Marquer of WDE inquires at the Wyoming Science FairTaiwan

Chester Chu, Asia Pacific Trade Director from Taiwan, visited the Wyoming Department of Education to talk about Dual Language Immersion (DLI) programsGuernsey

CTE Students from Guernsey and their teacher, Mr. Reichert, visit the Captiol

Memos to be released on Monday, Feb. 4:

  • 2019-012: Verification of WDE949 Credits Earned for Accountability
  • 2019-013: Special Education Staffing Guidelines
  • 2019-014: Social Studies Standards Workshop
  • 2019-015: Science Professional Development Opportunity


Great Graduation Rate News

Dear Superintendents,

Congratulations to Wyoming on an increased 4-year, on-time graduation rate for the fifth straight year. I reached out directly to several schools with significant gains and found the following commonalities:

  • There is not one factor that raises graduation rates or any other indicator.
  • There must be a district-wide focus on building a student-centered school culture.
  • Early intervention is key.
  • Accuracy of data submitted to WDE made a difference.

At the WDE we will continue to do our part to support a student-centered school culture, quality instruction, and to provide technical assistance to districts in data set preparation.

Here is a link to the press release about graduation rates.

One of the ways we support schools is through the Statewide System of Support (SSOS). This week we roll out the SSOS Guidebook for school leaders. The guidebook lays out the protocol for placing schools in tiers of support, as per state accountability. It also includes information about where evidence-based supports and resources are offered for school improvement. The guidebook was developed in conjunction with school districts and Education Northwest.



Jan Hoegh with Marzano Research led educators from across the state in the program, Phase III – The Art and Science of Teaching Thursday in Evanston. Thanks to all the educators who braved icy roads to be part of this training.MLK

Superintendent Balow, WDE Exeuctive Assistant Rita Watson, Chief of Staff Dicky Shanor attended the MLK dinner in Cheyenne.leap

Women from across Wyoming attended this week’s Leap Into Leadership conference.

Memo to be released on Monday, 28:


Help Us Share Scholarship Information

Dear Superintendents,

This is the time of year when high school students and their parents are carefully considering the next steps after graduation – -college, career, military – -or all three. Teachers and counselors have an important role in this often, the WDE staff shares opportunities and scholarship notices via memo and social media. I ask that when these opportunities come across your desk, you send them along to the appropriate people in your schools. This week there are two such memos.

SHUTDOWN: So far, the WDE has been able to absorb the effects of the federal government shutdown so as not to disrupt school district business. We will keep you apprised when and if that changes.


The five statewide elected officials (L-R: State Superintendent, Secretary of State, Governor, Auditor, Treasurer) met as the SLIB on January 17 to consider grant and loan applications.


WDE teammates were at Laramie County Community College recently to help judge the Laramie County School District No. 1 Science Fair. So many great projects!

Memos to be released:


2019 Inauguration

Dear Superintendents,

My week as Wyoming’s elected State Superintendent began early Monday morning with a memorable swearing-in ceremony in the rotunda of our Capitol. The entire week has been high energy–we celebrated new beginnings and got to work. One highlight was hearing from teachers across the state who streamed the public swearing-in event or Governor Gordon’s first State-of-the-State address. The teachers shared how they used the opportunity to teach students about the role of the State Superintendent and the three branches of government. The streamed events are  available at

During his State-of-the-State address, Governor Gordon recognized Principal Terry Quinn from Gillette for his leadership in thwarting a potential school shooting. He also spoke about education funding, student safety, the power of good teachers, and more.

As the Wyoming Legislature becomes steeped in its business, it’s important to remember the voice that we have as citizens and professionals. If you or any student groups from your community are visiting Cheyenne, please take an opportunity to talk to your legislator and, if you desire, be recognized by the chambers. My staff and I would love to greet you when you visit Cheyenne–I especially love to visit a bit with students. If we can assist with coordination, please contact Rita or Penny at (307)777-7675. Information about the legislature can also be found at

We saw the power of citizen voices already this session with the Hathaway expansion bill, Senate File 43 (SF43). The bill adds the option of taking sequenced career and technical education  courses as part of the success curriculum. The aim is to expand scholarship eligibility for students who participate in rigorous career pathways in high school. Teacher and education leaders spoke in favor of the bill during public testimony. Spokespeople from across Wyoming business and industry (trucking, agriculture, technology, mining, and more) also spoke in favor of the legislation. It was a remarkable demonstration of citizen engagement! I sincerely hope you and students in your districts will take many opportunities to observe and participate in the process.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow with Principal Quinn at the Jonah Building before the State-of-the-State.
Principal Terry Quinn was recognized by Governor Gordon for his leadership in school safety
A group of teachers sit around a table observing an experiment with a marshmallow on pencils taped together.
Teacher Training “Engaging ELs in Science” in Green River
State Superintendent Jillian Balow holds up her right hand with her left hand on a bible held by her husband to take the Oath of Office from the Chief Justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court during the Swearing-In Ceremony at the Cheyenne Civic Center.
The swearing-in of statewide elected officials took place January 7

Memos to be released on Monday, January 14, 2019:


New Year, New Faces

Dear Superintendents,

There are some new faces on the WDE leadership team as we kick off 2019. First we said goodbye to our Chief Operations Officer, Dianne Bailey. She retired after many years of service to the State of Wyoming and a lifetime in education (her father was a district superintendent). Dianne was a key leader during my first term and has been the voice of wisdom and experience in our agency. Here is our leadership team at WDE with newly appointed staff in bold:

  • Dicky Shanor, Chief of Staff
  • Shelley Hamel, Chief Academic Officer
  • Trent Carroll, Chief Operations Officer 
  • Kari Eakins, Chief Policy Officer 
  • Michelle Panos, Communications Director
  • Jeremy Wilch, Finance Director
  • Ken Reynolds, Information Management Director
  • Julie Magee, Accountability Director
  • Laurie Hernandez, Standards and Assessment Director
  • John Bole, Federal Programs Director
  • Brenda Creel, Interim Special Ed and Programs Director

I am very excited about all that these leaders add to our dynamic staff at WDE!


Dual Immersion Teacher Chris Bessonette (in black shirt) from Munger Mountain Elementary School was happily surprised with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award on Friday Morning.


It was so exciting to celebrate, for the second year in a row in Wyoming, a Milken Educator Award winner. Today, we surprised Munger Mountain Elementary School teacher, Chris Bessonette. Congratulations, Chris and Teton County School District!

Congratulations also to Baldwin Creek Elementary School in Fremont School District #1 and Sheridan Junior High School in Sheridan County School District #2. They were recognized as National ESEA Distinguished School Award winners (see related memo below).


Memos to be released on Monday, January 7:


Wreaths Across America

Dear Superintendents,

Earlier this week I participated in Cheyenne’s Wreaths Across America ceremony. The event was particularly emotional for me as my daughter, a soldier, prepares to deploy to the Middle East. The purpose of Wreaths Across America is three-fold: Remember, Honor, and Teach. Remember our fallen warriors and their families. Honor our men and women who serve or have served. Teach the next generation about the price of our freedom. According to the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) only 23% of 8th graders are proficient in Social Studies. Wyoming citizens, including educators, frequently share their concerns about how we prepare students for civic engagement as adults. One way I hope to help in the coming months is to livestream more events like Wreaths Across America so students can join from the classroom.

Preparation for civic life was the primary purpose for establishing public schools in the United States. Students who receive effective social studies instruction are:

  • More likely to vote and discuss politics at home.
  • Four times more likely to volunteer and work on community issues.
  • More confident in their ability to speak publicly and communicate with their elected representatives.

I recently ran across this related resource from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) that is worthy of sharing with you.

*The inaugural event for Wyoming’s statewide elected officials will be streamed on January 7. Governor Gordon’s State-of-the-State address will be streamed on January 9. Details are forthcoming.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow stands beside a wreath with Wyoming Adjutant General Luke Reiner during a ceremony in Cheyenne.
photo courtesy of Wyoming Military Department
A mix of elementary and middle school students hold their Hour of Code completion certificates and raise their hands in excitement with State Superintendent Jillian Balow, and staff from Microsoft and the Array School of Technology and Design. They are all standing in from of a Microsoft banner.
Microsoft, BEAST Foundation, ARRAY School of Technology, & WDE team up to code after school
WDE staff sit at tables in a filled conference room for the all-staff meeting while a WDE employee leads a flash mob by waving a red and green ribbon wand in the air.
WDE’s Liz Gilbert was the mastermind of the 12 Days of Christmas flashmob at our semi-annual all-staff meeting

Memos to be released on Monday, December 17:


George H.W. Bush

“I do not mistrust the future. I do not fear what is ahead. For our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater.

-George H.W. Bush

A Solution Tree employee lectures to a classroom of teachers.
Statewide PLC work continues across Wyoming this week with Solution Tree
A classroom full of elementary students sit at computers playing games that teach coding.
Congratulations on another successful weeklong immersion into Computer Science. Students in Pinedale had a coding and dance party. In Cheyenne, the Array School of Technology taught students at Prairie Wind Elementary.
State Superintendent Jillian Balow sit on the dais for a State Loan and Investment Board meeting with the Secretary of State, Governor, and State Treasurer.
The Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board met for the last time with Governor Mead as Chair. Governor-Elect Gordon takes over as Chair in January.

There are no memos this week.


School Safety

Dear Superintendents,

School safety is a priority topic in every community, state, and in our nation. It is approached with an appropriate sense of urgency. At the community level, the vehicle for school safety discussions is often the school board. However, school safety cannot be the singular responsibility of the school board. Discussions about policies and practices should always include school resource officers and other law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents, educators, students, and other community members. Here are some topics for stakeholder discussion:

  • Should a community task force be convened?
  • What roles do various stakeholders play in ensuring the safety of students?
  • Have current safety plans and policies been analyzed?
  • Are emergency drills adequate?
  • When is the last time a school safety assessment or audit was conducted?
  • What resources exist to help us set and reach goals that help ensure student safety?

As I discuss this important issue across our state, I always describe how school and student safety encompasses prevention, preparedness, crisis response, student well-being, responsibility, and the need for ongoing and coordinated dialogue.

As we have these critical conversations I’ll note that in some instances current state statute is out of sync with best practice. I was pleased to see the Joint Education Committee sponsor legislation earlier this week that begins the work of setting a stronger state framework for school safety. I look forward to continuing to work with legislators on the bill with the understanding that every aspect of school safety must be carefully weighed at the local level.

WDE Hathaway consultant, Bradley Barker, speaks to the Leadership Cheyenne class in a classroom at Laramie County Community College, with graphs projected on screens behind him.
WDE teammate Bradley Barker makes a presentation about the Hathaway Scholarship Program to Leadership Cheyenne Wednesday.
The WDE math and science standards consultants stand on either side of a banner with reads, "Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching."
WDE teammates Brian Cole and Sharla Dowding traveled to Washington, DC, recently to share strategies in promoting excellence in STEM education in Wyoming.

Memos to be released on Monday, December 3:



Dear Superintendents,

I hope you were all able to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and surround yourself with loved ones.

Three memos will be released this afternoon: