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.

Championing Education In Wyoming

Dear Superintendents,

It was a great week to be on the Wyoming road (despite a wintry 4.5 hour drive from Casper to Cheyenne on Wednesday night). Thank you to the superintendents who shared students, teachers, and innovations with me during my visits. It is truly a joy to be a champion for Wyoming education–there are so many great things going on! I also appreciated the opportunity to visit with educators about computer science, legislation related to reading assessment and intervention, and the Hathaway Scholarship.

My staff is working to “unpack” the impacts of the legislative session and we will announce a tele-conference debrief for superintendents soon.

On the national front, First Lady Melania Trump is promoting her Be Best initiative, which includes the well-being of children, online safety, and opioid abuse. I am particularly excited about this initiative as we continue to talk about student well-being (social-emotional) in the context of school and student safety.


Wyoming Teacher of the Year, Valerie Bruce, with her students.rivcte

Riverton FFA and Welding teacher, Taylor Haley, shows how her district spent Perkins funds.

Memos to be released on Monday, March 11:

  • 2019-037:  Eighth Grade Unit of Study Certification Form
  • 2019-038:  Accreditation Training
  • 2019-039:  Computer Science Summer Workshops
  • 2019-040ESSA Report Card Feedback
  • 2019-041:  2019-20 Digital Learning Award Nominations
  • 2019-042:  Data-Based Individualization (DBI) Summit


Analyzing New Legislation

Dear Superintendents,

The Wyoming Legislature adjourned for the 2019 session in the early morning hours of February 28. As has been our practice, we will analyze the impact of new legislation and schedule a debrief video conference with superintendents and others. Meanwhile, Governor Gordon continues to sign bills into law.

On the national front, President Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, providing funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2019 for all federal government agencies and programs not yet included in enacted appropriations.  While funding for the Department of Education was enacted back in September, the new bill contains $100 million for the Department of Justice’s STOP School Violence Act.  It also contains $110 million (an increase of $10 million above last year) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) STEM education programs.


The WDE celebrated Digital (Virtual) Learning Day in style–with Virtual 307 training and cake.busbill

Students, educators, board members, law enforcement, lawmakers, and others celebrated as Governor Gordon signed a bill to stiffen penalties for driving past a bus with the STOP arm down.

Memos to be released on March 4:

  • 2019-031:  Call for Proposals: 2019 Wyoming Innovations in Learning Conference
  • 2019-032:  OER Summer Workshop Registration
  • 2019-033:  Wyoming Advisory Panel for Students with Disabilities
  • 2019-034:  Public Comment, Application for Part B Federal Special Education Funds
  • 2019-035:  2019-20 Virtual Education Program Information
  • 2019-036:  Girls Go CyberStart Challenge


Bridging school security and student well-being

Dear Superintendents,

Last Friday the Wyoming House defeated a bill that would have created a framework for school safety and security. Specifically, it would have required inter-agency collaboration at the state level to develop guidelines and best practices for schools. Also, the bill would have emphasized specific aspects of school safety and security plans and professional development. Student safety and well-being is a priority we share. While I was disappointed in the outcome of the bill after unanimous passage out of the House Education Committee, I remain committed to keeping student safety and well-being on our front burners.

At times, it feels like a challenge to bridge school security and student well-being. Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Rachel’s Challenge student assembly. In a word, it was powerful; powerful for me, powerful for the students, and powerful for the safety and culture of the school. Many many schools in Wyoming and across the nation have hosted a Rachel’s Challenge events.

Here’s what our colleague, Superintendent Dave Nicholas from Worland, shared with me recently,

“This is the best student assembly I have ever hosted.  The training that accompanies the presentation is profound and is making a positive impact in our district. This message is ‘sticky,’ the precepts of Rachel‘s Challenge are simple and if implemented; life changing.”  David

Now, onto exciting news regarding Rachel’s Challenge: A supporter of the program has offered to pay a portion of the assembly fee for Wyoming schools. Because of the generosity of this Wyoming supporter, the “Immerse” program, that is typically $6500, is available for $2800. That price is “all-in.” This is a tremendous gift to Wyoming schools and the assembly is well worth it.

Rachel’s Challenge has partnered for years with Dr. Bob Marzano and is bringing on a new partner in Scarlett Lewis, founder of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation. 

Below are a few links with contact information. Please reach out to me personally if I can assist you in any way as you pursue Rachel’s Challenge in your community. This is a positive, local, and impactful step toward ensuring student well-being and a positive school culture.

Chain Reaction-Rachel’s Challenge
The Story that Changes Everything

Here is a link to the pricing and programming sheet with contact information. Once again, for Wyoming schools the “Immerse” package is $2800 versus $6500.


Cheyenne East High School FCCLA students worked to bring Rachel’s Challenge to their schoolprayer breakfast

Governor’s Prayer Breakfast (L to R) Superintendent Balow, Governor Gordon, Sergent Daniel Stech (Wyoming Army recruiter), keynote speaker Navy SEAL Commander Denver Rorkeddd

Milken Educator of the Year, Chris Bessonette (and son Karsten), recieves the official reward from Milken presented by SBE Board Chair Walt Wilcox and Superintendent Balow

Memos to be released on Monday, February 25:

  • 2019-026:  Virtual 307 Website Launch
  • 2019-027:  Douvas Memorial Scholarship Applications Open
  • 2019-028:  Positive School Climate Funding Opportunity
  • 2019-029:  Wyoming Education Trust Fund Applications Open
  • 2019-030:  Science Survey, PD, and Resources


Celebrating Milestones, People

Dear Superintendents,

We celebrated two worthy milestones in education policy this week:

  1. AdvancED accreditation for the Wyoming Cowboy Challenge Academy
  2. Signing of Senate File 0043 expanding the Hathaway Scholarship

We also hosted the 2019 Wyoming Teacher of the Year. She represented teachers and education with poise, passion, and professionalism.

The events are best told in photos. Enjoy!

Memos will not be public until Tuesday, February 19 because of the holiday.


Wyoming’s Adjutant General Luke Reiner and Superintendent Balow recap the work and collaboration it took to achieve the AdvancED accreditation status. Credits earned at the Academy can now count toward local graduation requirements. Here is a link to the media release: 


Governor Gordon signed a bill that expands the success curriculum to include CTE courses and makes the scholarship more accessible to students seeking workforce training after high school. Business, industry, educators, and policymakers celebrated Friday afternoon.

This evolution of the Scholarship also creates better alignment among Wyoming’s workforce demands, our education accountability system (which recognizes graduates who are prepared for college, careers, and military service), and scholarship opportunities.

Here is a link to the media release.


Valerie Bruce is a 1st grade teacher at Rozet Elementary in Campbell County. She is the 2019 Wyoming Teacher of the Year. During 2019, she will learn to advocate for the education profession and her passions in diverse settings. On Thursday she addressed the Wyoming House and Senate and talked about the importance of excellent teachers. Mrs. Bruce is a stellar advocate for teachers and Wyoming education.


Memos to be released on Tuesday, February 19:

  • 2019-022: 2020 Wyoming Teacher of the Year Application
  • 2019-023: Pacesetter Award Nominations Open
  • 2019-024: Preliminary Allocations for 2019-20 ESSA Consolidated Grant, McKinney-Vento
  • 2019-025: Webinar on English Learners and Title III Funding


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: