Tag Archives: Suicide Prevention

A Busy Week

Dear Superintendents,

After a busy week, I’ll begin by saying (maybe gloating) that next week memos will be sent out for your preview without an update–I’ll be at the Women’s Antelope Hunt. FYI, proceeds from this hunt are used to improve odds for Wyoming women and children. In 2016, the Wyoming Women’s Foundation completed a self sufficiency study that indicates 1 out of 10 households in Wyoming fall below the federal poverty level.

On September 28, Governor Mead signed the first ever proclamation recognizing military readiness and career exploration. Governor Mead, military leaders, and others shared how military service is a viable path for students pursuing STEM careers, college, or lifelong military service. Service to our country is distinctly different from other career paths.  Here is an article about the event. Did you know:

  • The ASVAB (military entrance exam) is an excellent career exploration tool for students not entering the military.
  • Only 3 in 10 youth who pursue military service qualify because of the rigorous entrance requirements.
  • All military personnel have access to college credit and career training opportunities.
  • Wyoming students who serve maintain eligibility for the Hathaway scholarship.
  • The National Guard is an option for students who want to go to college or pursue a career while serving in the military.  In today’s Casper Star Tribune, student athlete and guardsmen, David Schall, was highlighted for his accomplishments in school, military, and football. Here is a link to the article. 
Governor Mead sits at a desk after signing the proclamation as Superintendent Balow, Chief Whipple and General Reiner stand behind him.
Chief Whipple, Major General Reiner, and I as Governor Mead signs the proclamation recognizing military readiness and career exploration
Governor Mead, WDE Staff and members of the Wyoming National Guard pose for a photo outside the Governor's Office.
Guardsmen and Guardswomen at the proclamation signing

Wyoming is one of seven states selected by the U.S. Department of Education to host a listening session for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Additional information will come from Senator Enzi and myself regarding specifics. It’s important that Wyoming is well represented at this roundtable discussion. It is open to all and we will reach out broadly to educators, business and industry, parents, partners, and others. Please make plans to attend and bring your comments about how ESSA is/should be implemented by states.

Save the Date, ESSA Community Roundtable, October 26, Casper

On Tuesday, Governor Mead hosted a Suicide Prevention Symposium. There were only a few educators there—the audience was comprised mostly of survivors, family members, community resource partners, and advocates. Auditor Cloud shared the story of her son’s recent suicide. It is clear that many in Wyoming are interested in “moving the needle” on our suicide numbers, including schools. It will take continued collaboration and new approaches to prevention to truly make a difference. One first step is to talk about suicide–that was the purpose for the symposium.

State Auditor Cynthia Cloud speaking at the Governor's Suicide Prevention Symposium.
Auditor Cloud shares the devastation her family feels after her son’s suicide in March. It is imperative we talk openly about suicide.

We are planning the second Superintendent’s Summit (S5S) and will, once again, ask districts to send four people (superintendent, board chair, principal of the year, teacher of the year or designees) to the event in Cheyenne. This year, our main focus will be on leveraging ESSA to impact transitions into post-secondary. We confirmed UW President Laurie Nichols as a speaker (and that’s just the teaser).

Save the Date: S5S 2017. 2017 Wyoming State Superintendent's Policy Summit, Continued Conversations. Superintendent Balow invites every Wyoming School district to send their superintendent, board chair, outstanding principal, and teacher of the year to join the WDE team for vertical conversations about education from national, state and local perspectives. January 12-13, Little America Hotel & Resort, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Governor Mead signs the proclamation for K9's for Mobility as two black labs put their front paws on the desk, one licking the Governor's face.
Governor Mead is kissed by Roonie the service dog. Roonie will be placed at Davis Elementary School in Cheyenne to assist disabled students.

Memo to be released on Monday, October 3:


Suicide Prevention Efforts

Dear Superintendents,

First, my heartfelt and best wishes to new and seasoned superintendents as you open a new school year. It’s exciting to welcome students, staff, and the community to a new chapter. I’ve been sending out a weekly update for over a year now and the purpose is twofold:

  • To provide talking points, resources, information, and share happenings at WDE. (Blue underlined text indicated a “hot” link to a resource.)
  • To allow superintendents an opportunity to preview memos before they go to pertinent district staff on Monday morning.

Multiple districts invited suicide prevention speakers and trainers as part of back-to-school preparation. I believe strongly that your efforts will make a difference and that the next step is to bring effective awareness training to students and to communities. Earlier this week I was part of several events that addressed the role of schools, educators, parents, youth, non-profits, churches, parents, and others in the prevention efforts. I maintain that schools alone cannot reduce the suicide rate. Schools are a stable vehicle for prevention efforts but it takes advocacy and work at all levels within a community to make sustainable changes. Last spring I wrote a guest column about suicide prevention that appeared in newspapers across the state.

There are resources for schools and communities to support prevention efforts.  Later this month, there is a Suicide Prevention Conference in Casper and it is preceded by a symposium hosted by Governor Mead.  Incidentally, the symposium follows the AdvancEd Continuous Improvement Conference and I encourage educators who are attending the CIC to attend the symposium as well.

The floor of Casper Events Center is filled with people sitting at tables for the breakfast event.
Boys and Girls Club of Central Wyoming Annual Breakfast. The distinguished service award was given to Bill Daniels and the Daniels Fund. Kevin Hines was the guest speaker.
Keving Hines speaks from a podium at the Casper Events Center.
Kevin Hines is one of 26 to survive jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He works to build capacity of schools and communities to prevent suicide.

This week, I also had the opportunity to visit WDE staff member, Jo Otterholt. She is the resource specialist at a unique library located in Casper. Jo maintains resources for individuals who are visually impaired or deaf/hard of hearing. There are a number of resources available for parents, teachers, and others who support individuals with these disabilities. The library has an organized outreach process so the materials are available to anyone across the state.

Jo Otterholt standing next to a filled bookshelf at the library.
WDE Resource Specialist, Jo Otterholt, stands by children’s literature that is presented in English and American Sign Language

Memos to be released Tuesday, Sept. 6:


An Update from the Road

Good afternoon,

I’m traveling this weekend and sending this update from the road.

Draft science standards are still out for review. Today, I had an opportunity to celebrate with winners of the the Ag in the Classroom bookmark contest. Ten winners were selected from over one-thousand entries. Ag in the Classroom was one entity that provided input on the science standards. This summer, teachers from across the state will work to strengthen AIC curricular resources that are aligned with science and other standards. These and other resources will be of great value to teachers once new standards are adopted.


End of year culminating events are beginning to take place. I had the honor of keynoting Wyoming History Day for the second year. If you are interested in having me spotlight end of year celebrations or graduation, please contact Rita or I and to check calendars.

History Day teachers are honored during the awards ceremony at Wyoming History Day in Laramie
History Day teachers are honored during the awards ceremony at Wyoming History Day in Laramie

Finally, a guest column I penned about suicide prevention will likely begin to appear in newspapers this weekend. In short, it is a call to action for communities and individuals, not just schools, to work to prevent suicide and address the causes that lead to suicide. Statistically, we may be experiencing a statewide suicide “cluster” with a rate of youth suicide that is twice the national average. I will be working to roll out a few other components in partnership with community advocacy groups also. My main message is that suicide and causes leading to suicide need to be addressed through the efforts and collaboration of many in the  community.

Memos to be released Monday, April 18: