Tag Archives: University of Wyoming

ESSA Community Roundtable

Dear Superintendents,

The WDE continues to welcome new educators and subject matter experts into key positions—our team grows stronger every day! First, Shelley Hamel joins us as the new Director of School Support. She previously served as the Special Education Director in Douglas—her leadership is a mainstay in Wyoming education and we are fortunate to have her lead work in CTE, federal programs, and more. Next, Laurie Hernandez was appointed as the Interim Director of Standards and Assessment. She successfully led the science standards committee work –she’s the right person to lead staff and stakeholders through this transition.  Mike Flicek, who works with WDE on a number of data and assessment projects, will temporarily fill the role of assessment administrator. We intend to conduct a national search for a new assessment administrator. Meanwhile, Laurie and Mike will oversee the RFP and statewide assessment procurement work.

Upcoming ESSA Roundtable

We are nearly finished planning the ESSA roundtable with the United States Department of Education. As you’ll recall, the USDOE selected Wyoming as one of seven states to seek feedback from during a “listening session.”  Here is a tentative agenda for the event.  It will be held October 26 at Casper College. Please plan to attend and invite others to join you. This is a unique opportunity for Wyoming’s education voice to be heard.

Dr. Rebecca Watts, Exec Director of the UW Trustees Education Initiative, Canyon Hardesty and Dr. Mark Stock of UW, and Superintendent Balow stand at the podium after presenting at the Rural Education Forum
Dr. Rebecca Watts, Exec Director of the UW Trustees Education Initiative, Canyon Hardesty and Dr. Mark Stock of UW, and I represent Wyoming at the Rural Education Forum

Rural Education Forum

This week I attended a convening for rural education.  Chiefs from rural states met in Ohio to discuss ESSA implementation, Native American education, equity in rural states, teachers as leaders, and more.  I am enthused about the direction we are headed as a nation and grateful to have strong State Chiefs in rural states. The next president of CCSSO is South Dakota’s Melody Schopp and I expect to see rural education leaders continue to have a distinct voice at the table.

WeTip to Safe2Tell

Below is a memo for Wyoming Safe-2-Tell. This program REPLACES the WeTip program. Please advise building principals and/or school safety coordinators to remove WeTip posters and information. The Department of Homeland Security, the Attorney General’s Office, the Wyoming Legislature, and the WDE have worked for quite some time to put this program in place and we are all anxious to roll it out.

Teachers Hunt and More

Finally, last week was the 4th Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt. It was an honor to co-chair the event with Chief Justice Marilyn Kite. The event is also a fundraiser for the Wyoming Women’s Foundation which lends its support to self-sufficiency among women by providing resources, scholarships, and information. 37 of 45 hunters filled their tags. I gave lots of shout outs to the teachers who hunted, guided, and/or volunteered.  It was very neat to have educators at the event!

Superintendent Balow smiles while posing for a picture with three hunters.
Wyoming teachers/first time hunters received scholarships to participate in the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt–All three had a successful hunt!

Memos to be released Monday, October 17:


A Week of Celebrations!

Dear Superintendents,

What a week of Wyoming education celebrations!  First, we saw an uptick in the number of schools meeting or exceeding school performance expectations. On Monday, the WDE released performance ratings.  This year, Wyoming opted to NOT calculate AYP (since it is not part of ESSA) and so we are able to solely focus on School Performance Ratings (SPRs).  As a result of ESSA and Wyoming’s pragmatic approach to accountability, there will be several statutory and policy changes to the accountability model and we will do our best to proactively inform and involve you before and during the legislative session.

On Wednesday, former Cheyenne Central High School Principal, Matt Strannigan, and many others celebrated as Matt received the “Making Democracy Work” award from the Wyoming League of Women Voters.  The award is not exclusively for educators and the afternoon was a genuine tribute to great teaching, leadership, and civic education.  Matt has grown the “We The People” program from the ground up over the last two decades.  He is among elite Wyoming citizens to have received this award including former Chief Justice Marilyn Kite.  The ceremony took place in the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Matt Stranigan (seated) listens to retired teacher and WTP coordinator Dick Keane at the Wyoming Supreme Court
Matt Stranigan (seated) listens to retired teacher and WTP coordinator Dick Keane at the Wyoming Supreme Court


Education leaders and advocates serve on the founding steering committee for Wyoming Excels.This week the committee met to work on a mission and vision at the UW College of Business. The Wyoming Excels initiative aims to place business and industry in a closer partnership with education.

Speaking of the UW College of Business, have you visited lately?  Now that classes have resumed, the atrium is full of aspiring business men and women and the energy is high!  Dean Putrevu and the newly appointed Bill Daniels UW Chair of Business Ethics, Kent Noble, are traveling to communities this fall to promote the College.  They are interested in visiting with schools and students.  A memo with the visit schedule will be distributed in the coming weeks.

The committee stands together in a conference room.
Wyoming Excels Steering Committee
The view looking down into the UW College of Business atrium, with an electronic scrolling sign that displays US Stock Market prices.
UW College of Business atrium with US Stock Market “ticker”


There are a number of upcoming statewide meetings.  I look forward to attending the WASA meeting among others.  Next week, the Management Audit Committee meets to discuss the recommendations from a program audit of IDEA part B and part C, otherwise known as developmental preschool.  Generally, we agree with the recommendations that aim to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.  Here is a link to the agenda. I, along with other WDE staff, will testify.

Thanks for the continued hospitality in your schools as I make my way across the state!

State Superintendent Jillian Balow stands with Teton County Superintendent Gillian Chapman outside the Teton Count School District administrative offices
Superintendent Gillian Chapman at TCSD admin offices

Memo to be released on Monday, September 12, 2016


UW Fall Literacy Conference

Each Fall, the Literacy Research Center and Clinic is host to a literacy conference for teachers around the state. The Wyoming School-University Partnership has been a co-planner for the Fall Literacy Conference.

Conference Objectives

  • Bring together pre-K, elementary, and middle level Wyoming teachers and librarians to explore current issues and trends in writing instruction for pre-K, elementary, and middle level classrooms.
  •  Explore current principles and practices related to writing instruction as they relate to reading comprehension and learning (Common Core State Standards).
  • Introduce Wyoming teachers to the resources available at UW’s Literacy Research Center and Clinic.

Registration is free, but required. Register here by September 16.

Updates on ESSA Transition

Dear Superintendents,

I ask that you please spend time previewing the attached memos. In particular, there is a memo about calculating AYP during the transition from NCLB to ESSA. Last year, I encouraged our state to focus on state-driven performance reports versus AYP. The reports are aligned with the Wyoming accountability system and present an accurate reflection of the successes and challenges in our schools. This year, performance reports is all we will focus on since AYP will not be calculated. Over the next several weeks, additional ESSA guidance will be conveyed to you. The USDOE released a helpful FAQ document that most of your have seen. In case you haven’t, here is a link to it:


As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions or suggestions on how to best communicate the information.

This week I spent time with incoming UW President Laurie Nichols at the Trustees’ meeting. She officially starts her new post in May and brings energy, experience, and a depth of knowledge about K12 education. We’ve already begun a robust conversation about dual/concurrent enrollment, curriculum alignment, teacher/leader preparation and more. I am anxious for you to meet her.

Incoming UW President Dr. Laurie Nichols
Incoming UW President Dr. Laurie Nichols

Memos to be released Monday, March 28:


A Big Gift from the Daniels Fund and Recommended Cuts from JAC


This week the UW Board of Trustees announced and celebrated a $5 million gift from the Daniels Fund for the UW College of Education initiative.

 The gift comes after a year of planning to bring the College of Ed to preeminent status in the nation. Here is a link to the UW Board of Trustees resolution:​ https://docs.google.com/document/d/1c-4yp1OT0Cs8HCsz2N13v2G3H1uvBrkj9xe9ZLKyCcM/edit
Shortly after the gift was announced, an advocacy group comprised of trustees, interested UW partners, and K12 educators was passed by the UW Board of Trustees.  I have been involved with the planning and work from the beginning and am optimistic about the opportunities, collaboration, and work ahead. This is definitely an effort all in Wyoming will want to actively follow for years to come.
Link to video with comments from trustees about the Initiative:
with former U.S. Senator Hank Brown and Daniels Fund CEO Linda Childers
with former U.S. Senator Hank Brown and Daniels Fund CEO Linda Childers
The Joint Appropriations Committee is in the budget mark-up phase of their work in preparation for the upcoming legislative session.  Yesterday, they proposed cuts to education including the school foundation. Here are a couple of breaking articles on the proposed cuts:
My key message around the proposed cuts is to not panic and to remember that the full legislature, partners in education, advocates and the public will have opportunities to debate, weigh in, and advocate. Given the revenue forecast and cuts in other areas of the state budget, I am not surprised by the proposed changes to education funding.
Here are the memos slated for release on Monday, January 25, 2016:

My Best,