State schools

Public School Superintendent Candidates to Participate in Public Election Forum | Education

Republican candidates for superintendents of public instruction will participate in a public election forum in Casper on Thursday.

The forum will allow community members and facilitators to ask contestants questions, a statement from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming said.

Wyoming superintendents lead the state’s Department of Education and serve on the State Board of Land Commissioners, State Board of Education, State Loan and Investment Board, and State Building Commission. They are also nonvoting members of the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees, the Wyoming Community College Commission, and the School Facilities Commission.

Superintendents are elected for a four-year term. The primary election for the office of superintendent is set for August 16.

The election forum, hosted by the Boys & Girls Club of Central Wyoming and Wyoming PBS, aims to open up conversation between the candidates and the public. It’s free and open to the public in person at Casper’s Young AmeriTowne: WyoTowne and via livestream. The event starts at 5:30 p.m.

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Ashley Bright, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming, said the forum will cover the nominee’s background and what’s important to him. There will be no particular theme. The conversation will be guided primarily by questions from the hosts and audience members.

Former Wyoming PBS Senior Public Affairs Producer Craig Blumenshine and current Wyoming PBS Senior Public Affairs Producer Steve Peck will moderate the forum.

All Republican candidates for state superintendent have been invited to participate in the forum, the Boys & Girls Clubs statement said.

Three Republicans and a Democrat are vying for the post of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

There are five Republican candidates, including current Superintendent Brian Schroeder. Gov. Mark Gordon appointed Schroeder to the post in January after former state superintendent Jillian Balow left to take on a similar role in Virginia. Schroeder’s unelected term ends in January 2023. Bright has confirmed that Schroeder will attend the forum.

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At the time of his nomination, Schroeder defeated Megan Degenfelder and Thomas Kelly, two other superintendent candidates who are now running for office on the Republican ticket.

Degenfelder, a Casper native, served as director of policy for the Wyoming Department of Education under Balow and is currently head of government and regulatory affairs for Morningstar Partners Oil & Gas. Kelly chairs the Department of Political and Military Science at American Military University. He taught at colleges, community colleges and universities in the Midwest and Colorado before moving to Sheridan where he now lives.

Bright said Degenfelder and Kelly had confirmed they would be participating in the forum.

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The other three superintendent candidates are Jennifer Zerba, Robert White and Sergio Maldonado.

Zerba and White entered the race at the last minute.

Zerba is a substitute teacher and cosmetologist with the Natrona County School District. She confirmed that she would participate in the electoral forum. White is an underground miner from trona who lives in Rock Springs. He was previously a crew chief of an amphibious assault vehicle and a corporal in the Marine Corps. White is the only candidate without a background in education, an attribute he says gives him more ability to think outside the box. He is still waiting to see if he can take time off work to attend Thursday’s event.

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Republican Schools Superintendent candidate Jennifer Zerba decided to join the race at the last minute because she was “alarmed to see some of the issues and topics” that other candidates were running on.

There is only one Democratic superintendent candidate – Sergio Maldonado. Maldonado is an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe and has held various state and local positions in education and tribal relations.

The Thursday forum is specifically for Republican candidates, though the Boys & Girls Clubs statement says Young AmeriTowne: WyoTowne will likely host a general election forum in October.

The event address is 910 Barbara St., Casper. People can watch the event broadcast live if they can’t come in person.