Eight new nominations for the position of superintendent of public schools have been submitted to the Republican State Central Committee, bringing the total number of nominees to 12.
The position of state superintendent, an official usually elected by the people of Wyoming, is vacant because Jillian Balow, the former superintendent, resigned earlier this month to take on the same role in Virginia.
Now the Republican State Central Committee and Gov. Mark Gordon are tasked with filling the position by next week.
Candidates start applying to replace Superintendent of Public Schools
The central committee will hear and then nominate three candidates at a meeting today in Douglas. Those nominees will then go to Gordon, who said he plans to interview each of them in person before making a selection.
The final eight nominees are people with varying degrees of education experience: Marti Halverson, Keith Goodenough, Angela Raber, Joseph Heywood, Joshua Valk, Thomas Kelly, Brian Schroeder and Jayme Lien.
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Halverson is a far-right former state representative who serves as chair of the Lincoln County GOP. As a legislator, she did not serve on the joint committee on education, but she was a co-sponsor of several education-related bills.
“I am not an ‘educator’. I have no education degree,” Halverson wrote in her cover letter. “I am an English student with thirty years of business experience. I was educated publicly at a time when two years of high school Latin and four years of math, English, and science were required.
While in office, Halverson was among a group of lawmakers who tried to restore power to former Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill after the Legislative Assembly in 2013 stripped Hill of most of her responsibilities and transferred the functions to a “director of education”.
At the time the bill was introduced, the case was being argued in court. The state Supreme Court in 2014 ruled 3 to 2 that state legislators had exceeded their jurisdiction.
“The Legislative Assembly and the state party broke on this issue, and we never fixed it,” said Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, who voted against the legislation.
Another former state legislator, Goodenough has had recent involvement in Natrona County GOP politics, but he hasn’t always been a registered Republican. He served in the State House and the Senate as a Democrat from the late 1980s to the mid-1980s. He also ran for the Natrona County Commission as an independent in 2012 and 2014.
While at the Statehouse, he sponsored no major education-related legislation, but served on the education committee for two years.
In recent years, Goodenough has served as a member of the Republican Natrona County Precinct Committee. He did not provide any application materials to the state central committee, but said he planned to bring them on Saturday.
The other recent candidates do not have long political histories. But they have notable educational backgrounds.
Raber, an instructor at Sheridan Community College, and Heywood, executive director of the Wyoming Virtual Academy, have doctorates in education, while Valk, program director at the University of Wyoming, has a doctorate. in higher education administration, according to their curriculum vitae.
Kelly is currently the chair of the Department of Political and Military Science at American Military University, according to her resume.
Kelly and his family moved from Colorado to Wyoming in part because “schools were teaching high school students about climate change, multiple genders, and white privilege,” he wrote in his cover letter.
They eventually moved to Sheridan in 2019.
Schroeder has experience in school administration, as a K-12 teacher, and as a youth counselor.
Link, like Goodenough, did not provide application materials. Further details on previous nominees can be found here.
According to state law, the Republican State Central Committee is responsible for choosing nominees for acting superintendent because Balow was a member of the GOP.
The central committee consists of the chairman and wife of the state committee and the committee member from each of the Republican parties at the county level in Wyoming. This is equivalent to 69 voters if everyone is present.
These three candidates will then be sent to Gordon, a Republican, who will have five days to choose one to fill Balow’s position until January 2023, when his term was due to end.
Exactly how the central committee selection process will work will be determined at the start of Saturday’s meeting. The committee will have the opportunity to vote on and modify the proposed rules that govern the meeting and clarify how the superintendent selection process will work.
The selection of a new superintendent comes at a pivotal time in Wyoming’s educational history. Equality State’s K-12 education system has long been one of the best-funded in the nation due to fossil fuel money, but that revenue stream alone can no longer provide that support.
In the last general session, after a month of debate, the Wyoming legislature was able to reach an agreement and no changes were made to how the state pays for education.
Additionally, critical race theory and the removal of certain books from school libraries have become hot issues.
In September, Balow appeared with two top senators to introduce the Civic Education and Transparency Act. The superintendent was clear that the bill was intended to challenge critical race theory. Critical Race Theory is not currently taught in Wyoming schools.
Balow began her teaching career in Hulett. Over the next 25 years, she served as a national literacy consultant, executive in state government, policy advisor in the governor’s office, and state superintendent of public instruction.
The deadline for nominations has technically passed, but interested parties have until the start of today’s meeting to pitch their names in the ring.
Follow state political reporter Victoria Eavis on Twitter @Victoria_Eavis