Election of new state schools superintendent brings hope for progress in K-12 education reform

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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — Some Wyoming legislators are hopeful that a change in the state schools superintendent will result in better progress in their efforts to improve K-12 education.

Republican Jillian Balow was elected Wyoming superintendent of public instruction last week. She will replace Cindy Hill, whose one term has been marred by political fighting with the Legislature and the governor's office.

Hill, who made an unsuccessful bid for governor rather than seek a second term as superintendent, was removed last year as head of the department and replaced by an appointed director under a law enacted by the Legislature and Gov. Matt Mead. But the state Supreme Court ordered Hill's former duties restored earlier this year.

One of the complaints about Hill from some lawmakers was that she was hindering their education reform efforts, which seek to better prepare students for college and careers after high school.

Balow attended a meeting Thursday of the legislative Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability, which has led the education reform but has been working this fall on a proposal to delay some aspects of reform for a year.

In brief comments to the committee, Balow said she has supported the reform efforts and was "really looking forward to continuing making progress on that, making it the best it can be for 48 districts and working with every member of this committee and others to just move education forward and collaborate and work together."

Her comments were welcomed by members of the panel.

"I like it," co-chairman Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, said. "We didn't hear that the last four years."

Coe said reform efforts have been set back years because of a lack of cooperation with the state Education Department under Hill.

Hill has said that she favored accountability in education but she was critical of how the Legislature went about implementing it.

Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper, said key parts of the school reform effort entrusted to the Education Department over the last several years are well behind schedule.

"I'm hopeful that with the change in administration that we will actually begin to make some good progress on that," Stubson said.

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