By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Gov. Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Education Association thanked Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow on Thursday for her service to the state’s education system in the wake of her resignation from the position she held for seven years.
Balow announced Thursday that she would be leaving Wyoming to take a similar position with the state of Virginia, having accepted an offer from Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin.
According to Gov. Mark Gordon, Balow’s last day as superintendent will be Sunday. Kari Eakins, chief policy officer for the state Education Department, will take over as interim superintendent.
“I have enjoyed working alongside Superintendent Balow for the past seven years in my roles as treasurer and governor, making her the second-longest currently serving statewide elected officer,” Gordon said. “We will miss her experience and expertise. She has worked to improve our state’s education system, and I thank her for her efforts. Her service to the state has been exemplary, and I wish her well in her new role.”
Gordon has informed the Wyoming Republican Party central committee of Balow’s resignation. The committee will have 15 days to submit the names of three candidates to fill the position to Gordon for his consideration. Gordon will then have five days to appoint a new superintendent.
That person will serve for the remainder of Balow’s term, which will end in January 2023. Balow was first elected to the position in 2014 and then re-elected in 2018.
WEA president Grady Hutcherson told Cowboy State Daily said the organization was appreciative of Balow’s service.
“WEA shares Superintendent Balow’s passion for prioritizing career and technical education opportunities and supporting rural students and families,” Hutcherson said. “Superintendent Balow’s background as an educator, and her commitment to supporting students in becoming good citizens of our state, have been an asset to Wyoming. WEA looks forward to continuing to work hand-in-hand with the Wyoming Department of Education under the leadership of Interim State Superintendent Kari Eakins. Together we will continue to advance educational opportunities for Wyoming students and innovate and advocate on behalf of our students, education employees, and public schools.”
Balow began her teaching career in Hulett and has built a 25-year career in education and politics, serving as a national literary consultant, an executive in state government, a policy advisor in the governor’s office and state superintendent of public instruction.
Balow is the second superintendent in recent memory to leave office before her term expired. Trent Blankenship, who was elected as superintendent in 2002, announced in 2005 he would leave his position to take the job of superintendent for schools in Barrow, Alaska.
After returning to Wyoming, he ran for the superintendent’s position in 2010, challenging former Superintendent Cindy Hill for the Republican nomination for the post. He won 14.6% of the vote, finishing third behind Hill and Jim McBride.