By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
At least a dozen candidates, including several former legislators, are seeking to replace former Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, who abruptly resigned from her elected position last week.
The Wyoming Republican Party on Saturday will narrow that field down to just three candidates, who will then be interviewed by Gov. Mark Gordon, who will choose Balow’s replacement.
Candidates who filed expressions of interest prior to Saturday’s meeting were: Michelle Aldrich, Megan Degenfelder, Reagan Kaufman, Angela Raber, Thomas Kelly, Jayme Lien, David Northrup, Joseph Heywood, Joshua Valk, Marti Halverson, Brian Schroeder, Sr. and Keith Goodenough. However, candidates who did not file in advance of the meeting could put their names into consideration during Saturday’s meeting.
The three selected finalists will be interviewed by Gordon on Tuesday. 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.
The candidates come from a variety of backgrounds, such as education, politics and the oil and gas industry.
Northrup is a former legislator who has served on the board of trustees for Park County School District 1.
“As I have led education policy work at the local and state levels, I am well-positioned to put policy into practice,” he wrote in his cover letter.
Halverson is also a former legislator and businesswoman.
Goodenough, is a former legislator, Casper city councilman and a former member of the Democratic party who became a Republican several years ago.
Aldrich is a current Cheyenne city councilwoman who has been an educator in Wyoming for 30 years. She serves as the state director of career and technical education at the Wyoming Department of Education, a position she was appointed to in 2019.
“I have the ability to lead the Wyoming Department of Education during this challenging time while maintaining momentum,” Aldrich wrote in her cover letter.
Heywood is the executive director of the Wyoming Virtual Academy.
Degenfelder is a former WDE chief policy officer (currently the position held by Kari Eakins, interim superintendent), but currently works as a government and regulatory affairs manager with an oil and gas company.
“As our resources and their development continue to be threatened by outside forces, it is more important than ever to have leadership that protects our way of life and the resources we produce that benefit the rest of the word,” she wrote in her cover letter.
Schroeder is a longtime educator who has worked in California, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming.
Kelly is a former public school teacher who served as chair of the political and military science department at the American Military University.
“Wyoming is at a crossroads in terms of maintaining both an excellent public educational system and remaining fiscally responsible with taxpayer money,” he wrote in his cover letter. “Wyoming needs to focus on hiring effective and innovative educators rather than further bloating district bureaucracies and chasing the latest expensive technology for the classroom.”
Kaufman teaches at Cheyenne’s South High School and was the 2018 teacher of the year for the Laramie County School District No. 1. If appointed to the position, she intends to call for a “significant” revision of the Wyoming social studies standards.
Valk is an administrator at the University of Wyoming in Casper.
Raber is an instructor at Sheridan Community College.
Balow announced last week that she would be leaving Wyoming to take a similar position with the state of Virginia, having accepted an offer from Gov. Glenn Youngkin.