By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming will have a new superintendent of public instruction by early next week, if not perhaps sooner.
Three candidates were selected Saturday by the central committee of the Wyoming Republican Party to interview with Gov. Mark Gordon on Tuesday. Gordon will then have five days to determine who is the best person to lead Wyoming’s K-12 public education system for the next year.
The central committee nominated Thomas Kelly, Brian Schroeder and Marti Halverson to finish out former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow’s term, which ends in January 2023.
Here is a closer look at the candidates:
Halverson is a former legislator who served five years in the Wyoming House of Representatives. She and her husband moved to Wyoming in 1996 after they retired from working in the medical device industry.
She has also served as Wyoming’s Republican national committeewoman and has been active in politics for decades.
In her cover letter, Halverson told the central committee that mask and vaccine mandates, school closings, obscene literature and “racist agendas” were the biggest assaults on Wyoming’s classrooms right now.
“A superior K-12 education does not require the latest in brick and mortar, or advanced teaching degrees or even state certifications,” Halverson wrote in her letter. “Rather, a first-class education requires the dedication and investment of teachers and mentors, whether they be paid educators, or local retired chemists, mathematicians and business professionals or…the parents.”
Schroeder is a longtime educator who has worked in California, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming. He has also worked as a family and youth counselor for nearly 20 years and spent nearly a decade in pastoral ministry.
He currently leads Veritas Academy, a classical Christian school in Cody, which has been open for nearly seven years.
“The local American schoolhouse is uniquely poised to be both an extension of and support for the American home as well as an incubator for and bridge to American society,” Schroeder wrote in his cover letter. “There is, therefore, no work on earth more important than what we do as teachers (outside of parenting, of course), which makes the top teacher job in the state all the more critical by way of providing the necessary leadership and direction to our schools.”
Kelly is a former public school teacher who serves as chair of the political and military science department at the American Military University.
He has lived in Sheridan since 2019, and his five youngest children attend Sheridan schools. He said he was considering a run for school board until Balow’s position opened up. He served on the Sheridan County Planning Commission for two years.
“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.”
Balow abruptly resigned almost two weeks ago after accepting a similar appointed position in Virginia. Wyoming Department of Education chief policy officer Kari Eakins is currently serving as interim superintendent.