By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily
The race for the superintendent of public instruction’s office is heating up, with three candidates having thrown their hats in the ring.
Each of the three Republicans, who each sought the state’s top education job when former Superintendent Jillian Balow left the state earlier this year, have said they want to return American values to the classroom and run the job with a conservative mindset.
Only one of the candidates is a Wyoming native.
“I think it’s important that we have elected officials that understand the culture of Wyoming and the way we do things in this state,” said Megan Degenfelder, who served with Balow in the state Department of Education.
Brian Schroeder, a former private Christian school administrator from Cody who was appointed to finish out Balow’s term as superintendent by Gov. Mark Gordon, announced his intention to run in March.
Schroeder, quoted in numerous news stories, has spoken out against Critical Race Theory and “revisionist” telling of history and has stressed the importance of the family in the classroom.
“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 when originally seeking the position. “There is, therefore, no work on earth more important than what we do as teachers, 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.”
Sheridan resident Thomas Kelly was the first candidate to announce he is running this fall. He is a college professor and chair of the political and military science department at the American Military University, a private, for-profit, online school based in West Virginia. He also served on the City of Sheridan planning commission from 2019-2021.
“Wyoming is at a crossroads in terms of maintaining both an excellent public educational system and remaining fiscally responsible with taxpayer money,” Kelly wrote earlier this year. “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.”
Both Kelly and Schroeder moved to Wyoming in recent years.
Degenfelder, a sixth-generation Wyoming native, is the government and regulatory affairs manager for Morningstar Partners Oil and Gas. She also served as a former chief policy officer for the state Department of Education under Balow.
Degenfelder has said the voices of parents are being silenced in classrooms, places she describes as being influenced by anti-American values. If elected, she said would attempt to bridge the gap between the Department of Education and the private sector to let districts determine educational needs based on that community’s workforce.
Degenfelder submitted her name for consideration when the state Republican Party selected three nominees to fill Balow’s vacancy.
Schroeder and Kelly were both nominated, as was former legislator Marti Halverson
Halverson told the Cowboy State Daily although she gave running for superintendent some “serious consideration,” she will not mount a campaign as she feels there is already a field of qualified candidates.
All of these candidates are still considered unofficial as the filing period for candidacies does not open until May 12. It closes on May 27.