By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter
Although Wyoming’s schools often look like an ideological battleground, they are special and should be treasured, says a top Wyoming education official who is leaving his post next week.
Chad Auer, Wyoming Department of Education deputy superintendent, told Cowboy State Daily he wishes a warm farewell to the Wyomingites he’s worked with, and to remind the state that it has higher-caliber schools than most regions.
“While on one hand it’s important to continue to fight for excellent schools, we also need to remember that Wyoming has it really good in comparison to the rest of the nation – and the rest of the world, frankly,” said Auer. “And while we’re having very important and difficult conversations about how to move forward, we can’t forget that Wyoming is special.”
‘Partisan Talking Points’
Education is a battleground because many people attach both emotional significance and hope for the future to the state’s children, said Auer. That makes it tempting to infuse education with ideology, a trend he rebukes.
Auer said kids, teachers and other educators usually get caught in the middle of political divisions, especially on a national scale. He did not specify which instances from the recent past he had in mind, but he universally condemned infusing education with political leanings.
“Partisan talking points rarely translate into good education policy,” he said. “Our kids and our schools deserve better, and we need leaders who are willing to step up and engage in tough conversations with respect and civility.”
Auer said he is seeking new work following administrative personnel changes by incoming Superintendent-elect Megan Degenfelder.
“(Degenfelder) wants to have her own deputy superintendent, which I totally respect,” said Auer. “So, I’ll be transitioning or handing over the keys to whoever she selects to do this role.”
Degenfelder told Cowboy State Daily she is grateful for all people willing to serve the department, particularly in times of transition, and she thanks Auer for his service.
“I am excited to soon announce my leadership team,” said Degenfelder.
Auer said working with educators, leaders, lawmakers and families has been his favorite part of his one year with the department.
He has spent the year working under governor-appointed Superintendent Brian Schroeder. Auer also served former Superintendent Jillian Balow from 2016-2018, working with school districts to improve outcomes for students with disabilities.
Between the two stints he obtained his law degree, because he discovered that the education sector often has to tangle with the law, Auer said.
He extended a fond goodbye to leaders, educators and families throughout the state.
“It’s been a great experience to serve here in this role, and I’m honored to do it,” he said. “Just a wonderful experience; I met a lot of great people.”
Auer said his hope is to find another job in education, possibly as a school district superintendent.