Former Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow has had an eventful 18 months.
After serving as the head of Wyoming’s public education system for eight years, she accepted a similar role in Virginia. Balow resigned from that job in March and told Cowboy State Daily she’s happier than ever to be working in the corporate sector and out of politics.
“That was my choice,” she said of resigning as Virginia’s top education official.
Balow said there were a lot of battles she fought during her 14 months as superintendent of public instruction there, but is proud of what she accomplished during that time.
“I always want the focus of the job of the state chief to be on the schools and kids,” she said. “It’s the main reason that I ran for state superintendent in Wyoming.”
She added that in Virginia, “I got to the point after 14 months where I accomplished what I came to accomplish, and it was time to move on.”
Her resignation also came during an upswell of public scrutiny of Virginia’s public education system and mistakes that happened under her watch.
Balow’s appointment in Virginia took many by surprise in Wyoming, a state where she won her first election with relative ease and faced was unopposed for reelection in 2018.
She said Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s staff reached out to her initially. She caught their attention because of her educational leadership on a national level.
At first she was skeptical about the opportunity, Balow said, but the more she talked with their staff, the more she and Virginia became interested in each other. Balow said she particularly emphasized her early literacy, career and technical education, and computer science work in Wyoming during these interviews.
“That was the work that I really wanted to come into Virginia and lean in on and, at the end of the day I didn’t get to lean in on as much some of those topics as I would’ve liked,” she said. “It’s really different out here.”
New Job, No Politics
In June, Balow accepted a position in the private sector as a Client Relations Officer for MetaMetrics, a Durham, North Carolina-based education technology firm. She said the new role better fits her identity as an educator more so than a partisan political appointment.
“I’m an educator at heart, an education leader at heart, and this is carrying on that work,” she said.
Balow said the transition from working in government for the last eight years to the private sector has been jarring, but also one she has appreciated.
“It’s a huge transition, yes, but I’m also really really enjoying it,” she said.
After resigning, Balow said she took about three months to reflect on her life and consider her future opportunities. She landed in the corporate world because it offers a chance to avoid the bureaucracy of government.
“Being a part of the bureaucracy of a state education agency, I saw the other side of that, the procurement side of that, the contracting,” she said. “I saw what a great partner companies like MetaMetrics were, and then there are companies that aren’t such great education partners. They’re more salesy or more Dejour.”
Balow used some of the components implemented by MetaMetrics in education when she was a schoolteacher in Hulett and Gillette in the 1990s and early 2000s. She’s also known the founder and CEO of the company for about a decade. Wyoming partners with MetaMetrics for its Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress.
MetaMetrics has 115 employees and is located about two hours away from her home in Richmond, Virginia.
“I call it my trip to Casper,” she said.
Plans To Return
A fifth-generation Wyomingite, Balow had lived in Wyoming nearly her whole life before accepting her position in Virginia in early 2022.
Balow said she plans on staying in Virginia for the time being, but hopes to move back to Wyoming someday.
“We kind of joke that this is our gap year,” she said.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.