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Jillian Balow

Balow Resigns As Wyoming Superintendent Of Public Instruction

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow is resigning from her elected position to take over the top education job in Virginia, she announced Thursday.

Balow, first elected to the superintendent’s office in 2014 and re-elected in 2018, announced she would resign from the position to take over as Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. It was not immediately clear when she would take over in Virginia.

Kari Eakins, the department’s chief policy director, will serve as interim superintendent when Balow leaves the office, Balow said.

“I am honored, and deeply humbled, to announce that Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has asked me to serve as Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. With a focused drive to lead on the front lines of educational transformation in this country, I have accepted,” Balow said Thursday. “Serving as State Superintendent for the last seven years has been the greatest honor and challenge of my life.”

Balow said that Gov.-elect Youngkin made educational transformation the centerpiece of his campaign and that Virginia was on the “cutting edge” of the battle of the future of K-12 public schools.

Youngkin will be sworn in as governor on Saturday. He was elected in November, beating Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Prior to his time in politics, Youngkin worked for the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm.

“The work we will do to restore parents’ voices in education, push for innovation and student success, enhance school choice, and to eliminate political ideology from the classroom will set a new tone in Virginia and the nation,” Balow said. “We have made great progress on these very items during my tenure in Wyoming.”

Balow said that during her time as state superintendent, she made parents’ voices a priority by including them in policy making decisions. She also pointed to the “historic” computer science education requirements, which is “greatly enriching and modernizing the curriculum delivered to our students.”

She said that she has been an advocate for school choice, noting she has placed her own children in private school at times.

“I supported groundbreaking legislation during the 2021 session of the Wyoming legislature to substantially increase the opportunity for charter schools to form in our state,” Balow said. “And when it comes to politics in the classroom, I’ve made my position crystal clear that partisan politics and radical theories should not be forced upon our children.”

Balow began her teaching career in Hulett and has built a 25-year career in education and politics, serving as a national literary consultant, an executive in state government, a policy advisor in the governor’s office and state superintendent of public instruction.

“I have served in leadership positions of national education organizations and led through COVID-19 with the highest percentage of students learning in-person in the nation,” she concluded. “I am ready and more motivated than ever to engage at this critical time in our nation’s history serving alongside Governor-elect Youngkin as he leads Virginia through this historic opportunity to reset and restore public education with parents and students as the priority.”

Balow was elected to her first term in office in 2014, defeating Democrat Mike Ceballos with 61% of the vote. She was unopposed in her bid for re-election in 2018.

Balow is the second superintendent in recent memory to leave office before her term expired. Trent Blankenship, who was elected as superintendent in 2002, announced in 2005 he would leave his position to take the job of superintendent for schools in Barrow, Alaska.

After returning to Wyoming, he ran for the superintendent’s position in 2010, challenging former Superintendent Cindy Hill for the Republican nomination for the post. He won 14.6% of the vote, finishing third behind Hill and Jim McBride.

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Wyoming Officials Thank Balow For Her Service To State

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Education Association thanked Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow on Thursday for her service to the state’s education system in the wake of her resignation from the position she held for seven years.

Balow announced Thursday that she would be leaving Wyoming to take a similar position with the state of Virginia, having accepted an offer from Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin.

According to Gov. Mark Gordon, Balow’s last day as superintendent will be Sunday. Kari Eakins, chief policy officer for the state Education Department, will take over as interim superintendent.

“I have enjoyed working alongside Superintendent Balow for the past seven years in my roles as treasurer and governor, making her the second-longest currently serving statewide elected officer,” Gordon said. “We will miss her experience and expertise. She has worked to improve our state’s education system, and I thank her for her efforts. Her service to the state has been exemplary, and I wish her well in her new role.”

Gordon has informed the Wyoming Republican Party central committee of Balow’s resignation. The committee will have 15 days to submit the names of three candidates to fill the position to Gordon for his consideration. 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.

WEA president Grady Hutcherson told Cowboy State Daily said the organization was appreciative of Balow’s service.

“WEA shares Superintendent Balow’s passion for prioritizing career and technical education opportunities and supporting rural students and families,” Hutcherson said. “Superintendent Balow’s background as an educator, and her commitment to supporting students in becoming good citizens of our state, have been an asset to Wyoming. WEA looks forward to continuing to work hand-in-hand with the Wyoming Department of Education under the leadership of Interim State Superintendent Kari Eakins. Together we will continue to advance educational opportunities for Wyoming students and innovate and advocate on behalf of our students, education employees, and public schools.” 

Balow began her teaching career in Hulett and has built a 25-year career in education and politics, serving as a national literary consultant, an executive in state government, a policy advisor in the governor’s office and state superintendent of public instruction.

Balow is the second superintendent in recent memory to leave office before her term expired. Trent Blankenship, who was elected as superintendent in 2002, announced in 2005 he would leave his position to take the job of superintendent for schools in Barrow, Alaska.

After returning to Wyoming, he ran for the superintendent’s position in 2010, challenging former Superintendent Cindy Hill for the Republican nomination for the post. He won 14.6% of the vote, finishing third behind Hill and Jim McBride.

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Wyoming’s Elected Officials React to Death Of Wyoming Marine in Afghanistan

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Many of Wyoming’s elected officials spoke out on Friday upon hearing the news that one of the Marines killed in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan was from Wyoming.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow was the first to issue a statement expressing condolences for Rylee McCollum, a 2019 graduate of Jackson High School.

“Saying that I am grateful for Rylee’s service to our country does not begin to encapsulate the grief and sadness I feel today as a mother and as an American,” Balow said in a release.

“My heart and prayers are with Rylee’s family, friends, and the entire Jackson community,” she said.

“We will find many ways to honor Rylee for this ultimate and untimely sacrifice in the coming months and years – but for now, my arms are wrapped around Rylee’s loved ones from afar and I pray they find some comfort.”

McCollum, who also graduated from Summit Innovations School, was married and his wife was expecting a child in three weeks.

McCollum’s sister, Roice, told the Casper Star Tribune that being a Marine was a lifelong ambition for him.

“He wanted to be a Marine his whole life and carried around his rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots,” Roice McCollum said. “He was determined to be in infantry… Rylee wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach when he finished serving his country. He’s a tough, kind, loving kid who made an impact on everyone he met. His joke and wit brought so much joy.”

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon ordered flags lowered to honor McCollum.

“I’m devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own in yesterday’s terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan,” Gordon said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of U.S. Marine Rylee McCollum of Bondurant. Jennie and I, along with all of Wyoming and the entire nation, thank Rylee for his service.”

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso tweeted: “Wyoming’s own Rylee McCollum made the ultimate sacrifice protecting Americans and civilians in Afghanistan. Bobbi and I join everyone in Wyoming in mourning this devastating loss. Rylee was a true American hero. Rylee’s sacrifice will never be forgotten.”

More than 100 people were killed at the Kabul airport when two bombs exploded outside of the facility. Thirteen of those individuals, including McCollum, were U.S. servicemen.

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