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Gordon releases tight budget for next biennium

in Government spending/News
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Gov. Mark Gordon’s release of his budget proposal for the 2021-22 biennium on Monday came with a recognition of the declining fortunes of Wyoming’s mineral sector.

Gordon said his budget proposal — his first as governor — kept spending low without cutting programs.

“The point to me has been to understand what those budget cuts will mean operationally across the whole of government,” he said during a news conference Monday. “I think that’s a process that takes more time. We haven’t identified any programmatic cuts at this point.”

Between spending requirements set by law or the Constitution and limits on revenues — estimated to total $2.26 billion during the next two years — Gordon said he is recommending a budget that he said will keep spending low and reduce capital construction.

The budget for the General Fund — the state’s main bank account — recommends providing public schools with $161 million from Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account on top of the $1.7 billion schools are to receive from the Schools Foundation Program. In addition, he recommended $105 million be given to local communities.

Gordon’s budget proposes spending $94.7 million on capital construction rather than the $150 million proposed to his office. He also recommended spending $238 million on school construction and $21 million for one-time bonuses for state government employees.

“My goal in this budget was to take care of people first because they are key to a productive government,” he said. “I have mentioned several times how incredibly hard working people in Wyoming government are. And I recognize that they have not had the recognition that they have really deserved over time.”

Gordon, in his comments during the news conference and in the letter to the Legislature accompanying his budget proposal, said his budget was prepared with an eye toward changing economic conditions.

“These changes, including declining coal production and low natural gas prices, will impact how we fund government services over the next years and probably on into the future,” he said.

The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee will begin its review of Gordon’s budget in a series of meetings to be held through December and January. The committee will forward its recommendation for a biennium budget to the full Legislature, which begins its 2020 budget session in February.

2021-22 BUDGET POINTS

  • Total proposed budget: $3.2 billion
  • Appropriation for capital construction: $94.7 million
  • Appropriation for local communities: $105 million
  • Appropriation for School Foundation: $1.75 billion
  • Appropriation for school construction: $238 million
  • Appropriation for Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund: $12 million
  • Appropriation for Energy Commercialization Program: $25 million
  • Appropriation for the University of Wyoming: $438 million
  • Number of new employees: 35

Story of ‘Rachel’s Challenge’ to be told at Cheyenne school on Thursday

in News
Rachel's Challenge Invite
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The story of a young woman whose acts of kindness provided the inspiration for a national anti-bullying campaign will be told in a public setting in Cheyenne on Thursday.

The story of Rachel Joy Scott, the inspiration for the nationwide “Rachel’s Challenge” movement, will be told from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at Goins Elementary School.

Scott was the first student killed in the Columbine High School shootings of 1999. Students who shared their stories of Rachel with her parents painted a picture of a young woman whose acts of kindness had a profound effect on them.

The resulting “Rachel’s Challenge” program is designed to create a positive climate in public schools and reduce bullying.

The program is open to the public and refreshments will be served. People planning to attend are asked to RSVP to Goins Principal Amanda Hall at 771-2620 or by email at amanda.hall@laramie1.org.

Website ranks 60 percent of Wyoming Republicans legislators as RINOs

in News
2393


By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

An anonymous website created by an unknown organization has judged 60 percent of the Legislature’s Republicans to be “Republicans in Name Only.”

Using voting records on 10 bills from the 2019 Legislative Session, during which legislators reviewed hundreds of pieces of legislation, www.wyoRINO.com assigned percentages values to the votes cast by each Republican member of the Wyoming House and Senate. If a  legislator did not toe the party line on at least seven of the 10 bills, their names were highlighted in red to indicate RINO status. The website attributes its creation to Ride for the Brand, Wyoming, a political organization Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne said he didn’t know existed.

“This is nothing new, though,” Eathorne said. “We’ve seen other interest groups put out their opinions, ranking and analysis.”

The Wyoming Republican Party website on Nov. 11 published a clarification stating it has no affiliations with other individuals, organizations, groups or publications. 

“The party makes it positions known through its platform and planks adopted at its State Convention,” the website states. 

Nearly verbatim, the wyoRINO website also states its independence, following the declaration with a caveat specifying that  Ride for the Brand, Wyoming, reserves the right to revise its opinions and conclusions.

While Eathorne said wyoRINO was not a product of the party, he said there was no problem with the website claiming to represent party ideals. 

“It’s fine that they tie to the timeless principles of the Republican Party,” he explained. “But, we need to continue to clarify the WYGOP does not engage in that.”

Of the 77 listed Republicans, 46, about 60 percent, were labeled RINOs, while only 10 scored perfect rankings.

“They proved exactly the opposite of what they were hoping,” said Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette. “They proved there’s very few ‘true’ Republicans.”

The site rated Von Flatern at 30 percent.

“(Smear campaigns have) come up about three times for me — about every four years around election time,” he said. “The ultra-conservatives are behind this site. They’re not inclusive. If you are gay or a little different than their conservative, Bible-thumping group, you are less of a person. You are a threat to them.”

Von Flatern said though he had suspicions, he wasn’t sure who created the website. He added he’s never heard of Ride for the Brand.

Wyoming. Sen. Tom James, R-Rock Springs, received a ranking of 100 percent and hosts a personal web page with several similarities to www.wyoRINO.com, but said he was not involved with the website.  

“I don’t rate other legislators, I just put out the spread sheets with the votes,” James said. “I think it’s good there’s outside people getting involved. I always feel that more data is better, but I think the website is a good start.”

Republicans may not see eye to eye on every topic, but he said if their voting record dips below 70 percent — the ratio of votes in line with published Republican values — they are lying about their affiliation.

“That speaks for the lack of integrity of the official,” James said. “If they are lying to the people — ‘I’m going to vote this way’ — then they don’t do it, that’s on the elected official.”

James said he was not familiar with Ride for the Brand, Wyoming.

While Gov. Mark Gordon was not available for comment, his office responded to an interview request via email. 

“The Governor doesn’t believe that an anonymous website with ‘rankings’ based on a small sampling of votes is an accurate way to characterize legislators’ beliefs,” wrote Michael Pearlman, Gordon’s communications director.

This Is Rural America

in Agriculture/Column/Range Writing
2391

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

A recent Twitter rant by a University of California Berkeley PhD student philosopher that claimed rural Americans “are bad people who have made bad life decisions” and should live “uncomfortable” lives and should have to pay more for rejecting efficient city life brought predictable condemnation.

The man later deleted the tweet with a comment that “my tone is way crasser and meaner than I like to think I am” but he never actually backed down from his rural condemnation. But this bruhaha got me thinking about rural life in America, and what that actually means. 

In western Wyoming’s version of rural America, what comes to mind is broad and dramatic landscapes with vast populations of wildlife and domestic livestock (the typical Wyoming pastoral scene) with a relatively small human population density.

The community’s components include a wide variety of people. We have sheep herders from Nepal, ranchers whose familiesmoved here from the Old Country more than a century ago,immigrant families from Mexico, and people who fled natural disasters or economic instability in other areas of America.

It’s people who develop routines based upon their own priorities and rules of life. Like the gentleman who insisted on getting up early every morning and making sure the steps to the rural medial clinic were kept free of snow. He didn’t work there, or get paid, but it was important to him that anyone needing medical attention shouldn’t be deterred by Wyoming snow.

And another gentleman who served as the community grave digger. He had a paying job, but this is just something he did for his community, his way of honoring the dead.

Or the thoughtful woman who started volunteering her time to help others in need, even if just cleaning up a yard, slapping on some paint, or chopping wood. Her kind acts drew others to her side, and a loose group now mobilizes to serve wherever there is need in the community.

And it’s the artist who donates her valuable work at a fundraiser to help cover the medical expenses for an accident victim. That she’s never met the victim isn’t even considered.

It’s the relatively new couple to the community who attend nearly every public event held in the county, simply to show support. They just show up, and they’ve become valued friends to all.

It’s the woman business owner on main street who knew that the teenaged girl preparing to put a winter coat on layaway was waiting tables and living on her own, so she set up the girl’s first charge account. And she knew that girl would honor her debt.

That kind and beautiful woman who cuts hair over at the salon is a former commercial airline stewardess who survived a horrific airplane crash but has found solace in the quiet of a rural countryside. That older man you meet on the ski slope has saved more lives and birthed more babies in his decades of practicing frontier medicine than most doctors working in municipal hospitals. That friendly retired couple spent their working lives as public servants, and still dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus every Christmas.

That cattle rancher over there is a former nuclear engineer, that sheep rancher down the river has a master’s degree in education.That tiny older woman who lives alone spends hours playing her grand piano, and the suntanned woman down the road is a talented saddlemaker. That lean, bearded man cuts timber with a team of horses during the week, and volunteers for the youth hockey team on weekends. That grandmother is a retired nurse who volunteers at the bedside of the terminally ill – an earthly angel to the families she’s served. That weird-looking teenaged boy is an artist, and the goth-girl is a writer. That single mom is a small business entrepreneur and graphic designer. That single dad makes a living through hard physical labor during the day,and then takes his kids ice skating after school.

Those people in the grocery store are emergency medical technicians, fire fighters, law enforcement officers, teachers, search and rescue volunteers, military veterans, librarians, and coaches for our school sports teams.

That guy you see at a construction site is the same guy who flies a helicopter to pluck injured climbers off the face of the mountain. That guy moving cows along the road is part of the highly skilled team that is dropped in by the helicopter on a rope to stabilize the patient before evacuation. That guy you see always fishing out at the lake is also part of a swift-water rescue team that is deployed all over the region to recover those lost to the waters. That woman cheering on the local football team doesn’t have kids of her own, but is there at every game. She’s also the head of the search and rescue team.

These are the people who hitch up their stock trailers and drive towards wildfires to help their neighbors in rural subdivisions evacuate with their animals to safety. They keep their snowmachine trailers supplied with emergency equipment and go out into blizzards to find anyone lost in the wild after dark.

We’ve all heard about those lazy kids of the younger generation. Yet it was those kids that used the school shop to build a mobile library to serve the underserved areas of the county. The librarians living in town, and those folks over at the senior center, take books and meals to people who can’t leave their homes dotted around the countryside.

These are the people of rural America. They are the extra hands that suddenly appear when help is needed. These are the people who bring food as an expression of love, and who drop off books they think you’ll enjoy. These are people who weep with you, and for you, and who cheer you.

This is rural America.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

Midwest rancher recognized for years of rodeo

in Agriculture/arts and culture/Community
2384

A Midwest rancher and longtime rodeo cowboy has been inducted into the Rodeo Historical Society’s Hall of Fame.

Frank Shepperson, who capped his years in the rodeo with a world championship steer wrestling title in 1975, was inducted in ceremonies held Nov. 8 and 9 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Shepperson said he got involved in the rodeo while working on his family’s ranch.

“When you live on a ranch and you break horses for a living and you’re trying to get a little extra money, it just is natural,” he said. “My father also rodeoed.”

In his school years, Shepperson claimed the national high school title for bronc riding and went on to be a member of the University of Wyoming rodeo team in 1961, when the team won the national college championship.

Shepperson said it was his mother who encouraged him to compete in as many rodeo events as possible.

“When I was a freshman in high school, I filled out my (rodeo) entry form and showed it to my mother,” he said. “The high school rodeo was in Gillette, 90 miles away. She said ‘If we’re driving 90 miles for a damn rodeo, you better get in the bullriding, too.’ That’s the only thing I hadn’t entered.”

Shepperson said he was flattered to have been selected for induction into the Hall of Fame.

“I’m humbled and honored to join a lot of my friends and family and heroes that are already in this,” he said.

AG’s opinion on computer standards is in

in Education/News/Technology
2387

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s Board of Education has received an attorney general’s opinion on the constitutionality of proposed computer science standards for the state’s schools, a board member said Friday.

Sue Belish, testifying before the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee, said the board will review the opinion from Attorney General Bridget Hill during its meeting next week.

Hill’s office was asked in June to answer several questions about the constitutionality of the standards developed in response to legislation approved almost two years ago.

Belish said without Hill’s opinion, the Board of Education was unable to proceed with the standards. She declined to specify what constitutional questions Hill’s opinion addressed.

Belish’s appearance came in response to a request from Education Committee members in June for an update on the standards.

The standards have been rewritten numerous times, since concern has been expressed from elementary school teachers and the attorney general’s office about various issues. 

The issues included worries about teachers learning computer science requirements in a time crunch.

Attorneys also expressed concern about whether the standards would meet constitutional requirements for public instruction to be uniform, since some schools in the state would only be able to teach to minimum requirements and others would be able to offer expanded programs.

Belish noted it takes a number of months for the content review committee (made up of individuals including teachers and computer scientists) to go through the process of evaluating the standards.

Due to the mixed testimonies the Board of Education received about the then-current standards during its meeting in March, its members asked the content committee to rewrite them, Belish said. 

The committee came back in April with revised standards and benchmarks. 

Belish felt public comment was more positive during that meeting, but since the committee only had one month to rewrite the standards, members only focused on the requirements for children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“At that meeting, the board formally approved starting the rule promulgation process,” she said. “It went to the governor, the secretary of state and out for 45-day comment.”

The Department of Education has collected those comments, so the board will consider them at its meeting on Friday, Nov. 22. 

Belish said that during its last three meetings, the board has had computer science standards on its agenda, but without an opinion from the attorney general, there was nothing that could be done. 

However, she told the committee that the board received Hill’s opinion on Tuesday, which will be considered at its meeting next week. 

Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, questioned what the constitutional issues were, but Belish invoked attorney-client privilege to not answer. 

She said the board would talk about the attorney general’s opinion next week and be transparent about its consideration. 

Board of Education Chairman Walt Wilcox told the committee that the board plans to implement the standards by 2023, about a year after the originally slated date.

Representatives from the state Department of Education, meanwhile, said the state’s students have seen increased access to computer science education without the standards.

“I want to point out that this data shows since from 2016-17 school year, there really has been increased student access to computer science,” said Kari Eakins, the department’s chief policy officer. “A lot of districts are making substantial progress toward the implementation. We currently have 907 secondary students enrolled in a computer science course, but only 196 of them are female.” 

She added in her presentation that secondary school teachers will have to obtain certification to teach computer science, but elementary school teachers will not.

Members of the public testifying during the hearing, such as state Rep. Sara Burlingame, thanked the Education Committee for working to get the standards in place.

However, several also noted that the standards should be in place as soon as possible so young students can begin learning computer skills.

“If we lose those critical years, we’re the ones who pay,” Burlingame said. “Our students pay, but our economy, our workforce that doesn’t have those skills, we’re the poorer for it. I hope there’s a level of excitement that the state of Wyoming decided to invest in this. We’ll work out these bumps together. This is a neat thing we’re doing here.” 

Meals on Wheels enjoys large volunteer force

in Community/News
Floyd Osborn
Floyd Osborn loads meals into the back of his truck for delivery. He and his wife Janet have been MOW drivers for 40 years.
2364

By Mary Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The sign out front says “Volunteers Needed.” 

But that’s not exactly true for Meals on Wheels of Cheyenne.  It’s just easier to fit on the sign than “We have enough volunteers to get by, but we could always use more.” 

Like many charitable organizations, MOW relies heavily on volunteers.  Volunteers not only deliver, but also prepare and package meals for the elderly, disabled and ill people in town who are unable to fix nutritious meals for themselves.  In addition, volunteers sort through and tag items donated for sale in the Meals on Wheels Mart and staff the thrift store.

Harry Kembel, retired, picks up meals to deliver to clients on his route.  Kembel volunteers for several organizations and has delivered for MOW for more than 15 years. 

“Right now all of my routes each day have an assigned driver, but being volunteers, people travel, have surgery or go places during the cold weather, so we need substitute drivers who can fill in,” Merri Burkett, the organization’s volunteer coordinator, told the Cowboy State Daily.

“We have a small staff.  We run everything on volunteers,” she said. “If we didn’t have all those volunteers, we couldn’t do any of this.  There’s no way.”

Flexibility with schedules, opportunities to socialize with other volunteers and the satisfaction of helping other people keep MOW’s volunteer roster full, according to the volunteers themselves.

MOW has 25 routes in Cheyenne to deliver meals to its clients Monday through Friday.  Because the volunteer pool is vital to its operation, it is fortunate that acquiring people to give of their time to MOW is pretty easy.

“Every once in a while, our director does a spot on the radio, and we have our sign out front, but for the most part, people come to us,” said Burkett, adding part of MOW’s recruitment success may be that volunteering is easy and the hours are flexible.

“We need a minimum of 25 drivers each day,” she said.  “We’re very flexible with volunteers.  They can deliver once a day, once a week, once a month or once in a while.”

Stephen Skokowski moved from Texas to Cheyenne after retirement.  When he decided he should make better use of his time, he stopped at the MOW building he routinely drove past and spoke to a volunteer coordinator about being a driver.  That was 18 years ago.  

“She said I didn’t have to do it all five days a week. I could pick whatever day I wanted,” he said.  “I went with the schedule that works best around my road trips.” 

While many of the drivers are retirees, some have full-time jobs, so they’ll deliver during their lunch break.  Because the routes are to clients within the same area, a typical route takes only about one to one and one-half hours to complete, including travel time.

Pat Graham, real estate broker and owner of Our323, delivers on Fridays and whenever MOW is short-handed throughout the week.  A volunteer for 13 years, Graham said he does it because he gets satisfaction from helping and getting to know his clients.

“For a lot of these people, it’s less about the meals and more that they like to have someone to talk with them,” he said. “We (deliverers) benefit as well.”

“I think it’s a feel-good thing,” said Burkett, “that (volunteers) are out there helping someone, even though they may be in the person’s house for five minutes or less.”

“I get to meet people with different backgrounds and talk to them,” Skokowski said.  “I spend an extra five minutes (with clients) to ask how they’re doing.”

Burkett said MOW volunteers are very dedicated.

“Some volunteers are older than some of their clients,” she said, referring to her father, Flloyd Osborn, 86, who delivers twice a week.  “I think a lot of them do it to keep them going, keep them active.  They want to help somebody.”

Finally, MOW volunteers get an opportunity to make friends with other volunteers.  A certain camaraderie develops among the drivers who chat as they wait for their clients’ meals to be prepared for delivery.  

“For some of them, I think this is their McDonald’s coffee hour,” said Burkett.

Volunteers are always needed for delivery drivers and the thrift store, she said.    

For more information or to volunteer at Meals on Wheels, contact her at (307) 635-5542 or volunteer@mealsonwheelsofcheyenne.com.

In hunting, who is at the top of the food chain?

in Bill Sniffin/Column/Recreation/wildlife
hunting
2376

By Bill Sniffin

One of the largest armed forces in the history of the world is taking to the field right now.  We are talking about the 36 million hunters who stalking the mighty deer and elk in the USA.

Here in the Cowboy State, hunting is a fall tradition.  It is viewed as an entitlement. But the biggest difference between now and 50 years ago is that often the human hunter is not at the top of the food chain out there in the wild. More on this later.

The first time I heard the phrase about the “fun ending when you pulled the trigger,” was from my old friend, former game warden Bill Crump, when he recalled all his Wyoming hunting trips. He, of course, was talking about enjoying the fall scenery. Once you pull the trigger and kill your prey, it is time for some serious work.

Not sure what all those thousands of wives and girlfriends get in return, but they seem eager to send their hubbies and boyfriends off armed to the teeth and loaded down with food in rustic old campers. Or super-fancy brand new RVs with flush toilets, plus quad runners, huge pickup trucks, and even portable satellite television receivers.

Oh yeah, and cards.  Lots of playing cards. And quantities of liquid refreshment.

Cigars used to be a big part of the equation but surprisingly a lot of the groups I talked to recently just do not smoke. Not even a celebratory cigar?

There are a lot of very serious hunters in Wyoming.  But even some of them have decided that that hunting trip is still going to happen, the rifle may not even be removed from the scabbard. 

Sometimes these old veterans are just tired.  Maybe their wives finally confided to them that they are tired of cooking elk, deer, antelope and even moose.

Other times these hunters are more interested in taking their sons (or daughters), or grandchildren on the big hunt and really just want to concentrate on those younger folks getting their first kill.

A big reason for that annual hunting trip is that weather in the mountains or foothills of Wyoming can be so darned nice in the fall. They are just wanting to get away from the humdrum of daily life and enjoy the paradise that God has put at our disposal called Wyoming.

Plus another reason the “fun ends” is that when you pull the trigger it often signals the end of the hunting trip. Darn it, we have to leave the mountains and go back to our regular lives.

Now let’s talk about the “real” hunters.  Those men and women who are truly serious about killing their prey and filling their licenses. Most of these folks have a strong ethic where they plan to eat what they kill. They deserve our respect.

In the northwest part of Wyoming, these hunters are discovering that they are no longer at the top of the food chain.

Many folks suspect that grizzly bears are reportedly stalking both human hunters and the game those same hunters recently killed. Several hunters told me that the most uneasy feeling they can recall is when they are gutting their animal and suddenly things get real still.  Sort of like maybe some big critter has smelled your animal and is sizing up the fresh carcass.  And yours, too?

A famous photo circulated around the internet a while back showing a hunter taking a selfie photo of himself with his kill. In the background was a huge mountain lion.  Yikes.

A Cody hunter considered himself the luckiest man alive in Wyoming after his close encounter with a grizzly in the fall of 2011.    

Steve Bates, ended up on the losing end of his scrape in the Shoshone National Forest. He was happy to be alive, despite fractured ribs and cuts on his face and scalp.

A grizzly rushed him on a dead run before Bates could react.  After he was knocked over, the bear worked him over, clawed him, and chewed on him, before ambling off.

Once he recovered his senses, Bates grabbed his rifle and aimed it at the bear, then paused.  He wisely let it lope off.  Game and Fish officials said they would not track down the bear because it was reacting normally to its perceived threat.

“Considering what happened, “ Bates, recalled at the time, “I think I came out pretty good.”

That same year, a grizzly bit an Oregon hunter on the hand, also in our Shoshone National Forest.  Now that hunter must have one helluva story to tell. Names were not released.

One of my favorite bear stories concerns an old grizzly bear known as “Old Number One” – a sow in Yellowstone National Park. She was the first grizzly to ever wear a radio collar in the park.

A long-time agent for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Roy Brown of Lander, told me this story.

When the bear died some years ago, Brown headed up a necropsy procedure on the bear and the team found a surprise. The bear had six .38 caliber bullets in her head.  It must have happened many years before because skin had even grown over the injuries.

Roy says people wondered: “Hmmm, what happened to the guy who emptied his revolver into this bear?”

That poor guy may have found out first-hand where human beings are finding themselves in the food chain these days.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Computer science education still not in many Wyoming classrooms — nearly 18 months after bill signed

in Education/News/Technology
computer science standards
2369

By Laura Hancock, Cowboy State Daily

Learning computer code, using it to create programs and understanding how information is broken down and delivered by networks are just some of the dozens of computer science lessons that could be taught in Wyoming public schools. 

However, the speed of creating statewide computer science and computational thinking standards isn’t exactly gigahertz per second. 

Nearly 18 months have passed since then-Gov. Matt Mead signed a bill creating the standards. Since then, they have been written and rewritten. But for the past five months, the Wyoming State Board of Education has been in a holding pattern, waiting for Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill to opine about whether they could pass a constitutional challenge.

There’s no word yet from Hill, who didn’t return a message about why a formal opinion from her office is taking so long, or what that opinion will be. 

On Friday, Wyoming education officials are to testify before the Joint Education Committee, meeting in Cheyenne, about their progress. The committee sponsored the 2018 bill that created the standards

“We’d like to know what the delay is,” said Rep. David Northrup, R-Powell, a committee chairman. “We’d like to know what was in the (request) to the attorney general and what the attorney general’s decision is because it could affect all standards in Wyoming.”

After the bill was signed, a committee of computer scientists, teachers and others looked at computer science education standards in other states – such as Oklahoma – and at recommendations by professional associations. They used those to create Wyoming’s proposed standards. 

In January, the state school board sent the standards out for public comment. Elementary school teachers had concerns about learning the various new requirements when they have to teach other subjects as well. The committee returned to the drawing board between March and April.

The committee released another draft of the standards – some would be mandatory, some would support the mandatory standards but would not be mandatory, and some would be “enhanced,” which would also be optional.

Two Wyoming Attorney General office lawyers who advise the board were concerned that they were unconstitutional, since some school districts would be able to offer all the standards and others would only be able to offer the mandatory ones. The Wyoming Constitution requires public instruction to be “uniform.”

In June, the state board wrote a letter to Hill, asking her to study the issue and write a formal opinion.  

“We believe that will help us — not just with computer science but with other requirements,” said Sue Belish, state board vice chair.

Lawmakers and education officials need Hill’s guidance because creating mandatory and supplementary standards could affect education in other subjects besides computer science. 

Another likely delay

But even if Hill could clear up the board’s questions in short order, it may still take a while for computer science education to arrive in some Wyoming classrooms, said Astrid Northrup, an engineering professor at Northwest College in Powell.

Northrup, who is married to Rep. Northrup, was involved with efforts at the University of Wyoming to look at computer science teaching standards even before the effort was under way with the state board. 

Some school districts, especially those already teaching computer science, will be ready to adapt to the standards. Others will have to catch up, she said. The Wyoming Professional Standards Teaching Board has computer science teaching criteria. It may be unrealistic, however, for elementary school teachers, she said. 

“I think we have to lock that down,” she said. “I think that piece needs to be locked down in a realistic manner.”

Change in the air? Business Forum explores how to move Wyoming forward

in Economic development/News
2366

By Cowboy State Daily

An annual meeting of the state’s business leaders this week provided plenty of opportunities for discussions about the changes Wyoming is facing.

Attendees at the Governor’s Business Forum in Cheyenne shared thoughts and ideas on how the state should prepare to meet the challenges of the future.

Such changes do not have to occur at the expense of the state’s quality of life, said Cindy DeLancey, president of the Wyoming Business Alliance, the group that hosted the gathering.

“We’re cowboys and cowgirls,” she said. “We love so many things about Wyoming, but we also realize the world is changing around us. We can still be cowboys and be ready for 21st century  jobs and make sure our children have the skills and the foundation to be able to be good, productive citizens for the next generation.”

For such change to happen, gatherings such as the Business Forum are necessary, said Laurie Farkas, community affairs manager for Black Hills Energy.

“I think when we get together and start really thinking about the issues critically, that’s when change, especially good change, can happen,” she said.

Among those taking part in the conversation were students from the University Wyoming.

Rudy Nesvik, a UW freshman studying mechanical engineering, said the state should work to bring in businesses that would help lure new residents with advanced degrees.

“I think that Wyoming can look at attracting some of those manufacturing businesses to bring in more engineers,” he said. “We can have this focus on career and technical education, but I think we should also keep in mind other industries and other ways we can grow into the future.”

Kaci Schmick agreed the state needs to work harder to find businesses that would keep Wyoming youth in the state.

“We’re really just trying to get people to stay in Wyoming,” said the UW freshman. “A lot of jobs students want, they have to leave the state to find those jobs.”

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