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Hill worries state dragging its feet on restoring past duties

Jan 30, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill said she is looking forward to returning to her post at the head of the Wyoming Department of Education, but other officials are in no hurry.

"(Gov. Matt Mead) is refusing to work with us," Hill said in a text message Thursday. "Their response to us is 'everything is on hold' as they are awaiting an Attorney General decision."

The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled this week that a law redefining the duties of the state superintendent was unconstitutional.

Senate File 104 was signed into law last year, transferring most of the superintendent's duties to a new director of education appointed by Mead.

Hill served Mead with a lawsuit the day the bill was signed.

On Tuesday, Mead issued a press release indicating that his office is still evaluating the Supreme Court decision.

"I have asked the Attorney General to provide an analysis of the legal and practical implications," Mead wrote. "The Attorney General will evaluate the opinion and provide options."

Attorney General Peter Michael wouldn't say whether the state would appeal the decision, according to published reports.

State Supreme Court rulings generally can be appealed only to the U.S. Supreme Court. That process could take years even if the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, which was not argued on federal terms.

Mead added that no changes will take place within the WDE until Laramie County District Court officially receives the Supreme Court decision and takes action on the ruling. Officials in Laramie County said the Supreme Court has 15 days to send the mandate to district court.

Hill said her staff is ready to get back to work, and her deputies have attempted to communicate with Mead's office about a plan for moving forward.

"We would like to collaborate with everyone ensuring a smooth transition," she said Thursday. "I look forward to getting back and focusing us all on the children and the work -- no distractions."

Under SF104, Hill was responsible for seven limited duties, according to the Supreme Court. She was tasked with an annual report for the legislature on the "general status of all public schools."

Hill also was asked to adopt rules and regulations for the general supervision of public schools -- as long as she didn't conflict with the rule-making authority of the Wyoming Board of Education, WDE or the appointed director of education.

She was allowed to administer the "teacher of the year" program and establish requirements for policies and training on the use of seclusion and restraint in schools.

Under SF104 Hill was supposed to help school districts develop protocols to address risks associated with concussions and other head injuries from athletic injuries, and she was asked to establish guidelines for school districts for the storage and disposal of toxic chemicals and other hazardous substances.

Her final task was to identify professional development needs for Wyoming schools and teachers and conduct up to five regional workshops each year addressing those needs.

Hill said she still plans to run for governor this year. She announced her bid for the seat last January after SF104 was passed and made her formal, public announcement earlier this month.

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Legislature, Wyoming