A very bad idea from Cheyenne

Dec 31, 2012 By Randy Tucker

Some education "experts" in the Legislature want to remove elected control of the department of education from the people.

We were in the midst of a mediocre season at Shoshoni. We'd beaten Wind River, Rocky and Greybull, but Dubois was loaded that year, and the Wyoming Indian High School Chiefs were... well, they were the Chiefs. Unsolicited "help" from overzealous fans and a couple of vicarious fathers muddied the waters. The "help" expanded so much that I closed practices for the first time. All the windows to the gym were covered in paper with a sign reading, "Practice closed except for players, managers and coaches." It wasn't a warm, welcoming phrase to the John Wooden and Bobby Knight wannabes, but it was effective.

We hosted the Chiefs one Friday night and as usual, coach Alfred Redman had a terrific team building its way to yet another state title. As the team warmed up I noticed the "help" seated directly behind the bench.

I walked into their section and asked the collective group, "Anyone want to coach the boys tonight?"

Not a whisper came back.

"I didn't think so," I said.

It didn't endear me to the hardwood experts, but it did set the tone that there would be no interfering with the progress of the kids on the floor by partisan outsiders.

It is a uniquely human trait among the meddlers within our ranks to think that their method is always better than the one employed by the people working 24/7 on a problem.

It doesn't have to be something as inconsequential as a high school sport either. It can extend to much more important areas of life.

Consider this column and open letter to the representatives and senators about to embark to Cheyenne to represent Fremont County in the upcoming legislative session.

Over the last two years a handful of "experts" in Cheyenne have systematically declared war on the educational progress of the children in Wyoming.

State Rep. Matt Teeters of the Lingle-Ft. Laramie area in Goshen County and State Sen. Hank Coe of Cody have taken the lead in this onslaught. They have partners at times in Sens. Phil Nicholas of Laramie and Reps. Steve Harshman of Casper, but if it involves only education and not other special interests, the latter two occasionally will refrain from the type of rhetoric flowing form Coe and Teeters.

If only their efforts were spent in a positive manner. They consider themselves experts in education because both attended school in the past. Perhaps they should focus on curing cancer. After all they've both been to a physician in their lives as well.

It is interesting how "expertise" is sometimes assumed in areas where a person falls far short of the standard. It is all too easy to believe the hype when you're separated from an issue and just believe the rhetoric.

There is an agenda here, make no mistake. These legislators don't like State Superintendent Cindy Hill, and that dislike has spread into a ridiculous quest to move the Wyoming Department of Education out of the elected control of the people of Wyoming and into a hand-picked board managed by the governor's office. This idea has some support in certain biased media outlets, but what they always fail to mention is the clear wording in Wyoming's constitution that prevents their little orchestrated tantrums from becoming law.

It's a good thing that Superintendent Hill worked for many years as a middle school principal before being elected in 2010 to the state superintendent position. Handing the constant drama generated by eighth-grade girls was great preparation for dealing with the likes of her opponents in the Legislature.

Prior to Hill's tenure with the WDE, the department regarded itself as a regulatory agency. The WDE under Jim McBride did little for the state's children but did generate mandated reports, spread money to special interests, and garner near-universal disgust from the teachers and administrators across the state. "Bow, yield, kneel" was often sarcastically referred to as the WDE's motto from 2005 to 2010.

Hill faced stiff opposition from many of the "lifers" in the WDE who resented having to leave their offices in Cheyenne to actually work with Wyoming's children and in improving the quality of instruction in Wyoming schools. Hill was heavily criticized initially for changing the department into an agency dedicated to improving children's education instead of simply one that ruled by decree.

It is most revealing to see the "experts" the governor has placed in newly created regulatory positions working with the Wyoming State School Board. Every appointee is either a disgruntled or terminated former WDE employee. You can't hide their tracks, boys, and your intent to harass education rather than help it is clear as well.

The Wyoming State School Board is a rubber stamp agency with little actual power, but Sen. Coe and Rep. Teeters would use it as a venue to complete their hidden agenda. District superintendents have challenge them on the ridiculousness of this idea and Coe's own Park County school district in Cody is one of the leaders against their Machiavellian plan.

Fremont County's legislative delegation is open-minded and child oriented. Hopefully they, along with the people of the state, can close this sideshow and get back to the job of representing the people rather than adding more fuel to this continuing adolescent outburst.

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