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Familiar old faces at the WDE

Mar 3, 2013 - By Randy Tucker

Thrown out by voters in the 2010 election by the voters, they are coming back into power under the new, appointed education CEO.

The sign reads "You just can't make this stuff up." It hangs behind an office door in Cheyenne.

I've said this exact phrase many times in my educational career as one absolute absurdity or another is preached by the latest academic messiah. But perhaps the quote that best describes education in Wyoming comes from Mother Teresa:

"We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing."

And when someone does accomplish anything useful in the world of K-12 Wyoming education, the blame is quick to follow as the "bucket of crab" syndrome descends.

Crabs placed alone in a bucket will quickly crawl out and escape but put two or more in the same bucket and as one reaches the top and almost escapes the other will reach up and pull it back down to the bottom. It is the epitome of the ineptitude and downright corruption that rules Wyoming's vendetta-driven state government.

When historians look back on the actions of Gov. Matt Mead and the Wyoming Legislature during the 2013 session, a few things will stand out. While little else has happened during Mead's lackluster career as governor of the Cowboy State, he can be "proud" of a couple of things he accomplished in early 2013. The first is signing into law an additional 10-cent-per-gallon tax on motor fuel. The second is his behind-the-scenes support and signing of constitutionally questionable eliminating the authority of statewide, publicly elected official, Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill.

The sordid process behind the lightening-fast introduction, kangaroo court-style discussion and quick signing of Senate File 0104 into law by the Wyoming House, Wyoming Senate and governor is something voters need to be constantly reminded of until the August 2014 primary election when we can start ridding our state government of those responsbile.

The process remains purposely deceptive, with few answers ever available to support the real reason SF 104 came into law.

A look at the final four months of previous state superintendent Jim McBride's tenure sheds much light on this murky subject.

After McBride was trounced by Hill in the 2010 primary election, his office issued 53 contracts totaling $4,844,802 in August, September and October.

In a very interesting twist, many of these contracts were issued to individuals, companies and corporations that are now back in the saddle with the new CEO office, a position established by -- you guessed it -- SF104 and signed by the governor.

If this wasn't enough, the $3.2 million issued in August, immediately after the primary election, was mirrored by an almost identical amount in November, directly after Hill defeated challenger Mike Massie in the general election. In all, more than $12.5 million of state funds was encumbered during McBride's lame-duck term.

Eerie similarity or just numbers that can't be hidden through gossip and innuendo, as the good-ol-boy network did with Hill? The contracts issued can't hide, surfacing after the fact to expose those in charge?

In my mind the answer is evident, McBride played ball when told to by the powers still in place that had forced out Trent Blankenship five years before.

Blankenship's comment on the issue was succinct:

"The same pit of vipers we battled seven years ago," he said.

The problem wasn't necessarily with the contracts, but with the process involved. The outgoing administration followed orders well. The plan was to tie up and encumber funds so Hill couldn't move the money to an area that would actually help Wyoming children.

The only way to release these funds was to terminate the contracts, and each one of them had powerful connections at the Capitol.

Terminating contracts with connected people upsets the status quo, and the bureaucracy rose from its usual lethargy into vindictive action.

Two weeks ago the governor officially appointed Rawlins attorney Catherine McPherson to lead yet another investigation into Hill's former WDE administration. What isn't public information is that former McBride deputy Joe Simpson already has been at the WDE for several weeks organizing the disgruntled bureaucrats, synchronizing their stories, and preparing a unified front for when McPherson's investigation begins.

With the groundwork in place, Simpson will now serve on the governor's four-member "independent panel" conducting a $150,000 fishing expedition -- funded by the taxpayers of Wyoming.

When you have disgruntled employees publicly complaining about having to work with children, elected officials acting like children, and clownish subterfuge not worthy of the drama associated with eighth-grade girls, it makes you wonder what exactly is going on in Cheyenne.

While actions are subject to speculation, one thing is clear. The people at the WDE, thrown out in the 2010 election by the voters of Wyoming, are all back or in the process of coming back into power under the new CEO position managed through the puppet government of the Wyoming State Board of Education.

November 2014 can't come soon enough.

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