Aaron Schrank

Education Reporter

Phone: 307-766-5064
Email: aschran1@uwyo.edu

Before joining WPR, Aaron worked as a freelance reporter in Los Angeles, where he earned a master’s degree in audio journalism from the University of Southern California. His radio work has aired on programs including NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, American Public Media’s Marketplace and Public Radio International’s The World. Aaron has roots in Phoenix, Arizona, Southern Illinois and New Jersey. When not reporting, he spends time hiking, camping, traveling and exploring film, music and food.

Ways to Connect

AARON SCHRANK/WPR

Meet The Candidates 

Dr. Rex Rammell is a veterinarian from Gillette. In 2008 he was an Idaho candidate for the United States Senate and in 2010 a candidate for governor.  He is author of the book, "A Nation Divided: the War for America's Soul."  Dr. Rammell considers himself a firebrand constitutional conservative who believes the answer to many of Wyoming's problems can be solved with the Federal transfer of public lands.  

AARON SCHRANK?WPR

Nine candidates for Wyoming’s only U.S. House seat faced off in a debate Monday night at the University of Wyoming.

Republican Liz Cheney told the crowd that she’s the one candidate who can build a national coalition around fossil fuels and other important Wyoming issues.

But State Representative from Casper Tim Stubson said he’s the candidate with a proven track record representing Wyoming.

Wyoming is replacing its current statewide standardized test, and is cutting ties to a testing group in order to avoid a potential conflict of interest as it selects a new vendor. 

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one of the main providers of multi-state tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Wyoming has been a member of the consortium since 2010. While it doesn't currently use the SBAC test, the state will likely consider it, among other options, in the coming months.  

Aaron Schrank

This story is part of the NPR reporting project School Money, a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.

Nine years ago, Mark Shrum moved his family to remote Gillette, Wyoming for two reasons: a coal mine job and good schools.

This March, Shrum was laid off from the Powder River Basin’s Buckskin coal mine, but he’s not leaving.

Park Elementary School via Facebook

The Natrona County School District is looking at student safety protocols after a man allegedly exposed himself to a third-grader walking home from school last week.

The girl’s mother, Amanda Huckabay, says the Casper Police Department had previously warned Park Elementary School’s principal about a possible predator in the neighborhood, but that information was not passed on to parents.

“The first responsibility of educators, beyond educating is to keep children safe,” Huckabay says.

Listen to the full show here. 

Energy Bill Could Help Wyoming

The U.S. Senate put its partisan tendencies aside this week and passed a sweeping bill aimed at modernizing the U.S. energy sector. Matt Laslo reports from Washington the bill includes provisions that could help the state’s ailing energy industry.

Aaron Schrank

University of Wyoming senior Ashlee Enos is in a crowded campus ballroom, watching a hip-hop artist from the Crow Nation who goes by the name ‘Supaman’ do his thing.

“I think it’s awesome that we have someone who’s so into the culture, and wants to give cultural awareness to the public,” Enos says.

Enos is a member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe. She says there aren’t many others at UW.

“It’s a very small number,” she says. “Maybe less than five.”

Less than one percent of total students here identify solely as American Indian—just 91 of more than 13,000.

PHOTO CREDIT NORTHWEST COLLEGE VIA FACEBOOK

 

There’s a lot going on at Wyoming’s 7 community colleges. Tuition hikes, a new funding formula, and a budget crunch. The colleges are also poised to play a big role in the state’s economic recovery. Wyoming lost more than 2 percent of its jobs last year. And just last week, nearly 500 coal workers were laid off in the Powder River Basin.

Jim Rose is the executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank sat down with Dr. Rose—and started by asking how community colleges will help retrain workers amid the downturn. 

Aaron Schrank

Jane Juve makes her morning rounds through the same building where she served as Riverton’s city attorney two decades ago. Now she’s the Riverton Police Department’s new ‘community relations ombudsman.’

“If you feel like your civil rights have been violated, you’re more than welcome to come to my office in city hall,” Juve says.

via Clear Creek Facebook

A substitute teacher in Johnson County School District claims administrators at Buffalo’s Clear Creek Middle School mishandled an offensive student project.

According to a news release written by teacher John Egan and published on social media this week, the 7th grade social studies project was a cereal box decorated with a picture of a stereotyped Mexican man with a cardboard knife sticking into him. The box was captioned “Can you pin the knife in the Mexican?”

J. Stephen Conn via Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead mobilized state agencies to respond to layoffs of nearly 500 coal workers in the Powder River Basin.

Two community college campuses served as sites to connect dislocated miners with services, Gillette College and the Eastern Wyoming Community College Campus in Douglas.

But Wyoming Community College Commission executive director Jim Rose says the state’s 7 community colleges will continue to be a long-term resource for displaced workers amid the downturn.

WPR/AARON SCHRANK

Former President Bill Clinton was in Cheyenne Monday morning, telling a crowd of 500 to support his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the state’s democratic caucus Saturday.

Clinton defended his wife’s perceived anti-coal stance and said a transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable  energy will ultimately benefit Wyoming’s economy. He also criticized Wyoming’s Republican-led Legislature for failing to approve Medicaid expansion.

The energy industry downturn is sure to have ripple effects throughout many Wyoming communities. Campbell County School District was bracing for large enrollment declines even before this week’s layoffs of nearly 500 area coal workers.

The district’s business manager, Don Dihle, predicts a three percent drop in students next school year.

Harvey Barrison via Flickr Creative Commons

About 150 tenants at the Virginian Village apartments in Jackson are struggling to find new places to live after being notified last week that they’re being kicked out of their homes. 

The property owners of Jackson’s Virginian Village apartments say tenants must be out by the end of July—and some must leave as soon as May 1. California-based Bedford Investments plans to remodel and sell the complex’s 56 units.

Pasco County Schools via Flickr Creative Commons

Wyoming’s four-year high school graduation rate saw a slight increase last year, according to data released Monday by the Wyoming Department of Education.

In the 2014-2015 school year, 79.4 percent of Wyoming high schoolers graduated on time. That’s up from 78.6 percent the previous year, but the state still trails the most recent record-high national average of 82 percent.

gosarforgovernor.com

The State Board of Education voted Friday to put a set of proposed science standards out for public comment.

The standards were developed by a committee of teachers, parents and others over the past year. They are based on the controversial Next Generation Science Standards, whose treatment of climate change raised the ire of lawmakers.

State Board Chairman Pete Gosar says the committee tweaked the standards to be less explicit about human-caused climate change.

Micah Baldwin, Flickr Creative Commons

 

Last year, when Tongue River High School students Taylor Holiday and Kylee Knobloch were asked to come up with a project for their leadership club, they decided to tackle a real-world problem.

“There was a few kids in our school that seemed to be struggling with drugs a little bit,” says Holiday. “So we thought, ‘what if we could make the change in this school that helped kids get away from issues like that?’”

Tom Kelly via Flickr Creative Commons

UPDATE: Carbon County School District One Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to close Sinclair Elementary.

The Carbon County District One school board will decide Thursday whether or not to close Sinclair Elementary School. 

Superintendent Fletcher Turcato recommended closing the school, which would save the district about $100,000 a year, due to legislative cuts to school funding.

Turcato says it’s not an easy recommendation to make, but it’s necessary after lawmakers cut funding by 1.2 percent over the next two years.

Jeremy Wilburn via Flickr Creative Commons

A state committee made up of parents, teachers and community members has proposed a new set of science standards for Wyoming.

UW

The University of Wyoming received funding for some major initiatives in the recently approved state budget, but administrators say cuts to UW’s block grant will put a strain on existing programs.

Lawmakers cut that funding by about $5.8 million for 2017 and 2018, and did not approve funding for UW employee pay raises.

Wyoming Public Media

On Wednesday, March 9, Aaron Schrank hosted a live Twitter chat with Wyoming Education Association President Kathy Vetter. He posed questions about the 2016’s legislative session’s impact on education in the state—including school funding cuts and education-related bills that passed and failed this year.

WEA has been monitoring the session closely. How will the Legislature’s 2016 decisions impact Wyoming’s K-12 education in the years ahead?

The hashtag #WPREdTalk and #wyoedchat allowed for anyone to tweet questions.

Aaron Schrank

Six of the state’s seven family literacy centers expect to close their doors, after lawmakers voted to eliminate the statewide program’s $3.3-million budget.

Jim Rose is executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, which oversees the statewide family literacy program.

Rose says the centers pair early childhood learning with adult education, essentially helping multiple generations build literacy skills together.

Campbell County School District

The 2016 Legislative budget session wraps up this week. One of the big things lawmakers have been discussing over the past month is funding for Wyoming’s K-12 schools. The House and Senate have agreed to a budget that will cut about $36 million dollars from education in the next two school years.

WEA

On Wednesday, March 9, from 5:00pm to 5:45pm, Aaron Schrank will be hosting a live Twitter chat with Wyoming Education Association President Kathy Vetter. He'll be posing questions about the 2016’s legislative session’s impact on education in the state—including school funding cuts and education-related bills that passed and failed this year.

WEA has been monitoring the session closely. How will the Legislature’s 2016 decisions impact Wyoming’s K-12 education in the years ahead?

Photo Courtesy Wyoming Catholic College via Facebook

Wyoming Catholic College in Lander is steadily growing, and administrators say it’s been difficult to find housing for new students. 

Wyoming Catholic College President Kevin Roberts says enrollment is currently at 150 students. That’s up from 110 a few years back.

"What we’ve seen in the last 3 years is record enrollment growth," says Roberts. "Each freshman class has been larger than the previous one."

Courtesy Sherman Indian High School

This is part two of a series. Listen to part one here.

At the start of his senior year at Wyoming Indian High School, Tim O’Neal was struggling.

“I was just drinking, partying, trying to be cool,” says O’Neal. “It messed with my schoolwork. My whole class schedule—all seven classes—I was failing and there was no way I could make up the grades, so I just asked my parents if I would be able to go to a boarding school.”

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