Tennessee Watson

Education Reporter

Phone: 307-766-5064
Email: twatso17@uwyo.edu

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-­producing Wage/Working (a jukebox­-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.

Ways to Connect

Tennessee Watson / Wyoming Public Radio

Wyoming is in the process of changing what it takes to get a high school diploma, or what’s more formally known as Chapter 31 rules. In 2015, legislation did away with a tiered diploma system in favor of a more streamlined approach. It’s been a three-year process but the Wyoming Department of Education is hopeful the rules will go into place this summer.

https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5836/

The Badger Creek Fire in southern Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest was downgraded to a Type 3 incident Thursday. That means the fire is less intense and requires less personnel. The fire, which started on June 10 caused the evacuation of several mountain communities. 

https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/

The Wyoming Broadband Advisory Council meets for the first time next week. The Wyoming Legislature created the council during the 2018 session as a part of an effort to increase access to high-speed internet in unserved areas of the state.

Wyoming Department of Education

The Wyoming Department of Education is currently taking public comment on the Hathaway scholarship, following changes made to the program during the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions.

USDA

Summer break means no tests and no homework, but for low-income kids, that can mean one less meal a day. Over 20 million kids in the U.S. are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals during the regular school year. 

Layout by Tennessee Watson

School staff in Wyoming can now carry concealed weapons, on a district by district basis. A bill passed during the 2017 state legislative session gave school boards the power to decide if guns should be a part of security protocol. So far two communities, Cody and Evanston, have taken advantage of the new law. But in Evanston people like Sheila McGuire are pushing back.

UW Board of Trustees June 13, 2018 Report

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees approved close to a $500 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. That budget includes a $5.5 million allocation for salary adjustments. Eligible staff will see a pay bump in their August paycheck. 

inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5836/

At over 5,000 acres as of Wednesday morning, the Badger Creek Fire continues to grow near the Medicine Bow National Forest in southern Wyoming close to the Colorado border.

Wyoming State Board of Education

Summer break is in full swing, and across Wyoming, high school graduates are rejoicing their accomplishments and preparing for what's next. But who determines what it takes to get that diploma? Wyoming Public Radio's education reporter Tennessee Watson reached out to the Wyoming State Board of Education, who selected vice chair Sue Belish to talk about how statewide standards get created. 

Northern Wyoming Community College District

Northern Wyoming Community College District has announced its campus in Gillette will now be under new leadership. Janell Oberlander has been selected as the new vice president and CEO for Gillette College, replacing Mark Englert.

Wyoming schools are a place of linguistic diversity, and students whose primary language is other than English are guaranteed access to the same academic content as their peers.

The Wyoming Department of Education tracks the progress of English Learners (EL), and provides online resources and face-to-face workshops to support districts.

WDE Consultant Antoinette Hallam said the state has seen a steady increase in such students over the last decade.

“We have about 28 – or 58 percent – of our districts with an increase,” said Hallam.

Tennessee Watson / Wyoming Public Radio

The University of Wyoming Faculty Senate, the administration and the Board of Trustees have reached an agreement on changes to regulations regarding how the university will respond to financial challenges in the future.

WyoTech

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has agreed to provide a $5 million loan to a private group to keep Laramie’s WyoTech open. The previous owners had planned to close the automotive college. During the 2018 budget session the state legislature supported efforts to keep the school open.

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights are conducting interviews this week at the University of Wyoming. They’re following up on complaint filed in 2017 by a student who said her report of sexual assault to UW was not handled properly.

 

Tennessee Watson

Starting next fall, students at the University of Wyoming should find it easier to sequence classes without conflict and complete their degrees.

Tennessee Watson

When the University of Wyoming trustees met last week, the campus was abuzz with concern about proposed changes to the authority of the board. What the administration is calling a routine update to university regulations was seen by some as a power grab that would give trustees the ability to more easily eliminate academic programs and ax faculty.

WICHE

Efforts to increase the number of people in the state with advanced degrees has earned Wyoming support from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).

Economic Policy Institute

In honor of Mother’s Day, and with Father’s Day right around the corner, children, young and old, will pause to thank their parents for the sacrifices they’ve made. Across the country, child care is one of the biggest expenses families face. It can cost more to put an infant in daycare than it costs to send an 18-year-old to college. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tennessee Watson spoke with Linda Barton from the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance about access to child care in the state.

Tennessee Watson / Wyoming Public Radio

Uinta County School District #1 passed a policy in March that allows staff to carry guns in schools as a safety measure. But at this week’s meeting, the board was presented with a petition calling for a halt to implementation of the policy, which is currently set to take effect in July.

Despite warnings from President Laurie Nichols and her staff last June the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees voted to transfer close to $140 million in cash into reserve accounts. The cash was pulled from individual campus units like colleges and departments.

A focus on the educational needs of foster kids increased with the implementation of Every Student Succeeds: the federal act that replaced No Child Left Behind. The new guidelines required Wyoming school districts to implement foster care plans. Districts now have foster care liaisons and collaborative agreements with local representatives from the Department of Family Services (DFS).

Wyoming Community Colleges/ENDOW/University of Wyoming

Less than half of adults in Wyoming have completed education beyond high school, but Governor Matt Mead says for the sake of Wyoming’s economy that must change. In fact, his first executive order of 2018 called for 67 percent of Wyomingites to have advanced degrees by 2025. To address achievement gaps and to encourage underserved populations like first-generation college students and adult learners to pursue higher education, the governor's economic diversification committee ENDOW recommends the creation of a need-based state financial aid program

Tennessee Watson / Wyoming Public Radio

On the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High school shooting, students at Laramie High School joined young people across the country who walked out to make their voices heard on gun reform.  

Katie Kvenild was the first student in her 9th grade biology to stand up and head towards the door for the 10 am walk out. She said despite her strong commitment to her beliefs, she was still nervous.

University of Wyoming NO MORE

The #metoo movement might have given the impression that disclosures of sexual violence are more out in the open. But Matt Gray, a clinical psychology professor, says in actuality very few survivors officially report what they’ve experienced, and that’s true at the University of Wyoming as well. Tennessee Watson spoke with Professor Gray, who recently completed a campus climate survey looking at the prevalence of sexual misconduct on campus.

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