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

Photo by Gabriel Pollard from Flickr with Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

A growing deficit in funding continues to loom over the K-12 education system in Wyoming. The legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee and Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration came together Monday to work together towards a solution.  Most lawmakers say it will require a combination of cuts and revenue to resolve the deficit. 

Tennessee Watson

In 2015, No Child Left Behind was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act. Known as ESSA, it gives states more authority over K-12 education than they have had in nearly two decades. Now that the two-year transition period is over, ESSA will take effect this fall.

The transition has been met with enthusiasm from Jillian Balow, Superintendent of Public Instruction. She said, “No Child Left Behind was very punitive in nature.” 

Tennessee Watson

A $462 million operating budget has been approved by the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees for the coming year, which incorporates the most recent $21.8 million reductions in state funding. With uncertainty about whether more cuts are to come, the trustees took measures to transition the university to a more centralized financial system, designed to give officials more control of revenues and expenditures.

 

University of Wyoming Extension

If you’re looking for a way to spice up your summer road trips here in Wyoming, there’s a new tool to enjoy landmarks you might otherwise miss.

ExploreWYO is a map-based website — optimized for smartphones — featuring close to 400 videos produced by the University of Wyoming Extension. These 90-second stories dive into little-known-facts about Wyoming’s landscape and culture from wildlife and geology to cattle grazing and energy production.

 

Wyoming Department of Workforce Services

Rural Americans are increasingly educated, but compared with urban areas, they lag behind in the number of adults with college degrees, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But in Wyoming, a local researcher has released an online tool to help workers follow educational paths to local employment.

 

Photo by Tommy Wong. Thought bubble added by Tennessee Watson with use under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

School’s out for summer across Wyoming, but the state Department of Education is offering two free learning initiatives designed to help kids keep up math and reading skills over summer break.

Find a Book Wyoming helps students create custom reading lists to suit their abilities and interests, and set goals for the summer. Barb Marquer from the Wyoming Department of Education, said she doesn’t want kids to consider this school work.  

ENDOW, Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming, logo
ENDOW

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction is concerned that Governor Mead’s executive council focused on diversifying Wyoming’s economy, known as ENDOW, is leaving out K-12 education.

 

Superintendent Jillian Balow made that point recently in a letter to the governor. She said schools should be a part of the economic diversification discussion because public education is one of the largest employers in the state.

 

Photo by Aaron Gilson via Creative Commons 2.0

President Trump’s budget proposal calls for the elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which would save $1.2 billion. But across the country, this program is a primary source of support for after-school and summer programs that serve students in low-income communities.

There are over 50 programs in Wyoming that would be affected. Wyoming Public Radio’s Education Reporter Tennessee Watson spoke with Linda Barton, director of the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance about why summer camp matters.

Tennessee Watson

Jackson, Wyoming is all about extremes. Folks from across the country flock to the mountain town to summit peaks, to ski fresh powder and to party. Athletes are revered for going over the edge, whereas those who fall into addiction are not. But what if the underlying cause of an avalanche death and a drug overdose are one in the same? The Mindstrength Project is taking advantage of that connection.

She's A Runner Girl

Across the country, women outnumber men at the finish lines of running events, and in Laramie, the number of young girls who run is on the rise.

Close to 100 girls will participate in Laramie’s Hapi-ness 5k this year. They are participants in She’s A Runner Girl, a program that physically and mentally prepares girls to complete a 3.1-mile run.

A second grader named Ada said she likes running with all girls. "Because there are no boys to make you sad or anything."

Wyoming Public Media

While budget reductions have many concerned about the University of Wyoming’s decline, the school’s elementary education program was recently ranked number six in the nation by College Choice.

 

The independent online publication placed UW on its list of the "35 Best Elementary Education Degrees for 2017." Scott Chamberlin, head of the UW Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education, said the study in part looked at the reputation of the school and affordability.

The University of Wyoming will now have a representative on the State Board of Education. The Wyoming legislature passed a bill during its last session, granting the University of Wyoming president the power to appoint a nonvoting member to the State Board of Education. The first to serve in this new role is College of Education Dean Ray Reutzel.

University of Wyoming

This week 37 University of Wyoming employees will be notified their position is being eliminated as of June 30. The layoffs are part of a $42 million budget reduction in response to state funding cuts.

The university is eliminating 15 positions in Information Technology, 12 in Academic Affairs, five in the Division of Administration, three in Student Affairs, one in the Office of Governmental and Community Affairs, and one at-large.

John Wilhelm

Listen to the full show here. 

UW Braces For Layoffs

At the May meeting of the Board of Trustees, President Laurie Nichols announced that 37 University of Wyoming staff members would lose their jobs to meet budget cuts. Wyoming Public Radio’s education reporter Tennessee Watson, says folks are worried about how the state’s only public university is holding up.

John Wilhelm

On the eve of graduation weekend, President Laurie Nichols announced to the Board of Trustees that 37 University of Wyoming staff members would lose their jobs to meet budget cuts.

All across campus, staff were working to get the class of 2017 graduated and onto their next venture. But there were questions in the air about how the state’s only public university is holding up.

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees oversaw reductions in both staff and degree programs during its May meeting.

President Laurie Nichols announced to the Board of Trustees on Thursday that 37 university staff will lose their jobs heading into fiscal year 2018. Specific departments facing staff reductions have not been publicly announced, but Nichols told the trustees that notifications will go out next week.

UW Foundation

University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols is working with the UW Foundation to grow the number of scholarships available in an effort to recruit students.

According to UW Foundation president Ben Blalock there is a multitude of scholarships available for declared majors, but not as many dollars available for incoming freshmen that have yet to declare. Blalock said, “this new focus with the president is going to really provide a broader discretion to recruit the best and brightest, but also students who have financial need.”

University of Wyoming

University of Wyoming trustee meetings this week have many on campus awaiting a mixture of bad news and clarity. While a plan for a $10 million budget reduction for fiscal year 2018 was released in November, the details have been murky. To meet the proposed cuts, close to 50 layoffs are on the table, according to UW spokesperson Chad Baldwin.

A report prepared for this week’s meetings has brought more budget cut details to the surface. It shows The Outreach School and Athletics department will see the largest percentage of funding cuts, but no program is left untouched.

Listen to the full show here. 

Wyoming Lawmakers Still Working On Trumpcare

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney helped her party pass a historic bill to unwind Obamacare this week, but its chances of passage in the Senate remain far from certain. Matt Laslo has the story from Washington.

Tennessee Watson

Wyoming Senator Anthony Bouchard has had his share of media attention over the last month for a tense exchange with three University of Wyoming students and a professor. The controversy revolves around a class project about how African-American males are stereotyped as dangerous, which Bouchard said was anti-gun and an example of the one-sided approach to the issue he says is pervasive on campus.  

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming is on the verge of its first round of layoffs due to state funding reductions. This comes after the Wyoming State Legislature voted to cut the university’s biennial budget by $41 million last year.

The first round of budget reductions eliminated close to 300 positions, but according to Chad Baldwin, Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing, those were not layoffs. He said the university has so far accomplished reductions by not filling vacated positions and by offering early retirement incentives.

Tennessee Watson

Wyoming’s K-12 math standards are up for review, and the Wyoming Department of Education is hosting regional meetings to get community input. You don’t need to be a math wiz to weigh in.

Each meeting will begin with a presentation covering how the review process works and will go over the goals and objectives of the standards. And then participants will be asked to respond to a couple of basic questions about why math standards are important, and what the math standards review committee should know as they start the process.

Wyoming Indian High School

This past week, the Wyoming Department of Education held listening sessions at tribal schools to see how the state can better serve Native American families. Rob Black, social studies consultant with the WDE and liaison to the Native American community, said students on the reservation are a vulnerable population. Graduation rates and achievement levels there lag behind non-native communities.

Black said before addressing specific issues the WDE wanted to open up dialogue.

Wyoming Afterschool Alliance

More than 100 people gathered in Riverton on Tuesday for the Statewide Summit on Juvenile Justice hosted by the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance. The summit brought together a diversity of stakeholders — from school staff to after school providers to social workers to prosecutors — to figure out how to keep kids engaged in school and out of the juvenile justice system.

Wyoming Department of Education

The Wyoming Department of Education is seeking public input on how the state should regulate and support school performance. A new federal policy called the Every Student Succeeds Act, which went into law in 2015 and goes into effect for the 2017-2018 school year, aims to ensure equity in education across the United States.

In contrast to No Child Left Behind, power in this act has shifted from the federal government to the states to decide how best to evaluate and improve school performance.

The Wyoming Department of Education is rapidly approaching the deadline to submit the state’s plan to carry out the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which takes full effect for the 2017-2018 school year.  

Signed into law in 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act shifted power from the federal government to the states to decide how best to evaluate and improve school performance.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and this year organizations across the country are focusing on the theme of “Engaging New Voices.” This is work the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault does year round. The coalition links organizations in every Wyoming county.

For example, the Community Safety Network, has for the last 35 years offered services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence. They operate a confidential helpline and a shelter, and they work with survivors to create safety plans.

Listen to the full show here. 

School Funding Is A Tricky Political Equation

Earlier this month, legislators met to take another look at the school funding model and possibly change it. That’s called recalibration. But changing school funding is a tricky business because politics is a big variable in the spending equation. 

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