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

Chair and umbrella from Pixabay. Design by Tennessee Watson

Summer school might sound like a punishment, but according to Karen Bierhaus from the Wyoming Department of Education, it often provides opportunities for students to learn in more creative and engaging ways.

However, due to changes in the school funding model during the 2017 Wyoming Legislative session, funding through the Wyoming Bridges Program for summer and extended day programs no longer exists.

By United_States_Capitol_-_west_front.jpg: Architect of the Capitolderivative work: O.J. - United_States_Capitol_-_west_front.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17800708
courtesy of Randy Haas

A summer hike up to a 13,000-foot alpine meadow can be exhilarating. But what if you decided to stay up there for the rest of your life? The lack of oxygen, frigid temperatures, and sparse vegetation would make it tough. Archaeologists know hunter-gatherers traversed highland areas thousands of years ago, but presumed they also had to spend time in lowland areas in order to survive.

That idea is now being challenged by a team of researchers at the University of Wyoming who have made a rare discovery.

University of Wyoming Staff Senate

Representatives from the University of Wyoming Staff Senate met with President Laurie Nichols Friday to ask for what they say is a much needed overhaul to the staff compensation system.

 

Staff Senate President Rachel Stevens said base level salaries have not increased since 2008 and UW staff earn less than their counterparts at other state agencies.

Tennessee Watson

The State Board of Education approved full accreditation for 46 of Wyoming’s 48 school districts, and all 13 institutional schools for the coming school year.

Tom Sasche, the board’s coordinator, said the annual process helps ensure districts are meeting established standards and showing improvement.

“In addition to the statewide assessment system and the accountability system, Wyoming participates in something called the Advanc-Ed Accreditation Process,” said Sasche.  

Wyoming Education Association

Issues facing students, schools and the teaching profession are being addressed this week at the National Education Association’s Annual Meeting in Boston. Kathy Vetter, President of the Wyoming Education Association, has joined close to 8,000 educators from every state to exchange ideas about how to improve education.

 

Yellowstone Recreations Foundation

Kids in the Cody area will soon have more recreational opportunities thanks to $250,000 grant from the Daniels Fund. The grant was written by the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation in collaboration with various community organizations. Amy Woods, the Foundation Manager and Grant Writer for the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation, said the grant was written with a focus on winter recreation.

“Seeing as how we are in winter 12 months out of the year, it seems, that’s a huge area where youth programs can thrive, and we just need the funding to do it,” Woods said.

Wyoming Public Media

The University of Wyoming does a good job graduating students with developed critical thinking skills, according to a new report by the Wall Street Journal.  Out of 100 public colleges and universities who participated in the study, UW ranks 14th.  

 

Aaron Schrank

A funding crisis brought on by a downturn in the coal industry has left policy makers struggling to figure out how to fund education. This year school districts took a hit of $34 million to their operating budgets.

 

That’s primarily money for teachers and staff, as well as materials and supplies. But the funding for school construction and maintenance is also running out.

 

PBS

Wyoming is one of 45 states that officially celebrates Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the freedom of African-American slaves in the United States.

Even though President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, abolishing slavery, in 1862, it was three years later on June 19th, 1865 when slaves in Texas received word of their freedom. Celebrations of this day became known as Juneteenth.

In 2003 the state legislature passed a bill dedicating the third Saturday of every June to honor this historic moment.

Native American Student Summit

Historically, many say the University of Wyoming has not been a supportive place for Native American students. In 2015, the UW Bookstore falsely accused several visiting Native American high schoolers of shoplifting during a recruitment visit. And a general lack of support has caused some tribal students like UW senior Mia Holt to feel unwelcome.  

 

The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Wyoming’s child well-being rank dropped from 12th to 27th nationally according to this year’s Kids Count Data Book put out by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Samin Dadelahi is the Chief Operating Officer for the Wyoming Community Foundation, which provided some of the data. She said since the newest report uses data from 2015, what the lower ranking reflects is the impact of Wyoming’s economic downturn on kids.

What do parents think about Wyoming’s K thru 12 education system? At a time when the state is adopting new guidelines laid out by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and policymakers are considering major funding shortfalls, Sheila McGuire, president of the Wyoming Parent Teacher Association, spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Tennessee Watson, about why the parent voice is so critical. 

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.

Pages