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

Wyoming Department of Education

The Every Student Succeeds Act -- or ESSA -- shifted education authority from the federal government to states and local districts, leaving behind the controversial No Child Left Behind Act. But under ESSA, states are still required to demonstrate to the U.S. Department of Education all students have access to an adequate education.

 

The Wyoming Department of Education submitted its ESSA plan in September. Last week, it received a letter from the federal government asking for more information on several points before approval can be given.

Tennessee Watson

 

This holiday season, the Wyoming Public Radio news team is sharing stories about memories and traditions that stand out to them. For education reporter Tennessee Watson, Christmas is a story about the birth of a baby into tenuous and uncertain circumstances. But it’s also about how another kind of world is possible. At least that’s what she figured out one memorable Christmas, over a decade ago, in Mexico.

Screenshot from the APA Consulting survey

Leading up to the 2018 budget session, Wyoming lawmakers hired education consultants to study the school funding model.

 

The idea was to find ways the state can save money while still meeting its constitutional obligation to provide all students with a proper education. The consultants have released a 552-page draft of their recommendations and they’re taking public feedback through an online survey.

 

Wyoming Department of Health

Nearly 3,000 kids in Wyoming have access to a highly subsidized health insurance through a program called Kid Care CHIP operated by the Wyoming Department of Health. Those kids could lose that coverage as soon as April, if Congress does not re-authorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Plan.

 

Associated Students University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming’s student government is ramping up accountability for groups on campus. A new policy implemented this fall suspends registered student organizations from ASUW funding if found in violation of financial policies.

 

The first group to be suspended under the new policy was the UW chapter of Turning Point USA. The group brought Dennis Prager, conservative radio personality, to speak on campus this fall.

 

Map from pixabay.com Image by Tennessee Watson

Consultants hired by the state legislature to help Wyoming bring efficiencies to the school funding model are asking lawmakers to consider adding a voluntary pre-K program for 4-year-olds.

The consultants found that investing in early childhood education could reduce K-12 resource needs in the long run, like more expensive interventions required for closing achievement gaps with older students. Wyoming is one of seven states without a statewide preschool program.

www.flickr.com/photos/mujitra/5232270530

Parents are only slightly more comfortable talking with their kids about money than about the birds and the bees. That’s according to John Pelletier, who directs Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy.

He said kids need to learn financial skills somewhere, but “the reality is for 80 percent of adults and 80 percent of students who are in high school, they are going to learn through the school of hard knocks.”

wikipedia.org

Five classrooms in Wyoming are being recognized nationally for inspiring change in their local communities through the creative use of STEAM education, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

 

Tennessee Watson

Nicole Rapp is the principal at Crest Hill Elementary School in Casper. Last February, she took a road trip with some of her staff to Sheridan to see one of the state’s highest-performing districts in action.

“Our excitement when we got back in that car that day to drive back to Casper was just wow. It is different," Rapp said.   

She said that’s because Sheridan School District #2 uses the Professional Learning Community model—or PLC—where teachers and administrators work in collaborative teams to support student learning.

Content from the Branding Iron. Layout by Tennessee Watson

An interaction between the UW Police Department and the UW student newspaper has prompted the university to clarify its policy regarding the rights and obligations of student journalists.

 

In a November 3 article, Branding Iron reporter Destiny Irwin reported on allegations that an unnamed resident assistant sexually assaulted women in a dorm. Irwin quoted Resident Assistant Rachel MacDonald, who said the incidents caused Residence Life to change its hiring practices.

 

Wyoming Department of Education

Governor Matt Mead signed an official proclamation Tuesday recognizing December 4 through 11 as Computer Science Education Week in Wyoming, as a part of his effort to make computer science a K-12 academic requirement.

 

“I would like to see coding at every grade level,” Governor Mead said at the proclamation.

 

He also acknowledged that the idea might be met with hesitation given the financial challenges public education is facing.  

 

APA Consulting

Wyoming is proud of its small schools that serve kids across rugged and remote terrain. But lawmakers and educators are weighing whether small schools and small districts are financially sustainable.

 

At a meeting of the Select Committee for School Finance Recalibration last week, education consultants hired by the state legislature presented consolidation as a way to increase course offerings and extracurricular activities.

 

Design by Tennessee Watson

Wyoming lawmakers are coming at shortfalls in education funding from multiple directions as they head into the 2018 Budget Session. Through the work of interim legislative committees, they are looking for efficiencies in education and ways of generating revenue, hoping to meet somewhere in the middle.

Willow Belden

  

A Wyoming legislative committee has been looking to trim education spending out of what is called the school funding model. A Denver-based consulting firm is in the process of reviewing the model to determine how much actually needs to be spent on education in the state.

Tennessee Watson

Lawmakers met in Casper this week to examine the current school funding model and to hear recommendations from APA, a Denver-based education consulting firm hired to help the state find efficiencies in education funding.

Wyoming Education Association

Teachers often spend their own money on classroom supplies. Currently, they can be repaid up to $250 of that through a federal tax deduction. But, that’s now up for debate in Congress. The Senate GOP tax plan would double the deduction to $500, but the House plan cuts it all together.

 

Kathy Vetter, president of the Wyoming Education Association, said the deduction is an important vote of support for teachers.

 

The state legislature’s Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration has spent the last several months working with a group of Denver-based education consultants to review Wyoming’s approach to education funding. They’re hoping to find ways to save money.

 

But Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss said time is tight. This week he and his fellow committee members will meet in Casper for the second to last time before the 2018 Legislative Session begins in February.  

 

Jessica Flock

For some, Black Friday is about shopping and holiday sales, but the social media campaign #optoutside encouraged people to spend the day playing outdoors instead. Dewey Gallegos, co-owner of the Pedal House Bike Shop in Laramie, has closed his doors and participated in #optoutside for the last three years, including this one.

 

This past Friday, he offered a free mountain bike demo on a newly opened public trail system on the eastern edge of town.

 

Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies

With Thanksgiving comes images of heaping piles of food, but one in eight Wyomingites struggle with hunger and uncertainty about the source of their next meal. The Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies counts more than 20,000 children and 14 percent of seniors in the state as being affected by hunger and poverty.

 

Shanna Harris, who directs the food bank, said when families are struggling to cover multiple expenses, food is often the first item to take a cut.

 

The WYO Theater Facebook page

The WYO Theater has been a mainstay of downtown Sheridan for decades, hosting live theater, music, and films. Now, after a series of renovations in neighboring buildings, the theater is part of the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center.

Tennessee Watson

Students walked out of class at the University of Wyoming Monday to draw attention to the administration’s handling of sexual assault. The organizers believe the school should be doing more, so they drafted a letter to UW President Laurie Nichols outlining a list of actions that should be taken to improve safety on campus.

 

This follows a recent report of sexual assault by an unknown perpetrator in a UW parking lot.

 

Sheridan College

In late September, two Native American women enrolled at Sheridan College were the target of multiple incidents of racist hate speech. Thursday, Sheridan College President Paul Young announced an action plan to address inclusion and safety for all students on campus.

 

Wyoming Legislature

Wyoming’s energy sector seems to be bouncing back, but years of uncertainty have prompted lawmakers to take a look at spending. For the last eight months, a legislative committee has been trying to wrap their heads around the true cost of K-12 education.

Senator Dave Kinskey is part of that effort, and he’s become well known for saying he wants to see Wyoming get the most bang for the buck. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tennessee Watson visited Kinskey in Sheridan to ask him what that means.

Tennessee Watson

The University of Wyoming Police received a report that a woman was tackled and sexually assaulted by an unknown suspect walking across the East Stadium parking lot Friday evening.

 

According to a statement issued by UW, the victim would like to remain anonymous at this time, but evidence has been collected should the victim choose to make a formal report in the future.

Photo by Cqfx via CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

For six hours a day for the last five days straight, volunteers have read off the names of the six million Jewish and five million other victims of the Nazi regime, as a part of Holocaust Remembrance Week at the University of Wyoming. But the week also wrapped up with a letter from President Laurie Nichols to the campus, addressing recent issues of free speech and inclusiveness at UW.

 

WyoTech

For over 50 years, students from Wyoming and across the country have come to Laramie to learn automotive skills. But on November 8, the Zenith Education Group, which owns colleges across the country announced plans to close 21 campuses, including WyoTech.

Tennessee Watson

November 8 is the first annual First-Generation College Celebration. The national event recognizes the anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, and honors the achievements of first-generation students.

Around 30 percent of college and university students are the first in their family to pursue higher education. Research says first-generation students are significantly less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than their non-first-generation peers.  

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