- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The two candidates for Wyoming’s top education chief debated the attributes needed for the job during a forum.

Both candidates, Republican Jillian Balow and Democrat Mike Ceballos, fielded a series of questions in Thursday’s debate. The event was part of a series moderated by the Wyoming League of Women Voters.

The tone of the debate was cordial, with little back-and-forth between the candidates.

However, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports (http://bit.ly/10rxlJ8 ) that there were some points of contention regarding what is needed from the next superintendent.

“This job is too important to entrust to someone who hasn’t had boots-on-the-ground experience in education,” Balow said. “It’s absolutely essential to elect a state superintendent with comprehensive experience in education and leadership.”

She said she has the background in education, along with leadership skills and the ability to manage a large budget.

“We do not have time for on-the-job training, and I’m well equipped to hit the ground running on day one without that training,” Balow, a former teacher who now works as an administrator with the Department of Family Services, said.

Ceballos, a retired telephone company executive, disagreed with her points.

“We continue to talk about experience, and what the district administrators and educators are telling me is that this job doesn’t need a teacher,” he said. “What it needs is a proven leader and an experienced person.”

He has more experience as a leader and has managed larger organizations and budgets, he said.

“Ms. Balow talks about her experience, but what it amounts to in leadership is two years in the current job she’s been working,” he said. “What I believe this job needs is leadership that has been proven over time, and that’s what I’ve done for the last 18 years.”

Both candidates are running for superintendent for the first time. Incumbent State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill ran and lost a bid for governor.

Additionally, the candidates were asked how their personal agendas would influence their work at the department once elected and how they planned to make up for some of the turnover in staffing the department has experienced.

Ceballos said the department is no place for an agenda just from the superintendent.

“Part of the issue that we have to focus on is, who do we serve?” he said. “What our focus really has to be, if we’re going to be successful, is on those districts.”

While the department can have a philosophy on education, the actual work of education needs to be grounded in what districts say they want, he said.

To restore department staffing, he said he would look into “loaned executives,” or getting help from people in the districts. While there are many good people at the department, they don’t all have a depth of experience.

Balow said her convictions and agenda come from her background in education.

“My personal convictions come from spending my life dedicated to children, families and communities in our state,” she said.

Her agenda, she said, would be to depoliticize the state education system.

Within the department, there needs to be restructuring, she said.

“I know there to be excellent people at the Department of Education,” she said. “I also know there are excellent people out in school districts who would be willing to help with those efforts either by serving on cabinets, or I would like to borrow some of our professionals from school districts to help build the knowledge and historical capacity.”

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

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Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com

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