- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Saying he’s confident the political controversy over the duties of the state superintendent of public instruction office will be resolved, Mike Ceballos announced Tuesday he is seeking the Democratic nomination to become the next state schools chief.

A retired telephone company executive from Cheyenne, Ceballos said he became involved in education issues during his business career and said the business principles and values he has learned would be useful as superintendent.

“Ultimately you really had to talk about how can you create a sense of stability when there’s sometimes chaos working,” he said.

There has been plenty of chaos in Wyoming’s education system lately.

Concerned about how current Republican Superintendent Cindy Hill had been running the Wyoming Department of Education since she was elected in 2010, the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Matt Mead enacted a law last year removing the superintendent as head of the agency in favor of a director appointed by the governor.

A legislative committee has been investigating whether Hill committed any impeachable offenses when she managed the agency in 2011-12. It has heard testimony of possible nepotism, misuse of federal money and an effort to hide information from the Legislature. Hill has denied any wrongdoing.

The panel has suspended its investigation while the Legislature meets during its budget session.

The superintendent remained one of five statewide elected positions but with far fewer duties under the new law.

Hill filed a lawsuit, and a divided Wyoming Supreme Court ruled last month in her favor, saying the law was unconstitutional because it left the superintendent with too few duties.

Despite the decision, there remains much uncertainty, both legally and politically, about the superintendent’s office.

The state has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision, and lawmakers say a special session of the Legislature may be needed to address how to comply if the ruling stands.

Asked about the court’s decision, Ceballos said, “I don’t know about the legal issues, but from a practical perspective you do want your top elected office to really have form and not just be a figurehead.”

But he said he’s confident that lawmakers will work with the courts and “we’ll see some modifications that I would suspect will add responsibilities to this office.”

On the issue of Wyoming adopting the Common Core standards, Ceballos said he understands the concerns about federal meddling into the state’s education system.

“I’ve been involved in the telephone business forever, and I got to tell you I felt some federal overreach there,” he said.

But he said Wyoming shouldn’t allow those concerns to impede attempts to improve its education standards.

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