- Associated Press - Thursday, November 6, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Jillian Balow, who was elected Wyoming’s new state schools superintendent this week, is looking to rebuild the state Education Department and bring stability to a K-12 education system that has been beset by political turmoil for nearly four years.

“And when we say rebuild, it’s not from the ground up,” Balow said. “It’s really leveraging the great things that are happening. … It’s really evaluating the state of the Department of Education right now and making some determinations to rebuild the stability of the department and make sure that our purpose and function is clear and transparent.”

Balow, a Republican, defeated Democrat Mike Ceballos in Tuesday’s election.

Balow is now an administrator for the Department of Family Services. A former teacher, she previously worked as an administrator in the Education Department, leaving after Cindy Hill was elected superintendent.

She will replace Hill, whose term has been beset with court battles and threats of impeachment over how she has run the state Education Department. Hill was removed last year as head of the department and replaced by an appointed director, but the state Supreme Court ordered Hill’s former duties restored earlier this year.

Hill made an unsuccessful bid for governor this year instead of seeking re-election.

Balow said the Education Department is doing good work now but has lost many valuable employees over the last few years. The drain of institutional knowledge forced some districts will require rebuilding, she said.

“The historical knowledge is gone in some areas, and we’ll be reaching into school districts to fill some of those gaps,” Balow said.

Balow said her main vision for the department is to work with and support local school districts, make sure state school funding is distributed appropriately and advocate for a quality K-12 education system.

“School districts I think will see a much better partnership,” she said.

Gov. Matt Mead, who was re-elected on Tuesday, said Thursday that he believes Balow will be able to work with districts, his office and the Legislature.

“I think Superintendent-elect Balow is going to hit the ground running and is going to recognize that in that role over there, that it’s a partnership,” Mead, who supported removing Hill from the Education Department, said. “To get things done you have to have a partnership with the governor’s office, and a partnership with the Legislature. That doesn’t mean we always have to agree, but we have to find ways to get answers that are helpful to local districts in a cooperative fashion.”

Mead said he believes K-12 education will improve over the next four years with Balow heading the Education Department, the Legislature pursuing accountability and the state continuing its strong financial support.

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