LCSD1 Administration Building FILE 6-1-21

The Laramie County School District 1 Administration Building is seen June 1, 2021, in Cheyenne. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – The Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution Monday night encouraging transparency in the education system.

It affirms a commitment to upholding state standards, teaching the essentials of the United States Constitution and the Wyoming Constitution and making curriculum materials easily accessible to the public.

Trustees Christy Klaassen and Marguerite Herman drafted the resolution together in response to an invitation from the Wyoming School Boards Association. The organization is asking for local school boards to submit resolutions which will be considered for future legislative and legal guidelines.

The resolution has been passed in LCSD1, but there are multiple steps to go through and possible amendments to be made in the upcoming weeks. The Board of Directors for the Wyoming School Boards Association will vote on it next, and, if passed, it will go to the delegate assembly, made up of school board members from across the state.

“In voting tonight,” said Klaassen, “I’m hopeful that it will help to further instill trust in our efforts to be transparent and accountable, and to affirm that we have heard the concerns of the community.”

Trustees have been witness to lengthy public comment at board meetings over the past few months, with parents sharing their frustrations about the board’s decisions. Many have said they continue to feel as though the board does not listen to their input.

The two decisions that have caused the most frustration and questioning of the board’s authority have been the requirement that students and staff wear face masks on school property and the implementation of the Wit and Wisdom reading comprehension program.

The need for transparency and accountability can apply to both of those decisions, but community members have mainly expressed a lack of openness in regards to the materials in the new reading program. Some parents feel they do not have enough access to the curriculum, and they also consider the topics within the books assigned to be too closely aligned with critical race theory or age-inappropriate topics.

“Put our kids first and quit instilling hate,” one parent told board members at Monday night’s school board meeting.

Concerns such as these are not only being addressed in district board meetings, but now in the state Legislature. Last month, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow showed her support for a draft bill called the Civics Transparency Act, which is designed to fight against critical race theory being taught in Wyoming classrooms.

It shares parallel themes with the resolution passed Monday night in reference to transparency, state standards and a desire to include “a fair and historically accurate history of race-based discrimination, while also recognizing the significant progress made to end such practices in pursuit of the ideals enshrined in our Constitution and all governing documents.”

Yet however many similarities it shares in sentiment to the draft legislation, Klaassen said the resolution is not tied to critical race theory or the Wit and Wisdom reading comprehension program. She said she had been considering the need for transparency and accountability before these issues arose, and the offer extended by the Wyoming School Boards Association for boards to introduce resolutions was an opportunity to address it.

Klaassen said this was a way to stand in solidarity with some of the board’s constituents, who felt as though their worries weren’t being given enough weight.

But she was not the only member of the board to have a say in the resolution. Herman also helped draft the resolution during a work session last week, and although she agreed with the main themes included in the document, her intention was different.

She said she sees the resolution as a statement opposite to that of the Civics Transparency Act, because it alludes to local school districts continuing to have control over the curriculum.

It is not specifically outlined in the resolution. The only reference to local districts is in the portion of text that says “the Wyoming School Boards Association encourages local school districts to make these materials readily available to the public.”

But Herman said this is enough to explicitly imply the power to make decisions on how to uphold standards in curriculums is at the district level. She does not agree with the Legislature taking steps to have a say in education standards, and she said it should be left to the State Board of Education to review and make adjustments.

“It’s not a divergence,” she said. “It’s a different emphasis.”

Klaassen does not share this intention, but said the suggestions made by Herman throughout the entire resolution made it stronger. They are both advocates for transparency and came together to address different needs in Wyoming education.

The trustees ended the rationale with, “This resolution supports the transparency and accountability necessary to instill trust in our efforts to fight racial discrimination while promoting education that elevates our founding ideals.”

Jasmine Hall is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s education reporter. She can be reached by email at jhall@wyomingnews.com or by phone at 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter @jasminerhphotos and on Instagram @jhrose25.

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