UP to Laramie County School District 1 officials for filling a new position designed to address discrimination issues after racist and homophobic fliers were found at a local junior high school earlier this year.

Patti Paredes started her new job as the district’s diversity facilitator and coach soon after the Board of Trustees approved her hire on Sept. 16. She takes on a position created as part of the action plan developed by district officials following an internal investigation into the way McCormick Junior High staff handled the situation (which still hasn’t been released to the public, by the way; our lawsuit seeking its release is proceeding through the court system).

The hope is Ms. Paredes will be able to promote equity, diversity and inclusion within the district and provide training for staff. With a background in Title I programs and English as a Second Language in Colorado, as well as being a minority woman herself, we look forward to the perspective she brings to the job in this predominantly white community.

But we also wonder about a comment she made about how she sees her role: “I’m not here to change beliefs or values. It is about educating all of us about the diversity that we have in our school district and building tolerance and inclusiveness so that all members of our community are valued.”

We wish we didn’t have to settle for “tolerance,” and that all people could learn to value others equally. But we understand what Ms. Paredes is saying. We believe she’ll be successful if the blatant discrimination and bullying seen before and during the fliers incident never happens again.

DOWN to state lawmakers for allowing K-12 teacher salaries to lag, making it difficult to attract top talent to Wyoming.

According to an economic consultant’s recent presentation to the Legislature’s Joint Education Interim Committee, though teacher salaries continue to be among the best in the region, they have eroded and fallen flat since the state’s current economic bust began. That has made it difficult to attract quality teachers from neighboring states and other parts of the country.

In fact, in the past decade, the average annual salary for beginning teachers in Wyoming has risen by just a little more than $500, or 0.14%, from $37,017 in 2009-10 to $37,540 in 2019-20, according to reporting by the Gillette News Record. Statewide, in 2018, the National Education Association said the average teacher salary was $58,187, which ranked Wyoming 16th in the country. But in the previous year, salaries had risen an average of 0.1%, which was one of the lowest rates nationally, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

Certainly, some districts in the state – including those with small, remote communities – pay more to attract quality teachers. But according to testimony by superintendents and school board members, state funding hasn’t let K-12 districts keep up with neighboring states.

Before adjourning, the committee decided to recommend the full Legislature give school districts a total of just over $19 million in the form of an External Cost Adjustment during next year’s budget session. We just hope it’s enough to make a difference.

UP to Josephine Carlson, daughter of former city councilman and local Coats for Kids program founder Jim Lynch, and the dozens of volunteers who are helping her make sure her father’s legacy continues.

During the 16th annual giveaway event Oct. 4, Ms. Carlson said she wants the community to know that even though her father passed away in April, she is committed to making sure up to 3,000 coats a year continue to be distributed in the Capital City.

From what we heard at this year’s distribution event at the Depot, it’s abundantly clear the program is needed. We’re just happy to see a group of people is committed to keeping it going.

WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK: Contact us via email at opinion@wyomingnews.com.

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