Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill denounced the Governor's Inquiry Team report that examined her stewardship of the state Department of Education in a chapter-by-chapter response that her office released on Tuesday.
One of the hottest topics reported by the inquiry team focused on Hill's use of funds designated for student testing and assessment that were used for the Teacher-to-Teacher training program. In the release, Hill contended it was not a mismanagement of funds even though the Legislature barred her from running the program in the 2012 budget. Hill said the use of the money on the program fulfilled the Legislature’s wishes.
“The confusion created by the footnote regarding segregation and dedication of funding was the subject of review by [the state Department of Administration and Information] and the Governor’s office, both of which agreed that the amounts set aside for Education Testing and Assessment were properly calculated and properly applied throughout 2012,” according to the release.
The governor’s inquiry also accuses Hill of abusing her privilege of using the state’s plane by asking department employees to come along with her on trips so that the plane would be full and its use would be warranted. The inquiry also accuses Hill of using the plane for nondepartment business by stopping at a country club in Jackson Hole while department employees were left waiting for her.
“It is clearly part of the Superintendent’s duties are to inform the public as to educational matters. The trip to Jackson Hole about which so much discussion has ensued, clear fits within the duties of the Superintendent although the meeting with members of the public was a mere ancillary activity,” the release states. “As to the second concern, it is unclear why those persons who traveled failed to do their jobs when on site in the districts as clearly that is what was expected of them and it is equally unclear why they agreed to travel if they did not intend to work once they arrived.”
Hill's rebuttal also accused the Legislature of creating “inconsistencies” between the Wyoming Department of Education’s accountability plan and what was written into law by legislators. The conflict stemmed from an external accountability plan adopted by lawmakers after they realized that the superintendent was in charge of creating accountability programs and assessing them as well—a situation many lawmakers found to be a potential conflict of interest.
“The WDE moved forward to create a model that integrated achievement, measured growth, (progression over time), demonstrated college and career readiness,” according to the release. “The model was supposed to address equity; there was no clear guidance regarding how to measure equity. The legislators had adopted a 90-page whitepaper by reference and there were inconsistencies between what the law said and what the whitepaper said. There were discussions of ways to address those issues and problems and discussions of equity. WDE moved forward to build the model even though they weren’t sure exactly what the legislature or whitepaper wanted.”
Hill’s release also rebuked statements from one department employee interviewed in the inquiry report who suggested that Hill did not support external accountability.
“The suggestion that [Hill] doesn’t support external accountability comes from a comment by one of the participants at a staff meeting being recorded on a discussion panel,” according to the press release. “The reporter of the comment [Gail Eisenhauer] admits she did not attend the meeting and therefore does not know how the note on the board came into existence.”
Check with the Star-Tribune for the complete story later today.