Whether you love embattled Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill or loath her, most people can agree on a few key points.
First, Hill may have been just the most recent in a line of many mediocre-to-bad superintendents who have led the Wyoming Department of Education.
And with high staff turnover and little institutional memory, it's hard to know how much to rely on recent information generated by the department.
Moreover, recent legislative auditing reports suggest programs with problems, money not allocated or spent correctly, and repeated attempts at ignoring legislative mandates.
Trying to figure exactly what's going on with the Wyoming Department of Education is like trying to unravel the world's biggest ball of twine.
If we're going to make substantial improvement moving forward in Wyoming's classrooms, we must first get a baseline established for the Wyoming Department of Education. We must get an accurate picture of where the department can be leveraged for the benefit of students, where it needs help, and a baseline so the expectations are ambitious but achievable.
Lawmakers, the public and even school officials throughout the state might not know exactly what is happening with the department, what they can expect, or what the department can truly handle and manage.
That's why we believe the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars -- $150,000 to be exact -- on what amounts to a forensic audit is absolutely essential.
Moreover, we agree with lawmakers that an outside, independent auditing team must come in for an evaluation in order for an audit to withstand public scrutiny which might continue to accuse government auditors of politicking.
The audit can then be used to establish a baseline performance. We hope the end of Hill's stormy tenure will mark a low point in the department. But how will Wyoming residents know exactly where that point will is unless we find out the level of function -- or dysfunction?
Whoever will fill the permanent position of director of the Wyoming Department of Education needs to make sure they have a firm accounting of exactly how the department is structured and its history. Jim Rose, the current interim director, or the first permanent director shouldn't have to spend the first months trying to understand the messy history that has become the department.
Instead, a new leader can focus on the future, knowing comfortably where improvements must be made.
For those Hill supporters who see her ouster as the leader of the department as nothing more than political payback, an audit, despite the pricetag, should also be welcome. If, as they've claimed, Hill was the victim of lawmaker retribution, then an audit should clear her and help the lawsuit she's filed, claiming her removal was unconstitutional.
We have a hard time believing that two professional legislative auditors, as well as a fairly large number of defections from the department, aren't indicative of deep systemic problems exacerbated by Hill who seemed to relish any opportunity to ignore legislative mandates.
No matter how you look at it, this audit will ensure the people of Wyoming get to the bottom of the Wyoming Department of Education. And that's what we hope -- that we've already hit the bottom and from this point on, we'll be moving forward.
But we won't know until we do our homework.