CASPER, Wyo. — Two groups are asking the Wyoming State Board of Education for almost $348,000 to support professional development for teachers and administrators.
The contract requests are in response to a state law passed during the last legislative session that tasks the Education Department with developing a statewide system of support for education.
The Wyoming Education Association and the newly created Wyoming Center for Educational Leadership, located within the University of Wyoming's College of Education, have issued proposals.
The Wyoming Center for Educational Leadership is requesting about $264,000 to support professional development for school administrators.
The organization launched in the last year with the intention of filling a perceived hole within Wyoming's K-12 system. While professional development opportunities abounded for teachers, founders felt that similar opportunities in the state were lacking for school leaders.
WyCel, as it's called, wants about $189,000 to pilot a new program known as the ECHO project. The program provides online training for school administrators, a sort of academy for principals and other leaders.
The classes could be broadcasted from the UW campus. Specifics haven't been established. But lessons would include weekly sessions with education experts. Administrators would review recent research and case studies and participate in question and answer sessions.
The group also is asking for $75,000 to train mentors and coaches throughout the 2015-16 school year who would provide support. According to the proposal, the money would fund training for 25 mentors and at least five trainers.
The other group, the Wyoming Association of School Administrators, is asking the board for $84,000 to bring a speaker around the state for two weeks to talk about changing school culture.
Under the plan, Anthony Muhammad, an author and CEO of a Michigan-based education consulting firm, would travel to different districts discussing how to make schools a more positive, collaborative workplace.
Muhammad's going rate is $6,000 per day.
Dicky Shanor, the education department's chief of staff, called Muhammad "a guru" when it comes to developing learning communities.
Professional learning communities — or collaborating groups of educators — are largely thought of as one of the most effective ways to bring results to schools.
Board member Kathryn Sessions said she was excited to hear about the planning, but she raised concerns about hiring Muhammad.
"Professional learning communities are one step, one entity that you can create within your school system that can bring some of these things around," she said, referring to school performance.
"But I do have a question: If Dr. Muhammad comes to your school system, please tell me what he does ... Does he just speak to your teachers? Does he hold workshops at different levels? Tell me what he does specifically, to be real honest, that would cost $6,000 a day?" she said.
"I've listened to too many people in education get up and speak to a room full of people and you leave with nothing," she concluded.
In addition, the state is soliciting proposals from vendors to develop and implement a strategic plan for the new statewide system of support. The state is also looking to hire consultants who will act as district coaches to boost school improvements.
Shanor said each project will cost around $120,000, bringing the total to roughly $600,000. Since the state allocated $750,000 for the project, Shanor said there will be some "wiggle room" if something comes up down the road and the board finds they need to change the system.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said the support system had been presented to the board in a piecemeal fashion up until Wednesday. She wanted to bring the two groups and the board together so that they could ask questions that could be answered during the next meeting.
Members of the board will revisit the proposals during their Aug. 13 meeting.