CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Gov. Matt Mead nominated seven new members — including two former gubernatorial candidates — for the state Board of Education this week.
It was the largest turnover the board had seen in recent memory.
Mead, who took office last month, announced more than 100 other appointments to state boards and commissions, including two new University of Wyoming trustees.
The Wyoming Senate has until early next week to decide whether to approve or reject Mead’s nominations.
The state Board of Education, with seven of 11 appointed seats vacant, will see the most new faces. The 12th member, Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill, is also new, having taken office just last month.
The most well-known names on the governor’s appointment list for the Board of Education are Pete Gosar and Ron Micheli, who ran for governor last year on the Democratic and Republican tickets, respectively.
Mead’s other Board of Education nominees included outgoing Sheridan County School District 1 Superintendent Sue Belish of Ranchester, physical-education and health teacher Kathy Coon of Lusk, Fort Laramie rancher Hugh Hageman, former legislator Scotty Ratliff of Riverton, and Walt Wilcox, principal of Dean Morgan Junior High School in Casper.
Gosar looks forward to the “opportunity to really change the trajectory of people’s lives” and said he would like to address the state’s high dropout rate, support teachers and make the state’s testing system “not so onerous.”
Micheli said he would like for his legislative and executive branch experience to bring “a quality education for our children,” though he said he didn’t have any specific issues he’d like to focus on.
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Both Gosar and Micheli said it was “interesting” that they might be serving together, especially with all the other new faces.
Mary Kay Hill, a longtime legislative liaison with the state Department of Education who now works as Mead’s education policy adviser, said this was the most substantial turnover she’d seen in her 16-year career.
She said the large number of vacancies weren’t because Mead was cleaning house but because a lot of the current members resigned or retired at the same time.
The change comes at a time when the Board of Education has a number of important issues to address, including education standards and deciding what to do with the state’s much-maligned Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students, or PAWS test.
Hill said the new board members will quickly get up to speed on the topics.
“I don’t see an insurmountable amount of information that folks are going to need to have,” she said. “They’re all very bright people.”
Mead also nominated two new UW trustees: attorney John MacPherson of Saratoga and insurance agent Jeff Marsh of Torrington. If confirmed, they would succeed outgoing board members Taylor Haynes and Charles Brown.
No one answered a call to MacPherson’s home on Wednesday; Marsh declined to comment until the Senate votes on his confirmation.
Current UW board members Warren Lauer and David Palmerlee were renominated for new six-year terms.