CHEYENNE – While he won't go so far as to say he's excited about mothballing his "Interim Director, Wyoming Department of Education (WDE)," business cards, you get the impression that Dr. Jim Rose is somewhat relieved to go back to one job.
The former WDE Interim Director spent six months running the state's education agency while maintaining his title as Director of the Wyoming Community College Commission (WCCC). On August 5 he handed the reigns of the WDE to current Director Richard Crandall.
"I put in some long days here," Rose said in his office last week. "I've been up here every weekend since I started January 29. That's the part I won't miss."
Former Wyoming Department of Education Interim Director, Jim Rose, takes part in the Native American Education Conference at Arapahoe School last week. Joining Rose in the dance was current WDE Director Richard Crandall (right) and US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan (blue shirt).
Rose said the idea of his joining the WDE as the interim director was first kicked around at the end of January when he received a call from the Governor asking for a meeting.
"He asked me to consider the job of interim director," Rose said. I had a little time to think about it, not a lot. I said I would do what I could."
Over the next eight months, Rose would lead the WDE through a period in which the agency applied for three waivers from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and helped develop Phase I of a statewide accountability system, all while dealing with the aftermath of Senate File 104 and its resulting investigations.
Highlights of the Rose Administration
Within the first two weeks of Rose's time at the WDE, it was decided to request a flexibility waiver from some provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as No Child Left Behind. After submitting the waiver request and negotiation with the US Department of Education, it was determined that the state would postpone the flexibility waiver one year in favor of a waiver to freeze Annual Measurable Objectives at the 2011 levels, while Wyoming finalizes its teacher and leader accountability system under the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act (WAEA).
"I think I knew some of this was percolating," Rose said about the ESEA Flexibility Waiver. "I was hoping we would proceed in this direction. I was concerned that we seemed to be out of step with a lot of our state counterparts in the way we weren't even at the table to talk about what was coming in 2014 in proficiency of AYP. That seemed like a requirement for the agency to address in some form.
"I was disappointed that we have to delay the flexibility waiver, but I understand why we have to do that and our priority has to be compliance with the state law."
The legislative session of 2012 brought with it a new list of duties and directives included in Phase I and Phase II of the WAEA. Among the requirements of the WDE in Phase I are the development of the School Ratings Model. Work on Phase II is also underway, headlined by the development of a teacher and leader accountability system. Rose said among the accomplishments of his time at the helm of the WDE was the fact that the WDE was able to work with Mike Flicek and other consultants in an effort to make progress on the accountability model, and incorporating it into the ESEA Flexibility Waiver effort. He advised that keeping the WAEA effort and the work on obtaining Flexibility Waiver may not succeed if done separately.
"The WAEA and the Flexibility Waiver needed to be together so you aren't throwing districts three or four different mandates," he said. "We really began some deliberate progress on putting the pieces together for that accountability model and started to work more directly with districts and communicated with them to see what their input is in this process."
Trying to manage the human toll
While the stress of work on the WAEA, waivers from the ESEA and the general business involved in distributing better than $1 billion in funding to 48 school districts is enough to keep any agency busy, Rose was also tasked with leading the WDE while it was being investigated for wrongdoing by the previous administration. Rawlins attorney, Cathy MacPherson was asked by the Governor to investigate accusations of misconduct by members of the previous administration through interviews and provide the raw data without recommendations on the WDE during State Superintendent Cindy Hill's nearly three years in office.
The first piece of the MacPherson report contained 185 pages of interviews from those associated with the WDE from 2010-2012, including many WDE staffers. The release of the report led to weeks of media coverage of the agency. Another round of media inquiries came when a second section of the report was released on July 19.
"That was part of what I was tasked with trying to do by the Governor and his staff – provide some stability, encouragement and try to work with the staff to address the needs they have," Rose said. "I didn't have any idea for the process as it was going to unfold in situations such as the MacPherson Report or the legal process that has ensued."
Back to the WCCC
The Wyoming Community College Commission (WCCC) recently moved from the US Bank Building in Cheyenne to new office space on the fifth floor of the Hathaway Building – two floors up from the WDE, however, Rose hasn't spent much time in the new digs. Rose spent time in the last two weeks in Torrington, Billings, Big Sky (Mont.), Casper, Teton County and Riverton before returning to Cheyenne recently.
Back in Cheyenne, Rose heads up a commission, which is responsible for allocating the budget for the seven community colleges. The WCCC also prioritizes and sends building requests from the state's community colleges to the State Building Commission and is responsible for review and approval of all community college programs.
"We're a strong coordinating board that basically has the overall statewide coordination and oversight for about 28,000 students, statewide," Rose said. "We have a biennial budget of around $300 million and a staff of 15 people to do it."
With Rose headed back to the WCCC offices fulltime, he said he does have some mixed feelings about his time at the WDE. He said he was not able to facilitate some things to a level he had hoped, but enjoyed seeing progress on the WAEA as well as the work on the ESEA waivers. Another win was his ability to open the paths of communication to the Legislature and the State Board of Education.
"One of the chief accomplishments is the rapport we have re-established with the Legislature," he said. "I don't know how often it happens, but at the last joint education committee meeting, we (the WDE) received a round of applause. When legislators shake your hands and thank you for being responsive and getting back to them that signals the rapport is returning."
Joint Education Committee Co-chair, Hank Coe (R-Park County) agreed saying, "Dr Rose has done an exceptional job as the interim director of the WDE, stepping in under very difficult circumstances. His leadership and expertise in reorganizing the department's direction was, to say the least, welcome to the mission of educating our young people in the K-12 system. I wish him nothing but the best."
Wyoming State Board of Education Chairman, Ron Micheli offered his own take last week saying, "Dr. Rose just deserves a great big 'atta boy,' for the situation he was placed in and the job that he did," Micheli said. "It was a time of instability and a time of worlds of questions. He came in and was a stabilizing force. He was calm, collected, professional, and we can't say enough good about the things he brought at a time when things were pretty tough."
For his part, Rose shifted the compliments to the staff and partners of the WDE.
"I really think this department can do great things, but I still think it is in a phase of its evolution that a really capable leader is going to make that happen and take place. I think there are some really great people and it has been a privilege to work with them and get to know them."
Advice to the new guy
Rose said his time with the WDE's new director; Richard Crandall has been limited, although he did offer himself as a resource. Rose said they have spent about two hours with each other, but he believes Crandall's experience in the Arizona Legislature offers him a good idea of what education looks like nationally.
"He will have his own ideas, his own approach. He will have problems and priorities that he will identify and pursue quickly," Rose said. "I think he knows this agency has undergone considerable turmoil and we aren't sailing on calm seas yet. I think part of the job will be keeping the faith and letting people know he cares for them. I think he also knows the Governor's charge is to move education forward and be innovative."