When we produced Episode 25 (below), we found state leadership in at least two U.S. states to be remarkably forward-thinking and open-minded about school, so we continued with a similar discussion with Episode 31. We continue today. This was intriguing because so much of what teachers and school districts discuss are the requirements of the state. Time to look at several other states, and so this week, we visit with leadership from Tennessee and Georgia.
We'll be joined by Jillian Balow, Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction; and Richard Woods, Georgia State School Superintendent.
Jillian Balow is serving a second term as Wyoming’s elected State Superintendent. She oversees education in the state, and as one of Wyoming’s five elected constitutional officers, Jillian sits on the State Loan and Investment Board and the State Board of Land Commissioners. Jillian is a fifth-generation Wyoming native. She taught in Wyoming classrooms for 10 years and has worked to support Wyoming children and families her entire career. She has an undergraduate degree in education from the University of Wyoming and a master’s degree in education from Regis University. In addition to teaching, Jillian has consulted in the private sector, served as an administrator at both the Wyoming Department of Family Services, and was a policy advisor to Governor Matt Mead. A mother of two, Jillian’s daughter, Paiton, is 20 and is an active duty specialist in the Army. Her son Jack is 15. Her husband, John, is an elementary school principal. Jillian is the President of the Board of Directors for the Council of Chief State School Officers, the professional association of state education heads from across the nation. During her tenure, she worked with tribal partners to enact “Indian Education for All” so that all Wyoming students learn about the history and contributions of the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes. She also developed a support system for Wyoming’s lowest-performing schools. In three years, the number of schools requiring assistance has decreased by 5%. She holds true to the belief that small government is best and reduced in-agency personnel by 11% and agency operating funds by 15% while maintaining an optimal capacity, before 2020 reductions. Jillian overhauled the state standards review process to be the most collaborative and transparent in the nation.
Richard Woods is the State School Superintendent of the Georgia Department of Education and is a member of the Homeland Security Board. He was born in Pensacola, Florida and while growing up in a military family, lived in California, Hawaii, and Virginia before moving to Georgia. He graduated from Fitzgerald High School and went on to receive a Bachelor’s Degree from Kennesaw State University and a Master’s Degree from Valdosta State University. Woods has over 25 years of pre-k through 12th-grade experience in public education. Woods was a high school teacher for 14 years, serving as department chair and teacher mentor. During his tenure, he was also selected as Teacher of the Year. For eight years Woods served in various administrative roles such as assistant principal, principal, curriculum director, testing coordinator, pre-k director, and alternative school director. Woods also brings a business background to the superintendent's position, having been a purchasing agent for a national/multi-national laser company and a former small business owner. He and his wife Lisha, a retired 30-year educator, are long-time residents of Tifton and have been married for 27 years.
Howard Blumenthal created and produced the PBS television series, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? He is currently a Senior Scholar at The University of Pennsylvania, studying learning and the lives of 21st-century children and teenagers. He travels the world, visiting K-12 schools, lecturing at universities, and interviewing young people for Kids on Earth, a global platform containing nearly 1,000 interview segments from Kentucky, Brazil, Sweden, India, and many other countries. Previously, he was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist for The New York Times Syndicate, and United Features. He is the author of 24 books and several hundred articles about technology, learning, business, and human progress. As an executive, Howard was the CEO of a public television operation and several television production companies, and a state government official. Previously, he was a Senior Vice President for divisions of two large media companies, Hearst and Bertelsmann, and a consultant or project lead for Energizer, General Electric, American Express, CompuServe, Warner Communications, Merriam-Webster, Atari, and other companies.
Before the virus, more than a billion children and teenagers relied upon school for learning. After the virus (or, after the current wave of our current virus), basic assumptions about school and education are no longer reliable. School buildings may become unsafe for large numbers of students. The tax base may no longer support our current approach to school. Without the interaction provided by a formal school structure, students may follow their own curiosity. Many students now possess the technology to learn on their own. And many do not.
Reinventing.school is a new weekly web television series that considers what happens next week, next month, next school year, and the next five years. Hosted by University of Pennsylvania Senior Scholar Howard Blumenthal, Reinventing.school features interviews with teachers, principals, school district leadership, state and Federal government officials, ed-tech innovators, students, leading education professors, authors, realists and futurists from the United States and all over the world.
Each episode features 2-4 distinguished guests in conversation about high priority topics including, for example, the teaching of public health, long-term home schooling, technology access and its alternatives, the role of parents, friendship and social interaction, learning outside the curriculum, the future of testing and evaluation, interruption as part of the academic calendar, job security for teachers and support staff, setting (and rethinking) curriculum priorities, special needs, student perspectives on the job of school, the importance of play, the psychology of group dynamics and social interaction, preparing for future rounds of a virus (or cyberattack or impact of climate change, etc.), college readiness, higher education transformed, the higher education promise in an economically challenged world, and more. Clearly, there is much to discuss; nearly all of it ranks high on the list of priorities for raising the world’s children.