ACSD#1 Will Provide Meals Over Winter Break

LARAMIE, Wyo. (December 3, 2020) – The Albany County School District will provide meals for students over the Winter Break. The break spans from Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 through Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021.

Parents who would like to sign up for the meal service should call Food Services at (307) 721-4482 by Monday, Dec. 14.

On Tuesday, Dec. 22, and Tuesday, Dec. 29, Food Services will be distributing meal bags between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. from the Central Kitchen located at 419 South 8th Street. Meals can be picked up behind the building in the alley located off Custer Street between 9th and 8th Streets.

Delivery can be arranged if transportation is unavailable.


Karen Bienz Named to WASA All-Wyoming School Board

LARAMIE, Wyo. (December 2, 2020) – Outgoing Albany County School District #1 trustee Karen Bienz has been named to the Wyoming Association of School Administrators (WASA) All-Wyoming School Board. Bienz was honored at a virtual ceremony in November.

“I am simultaneously honored and humbled to receive this recognition of my service as a trustee to the Albany County School board,” Bienz said at the virtual ceremony. “The rewards and challenges during my tenure these last four years have been to numerous to mention. When I decided to run for a position on the school board, I felt that my life experiences to that time positioned me well to serve.”

Bienz was nominated successfully by Superintendent Dr. Jubal Yennie, who highlighted Bienz’ breadth of passion and skill as a board member.

Bienz, whose term began in December of 2016, has served as treasurer of the board of trustees since 2018. Bienz also volunteered for numerous committees and task forces. Her work helped advance student achievement, and she supported effective policy changes by working with employees of the district.

Wyoming school board members earn points for attending Wyoming School Board Association workshops and conferences, and during her four years, Bienz earned a total of 150 points, attending an average of three of these events per year.

In the nomination, Dr. Yennie wrote that Bienz “modeled firm belief, professional assertiveness, and a genuine caring for ACSD students and the community,” as she helped guide policy during the times of COVID-19.

Bienz worked hard to update graduation requirements, physical education curriculum, and worked through a dual language immersion program evaluation.

Bienz’ term on the Albany County School District Board of Trustees ended on Nov. 30, 2020.


ACSD#1 Holds Groundbreaking for New Slade Elementary School

LARAMIE, Wyo. (December 1, 2020) – Albany County School District #1 (ACSD) held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Slade Elementary School Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. The socially-distanced event was held at the corner of 15th and Reynolds streets, inside the auxiliary gym behind the Old Deti Stadium.

“It’s probably important that it’s so close to Thanksgiving, that there is an overriding theme of gratefulness that we have today,” said district superintendent Dr. Jubal Yennie, who made the opening remarks at the ceremony. “Throughout this celebration this morning, you’ll find out how grateful we are, not only for the community we live in, but also for the state we live in. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us and for the students in the community of Laramie.”

State Superintendent Jillian Balow, Representative Dan Furphy, Representative Cathy Connolly and Senator Chris Rothfuss all joined Superintendent Yennie by speaking at the event. Additionally, Randy Richardson of Richardson Construction, Inc., the contractor for this project, made a few remarks before sending everyone outside with the golden shovels for the ceremony.

Third grade students from Slade Elementary school also made the trip over to watch the ceremony. They were welcomed by all the speakers, especially Balow, who is a Slade alumna, herself.

All of the event’s speakers, as well as board of trustees members, Slade principal Heather Moro, district staff, and construction crew made the ceremonial groundbreaking outside the auxiliary gym in front of the Slade students and teachers.

The new Slade Elementary is scheduled to have substantial completion on June 30, 2022, and ready to be used starting in the 2022-23 school year. The total construction cost is $17,581,000 with a total construction budget of $19,200.000.

The new elementary school will cover 63,096 square feet, including an auxiliary gym, on a nine-acre project site. The school can serve up to 440 students.

This project was first approved on April 1, 2015 by the School Facilities Commission, but it was halted in 2017 at the 95% level of design. Then, on April 8, 2020, the District and School Facilities department authorized the Plan One/Architects Design Team to renew the work, updating the plans to comply with current building codes.


Whiting’s Truman Solverud Wins Everyday Champion Award from NCLD

WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 30, 2020) – Truman Solverud, Whiting High School’s special education and culinary teacher, has won the Everyday Champion Award from the National Center for Learning Disabilities, it was announced by the organization.

“It’s kind of affirmation that the things I’m doing are making a difference and I’m helping,” Solverud said. “There’s not a lot of feedback, sometimes, in education, so to get this feedback that I’m helping and supporting kids is a big deal.”

Solverud spent nearly 30 years working in the restaurant industry before switching paths and becoming an educator.

“Working in special education gives me the purpose that I was needing when I decided to go to school and become a teacher when I’m almost 50,” Solverud said. “Being able to support kids and help them achieve their goals means a lot.”

The organization will recognize three individuals, an educator, administrator, and a parent or caregiver who have shown outstanding achievements in remote learning during the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic.

“His philosophy and his belief system is just perfect for this environment,” said Whiting principal Scott Shoop. “What he was able to do, when we were quarantined as a district, he was helping families above all, not just kids on his case load. He has phenomenal energy and commitment to what he does.”

The educator who wins the award is someone who has provided innovative and impactful services to advance the success for students with learning and attention issues, above and beyond the requirements of their job description. The essence of teaching is not solely in the classroom but the effective creation of situations in which learning takes place.

The NCLD chose the winner of the award based on the educator’s dedication to students with learning and attention issues and their families, ability to use a range of approaches to learning, creative and innovative ways to support students with disabilities, service to students with learning and attention issues, and advocacy for persons with learning disabilities.

The Everyday Champion Award comes with a $5,000 prize. Solverud will be honored at a virtual event hosted by the NCLD on Dec. 9.


Emily Siegel Stanton Wants to be There for All her Constituents

Emily Siegel Stanton was inspired to run for school board by the members of the school board. She remembers watching the group work hard at meetings, and she realized she wanted to be one of the people who helps take charge of the community.

“People have to sit at the table to do the hard work and make important decisions and make things happen,” Stanton said. “At this time in our country, coping with Coronavirus and all the important stuff we’re facing, I felt like I was ready to lend some energy to that, step forward, and be one of those people helping make our community stronger.”

Once she decided she wanted to do the hard work, the campaign started. Local elections can be won based on name recognition alone, but the Albany County Educator’s Association put on a forum for the candidates, and Stanton was thankful for the opportunity to speak to voters with her fellow candidates.

“I really want to thank the Albany County Educator’s Association,” Stanton said. “They put together a forum where all the candidates could speak on some of the issues. I think sometimes with local elections, we can wind up in a popularity contest. I think that the diligence with which they put together that forum allowed voters to hear directly from all of the candidates about the issues, and that’s what’s most important in voting. So, I’d like to thank them for bringing the candidates together so that we could learn about each other and allow voters to hear from us, rather than just running on community name recognition.”

When all the votes were tallied, Stanton found out she was one of the newest Albany County School District board members.

“I was very happy,” Stanton said. “It was very rewarding to put effort into a campaign and earn the voters’ trust. And a little intimidating. Campaigning is exciting, winning is fun, and hard work is hard work. I’d be dishonest to say I wasn’t a little bit sobered by the facts of the tasks I’m about to take on. Those are very different from the tasks of a campaign.”

Among the duties Stanton will have, she does have a few goals. While hesitant to discuss exact goals due to the uncertainty of our times, she does have some ideas that she will hold on to and keep at the forefront of her time as a school board member.

“During the time of COVID, one of the things I want to accomplish is having each segment of the community feel heard,” Stanton said. “There are so many different needs right now, and they can’t all be met at one time. But even in and among that, I want all of the segments of the community is to feel heard. One of the things I want to accomplish would be community engagement around funding of education. I’d like to help raise awareness about what’s going in our state legislature and the ways education is being handled from a financial perspective at the top. It’s not just a fact of life that budget cuts happen, these are choices our legislature are making. I’d like to help engage our community around being aware of those choices of our legislature.

“Other things I want to accomplish, this is a time when society at large is thinking about non-dominant populations, whether that’s the LGBT community, people of color, and our native students, one of the things I’d like to bring is an eye toward equity and an eye toward students who don’t necessarily have their voices heard all the time, families who don’t have their voices heard all the time. So those are some things I want to bring my attention to.”

Stanton also wants to be seen as a type of board member who is always there to help. Someone who is always there to listen to her constituents and make sure the constituents know they were heard.

“I hope they view me as present, both to their calls and emails and their personal concerns,” Stanton said. “I won’t be able to write a policy to address every single person’s concerns, just because they’ll be so different. But I hope people view me as present and hearing their concerns and doing what I can do to create balance among community needs, whether that’s around COVID or other issues. I hope that they view me as present on the board. I hope to be able to share my thinking. Even if people disagree with a vote I might make, I hope to be able to share my thinking and be transparent about how I’m drawing my conclusions.”

Stanton will join the board starting on Dec. 1, and she will focus on making sure everyone is heard, and everyone is represented.

“But also toward the community, a really important quality is always keeping an eye on some of our most vulnerable members of our community, not necessarily those that have the loudest voices,” Stanton said.

Kim Sorenson is a Volunteer at Heart

Education is certainly a large part of Kim Sorenson’s life. He was a teacher and education administrator for over 40 years before he retired, and his wife recently retired from her career as a teacher. Sorenson has served at nearly every level of education, elementary, high school and post-high school. It was a natural step for him to take on a new adventure on the school board.

“From being a teacher, virtually from kindergarten through post-high school because I taught at LCCC, as well, being an administrator from elementary through high school, and as a coach and an activities person, I just thought I might have skills from those experiences that might be useful to the district,” Sorenson said. “My personal skills are I’ve always been a volunteer, not afraid to jump in. I’ve become a good listener. I don’t have a problem with making decisions. I try to be as transparent as possible and always tell the truth.”

But making the move from a career in education to running for school board did have a few unexpected hurdles. For one, he had to switch from the educator mind set to one of a politician.

“This has been a whole new ball game for me. From being a teacher, an administrator and all the other things I’ve done in education, being ‘a politician’ has been a whole new thing,” Sorenson said. “I had to learn how to place signs, what kind of slogans to come up with, and all those types of things. I always fell back on the vision, mission and belief statements that I developed as a teacher and an administrator, but it was very different.”

The timing was right this year for Sorenson, since he and his wife are now both retired from education. He said he is now able to vote without any possible kind of conflict of interest. Sorenson is also one to volunteer for the hard work, and with the COVID pandemic and all the related issues affecting the community, he raised his hand again to ask to be one of the people to help steer the District through these times.

“My history as an administrator has always been volunteering when things are going through a rough patch,” Sorenson said. “I think the COVID and all of the different things that have developed because of it, whether it’s the budget, staffing, course offerings, curriculum, and all those things being affected, made me want to help and be part of that. Whatever I can do to help and assist students and the district as a whole is what I want to accomplish.”

When his term starts on Dec. 1, Sorenson will be ready to get to work. In fact, people are already reaching out to him about what he will do.

“Respect is something you have to earn,” Sorenson said. “That’s why the time between the election and the time you take it on officially is maybe the hardest part. You have people communicating with you or asking for assistance, but there’s really nothing you can do yet because you have an existing board, and they need to be able to finish their terms without any kind of interference. You also don’t know all the inner workings and don’t have access to all the information that’s being used to make decisions. That’s difficult. So, you’re hoping over time, people will see you for what you want to be, which is honest, hard-working, and transparent.”

With his spot on the school board secured, Sorenson recognized the people that helped him earn his spot, especially his wife.

“I’m retired, I retired six years ago, and my wife just retired, and I think she observed what that looks like,” Sorenson said. “So, when you dive in to something new, I certainly have to thank her first for allowing me to pursue this rather than fishing with her every day, or whatever the things were that we planned to do when we retired. She’s been very supportive. I also want to thank the parents and the staff. I was told I have name recognition, and I had to have that proven to me. I think I’m a lot like many people, in that I remember all the good times, but I also remember the times that I may not have met expectations, and I worried about that. I really want to thank the people that voted for me, that gave me a shot, and I hope I don’t let them down.”

The Albany County School District is excited to add Kim Sorenson to the school board starting on Dec. 1, 2020.

Albany County School District Offers Update on Uses of CARES Act Funding

LARAMIE, Wyo. (November 17, 2020) – At the November 11, 2020, board of education meeting, Albany County School District #1 (ACSD) offered an update on the uses and distribution of the money it has received from the CARES Act.

The CARES Act resources are spread out over four main funds:

  • Coronavirus Relief Fund
  • Elementary & Secondary Education Emergency Relief Fund
  • Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund
  • Nutrition Funding

Allocations for the Coronavirus Relief Fund are used to prevent learning loss and reduce virus exposure. A large part of preventing learning loss is holding summer school, while computer-based virtual instruction (CBVI) helps prevent virus exposure. These funds have been used for salary, benefits, and materials for 2020 summer school staffs, salary and benefits for three educators for the CBVI program for the 2020-21 year, and salary and benefits for 30 educators to teach an additional CBVI class period.

The school district also purchased masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes for classrooms and other areas, additional fogging, social distancing signage, plexiglass barriers, and similar items.

These distributions make up $1,196,819.65 from the Coronavirus Relief Fund. There is $39,909.83 remaining in this allotment.

The GEER fund is split into three sections:

  • GEER Fund for Educational Technology
  • GEER Fund for Early Childhood Transitions
  • GEER Fund for Remote Learning Needs and Transition Services

The District has used the Educational Technology fund to purchase Chromebooks, computers, and related devices. Now, all schools in the district have one device for each student. ACSD has also purchased hardware such as cameras, microphones, document cameras, chargers, software, classroom audio devices, and other items that support remote learning.

Out of the Fund for Early Childhood Transitions, ACSD has compensated for participants that attend evening meetings with Zoom participants, compensated for an early childhood facilitator that plans, prepares, facilitates, and reports on the grant, and registered participants for a virtual conference. The District used funds from the Remote Learning Needs and Transition Services section to purchase licenses to applications for educators to use for instruction in remote learning environments.

Overall, ACSD has been awarded $2,090,630 in GEER funds.

The Nutrition Funding has been used to provide every student with free meals during the school year. These funds also provide students meals on weekends and days off from school. The Backpack Program has been suspended for this year due to this particular funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Backpack Program is expected to return next school year.


Albany County School District to Continue Offering Free Meals Through 2020-21 School Year

LARAMIE, Wyo. (November 12, 2020) – Albany County School District #1 (ACSD) will continue to offer free meals for students for class days, weekends, and days students have off through the rest of the 2020-21 school year and into the beginning of the summer through June 30, 2021.

Beginning in April of 2020, ACSD has provided meals through a fully-reimbursed program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). While this is not a direct grant to ACSD, the District is being reimbursed by the USDA via the state.

Since September of 2020, ACSD has been sending out weekend meal bags. Each meal bag contains meals for days the student is going to be off. So, for a regular weekend, there will be two breakfasts and two lunches included. The high school or middle school student would also pick up a bag that contains three- or four-days’ worth of meals for a long weekend.

Since this program fully reimburses the cost of providing weekend meals, ACSD has suspended the Backpack Program through the Food Bank of the Rockies for the rest of the year. This way, ACSD can use that grant when the Backpack Program returns next year.


Albany County School District Board of Trustees Responds to Potential Budget Cuts from Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration

Letter From Select Committee

ACSD1 Response to Select Committee

LARAMIE, Wyo. – The Albany County School District Board of Trustees released their response to potential budget cuts proposed by the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration (Select Committee). The Select Committee asked the school district to consider possible budget cuts – 16 percent for the 20-21 biennium and 27 percent for the 21-22 biennium – and relay how the cuts would affect the performance of schools in the district.

In the attached letter, the trustees outlined their reasons why such cuts would render the school district unable to deliver quality education to students. The trustees also noted that the state needs to explore new options for raising funds instead of cutting them from the education budget.

“I want to highlight the first paragraph on the second page, which, again, puts to our legislators, that we have done the funding cuts, modernized the way the state allocates revenues, and now it is time to think about how to raise new revenues to support educational funding,” said Treasurer Karen Bienz.

The proposed cuts would mostly affect personnel in the district, meaning fewer teachers, fewer class options, and less instructional support for at-risk or struggling students. Additionally, support staff around the district, such as nurses, librarians, paraprofessionals, counselors, and custodians, would see losses.

“We had a discussion as a board and talked about how debilitating the legislature’s proposed funding cuts would be to our ability to, as a district, deliver a quality, constitutional education to the children of Albany county,” said Trustee Nate Martin. “Hopefully, the letter communicates to our legislative delegation and to the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration the dire nature of the consequences of what they’re looking at if they, as Treasurer (Karen) Bienz said, take the third leg of the stool and actually execute it. We’ve done the cuts, we’ve done the modernization of the revenue stream, and now all that’s left is new revenue.”

The trustees offered insight into possible new streams of revenue to be explored. In the letter, it is noted that Wyomingites pay no state income tax. Additionally, the state has the third-lowest residential property tax rate and sixth-lowest sales tax rate in the country. However, Albany County citizens have voted to tax themselves to raise money for education as recently as 2013, showing community support for funding education.

“When we had our school board retreat a couple months ago, we talked about the pending budget cuts,” said Trustee Lawrence Perea. “At the time, there were several board members who said it would be a good idea to keep our constituents and our employees and everybody abreast of the changing situations because we knew they were going to be pretty dire. I do believe that this is going to take a lot of pressure, not only from the school board, but also from constituents and parents, where these pending cuts can have a very negative affect on the education of our children in Wyoming and here in Albany County. I think this is a good step forward. We’ll continue to see how it unfolds.”

The Albany County School District Board of Trustees will have its monthly meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. The school board welcomes public comment during the section of the meeting entitled “Audience Communications,” and asks that community members register in advance by emailing by 3 p.m., on the day of the meeting.