Laramie County schools celebrate National School Choice Week

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1/27/2017

Kristine Galloway, Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Local nontraditional K-12 students and their parents on Thursday celebrated the opportunity to choose their school.

The staff at St. Mary’s Catholic School hosted the celebration. Students, parents and staff members from multiple nontraditional schools attended, including: Trinity Lutheran Church, Poder Academy charter school and Wyoming Virtual Academy. Several homeschooling families attended as well.

Beth Thompson, marketing director for St. Mary’s Catholic School, helped organize the event.

 “It’s important for everyone to know that there is support behind school choice,” she said. “We have a wonderful public school system, but it’s nice when students can have a choice if they don’t fit into that for some reason.”

Amy Threewitt of the website PublicSchoolOptions.org said the event takes place annually in the last full week of January and took about 10 days to pull together.

The event featured speakers representing every school present, as well as a homeschooled student and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

“I’ve been a parent for 17 years, and what being a parent for 17 years has taught me is that the most important decisions need to be made in our families,” Balow said.

She added that as state superintendent, one of her goals is to be sure that the most important decisions about education are made in families, including school choice. The second goal she listed was to ensure that teachers can continue to do their jobs.

“As a parent, my kids went to school right here at St. Mary’s,” Balow said. “I made that decision because it was the best decision to make for my kids, and it was the best decision for my family. And school choice is really about that. It’s making sure that parents have the opportunity to make the most important decisions for their kids.”

Jeff Verosky, the head of school for Wyoming Virtual Academy, said he worked in public education for more than 25 years before joining the online school.

 “There were so many times that I saw students that were struggling – or they may have even been advanced learners – but the public schools just were not geared to what those students needed,” he said.

He said he chose to make the change to the academy to help provide another option for those kids.

“It’s just so important for parents to have that choice, because who better to make a decision on the schooling for their children than the parents?” Verosky said.

Threewitt said the website PublicSchoolChoice.org will host another school choice event Feb. 24 at the Cheyenne Depot downtown. It will be an all-day informational event that will include a march to the state Capitol. She said the public is welcome at that event.

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