In a state with a largely rural population, Laurel Ballard connects schools to digital resources and to each other.
In an effort to improve connectivity for schools across Wyoming, Ballard championed an initiative that both enhances the existing infrastructure in schools and brings new resources to districts without any internet access at all.
As the leader, Ballard unites the initiative’s participating organizations — including the state’s Department of Education and the national nonprofit EducationSuperHighway — to facilitate collaboration on digital solutions to the schools’ needs.
Under Ballard’s guidance, the development of broadband and Wi-Fi capabilities in Wyoming school districts is nearly complete, according to Shelley Hamel, director of school support at the Wyoming Department of Education.
In addition to promoting high-speed internet connections, Ballard is also organizing the implementation of a statewide learning management system (LMS).
Ballard has “worked tirelessly” with seven community colleges, one university and a variety of K-12 schools across the state to develop a comprehensive K-20 LMS, Hamel says.
The program is intended to be all-inclusive, and Ballard has dedicated her efforts to alleviate the schools’ financial obligations by negotiating with the LMS vendor to reach a lower price and by leveraging state funds to cover start-up costs and training, said Hamel.
Ballard also has moved to enhance the state’s access to open educational resources, advocated for virtual education and launched a computer science task force.
“She’s a passionate visionary who really cares about students,” Hamel told EdScoop. “[Ballard] understands education from the side of the schools and from the business perspective, and she knows how to create opportunities for students.”