Bruce Palmer was first elected to the Fremont County School District 1 Board of Trustees in 2006. He joined a board that was highly functioning and understood a school board’s role. Under the tutelage of sitting members, Bruce learned the ropes–how a board should operate, the district’s jargon, and the best ways to affect change in a relatively complex system.
Educational Values. In 2007 Palmer had the opportunity to join other FCSD 1 board members at the Education Trust Conference. In many ways this was a turning point in his approach to his school board work. The Ed Trust conference focuses on “closing the achievement gap” and participants have the opportunity to hear inspirational stories of schools that work for every child. It was eye-opening and led him to believe that we could do better. We have a good school district. We will be great when every child has equal opportunity to flourish and learn, when every student is held to high expectations and the systems are in place to make this happen. After returning to Lander the school board set to work and with Palmer as the primary author the district’s values were articulated.
Sustainable Buildings. Late in 2007 members of the community came to the school board requesting that the board build the planned middle school to LEED specifications. Palmer was made the chair of an ad-hoc LEED investigation committee that included members of the community, staff and several board members. After a thorough investigation the committee recommended that LEED Gold certification be pursued. The board approved this and set aside funds to make the necessary enhancements. The building project is underway and the construction team indicates that we are on track to meet this goal.
Improved Communication. In December, 2008 Palmer was elected board chair, a role that he held through 2010. As board chair Palmer worked hard to improve communication between the district and it constituents. An annual “report card”, press releases and regular board chair op-ed pieces in the Lander Journal have all been part of this effort. Listening sessions have been added before all of the board’s regular meetings allowing patrons to hear and comment about issues of interest in the district without the pressure of making a formal “public comment”. While most of these are poorly attended some have attracted very large audiences.
Vision and Planning. In 2009 FCSD 1 completed its first Organizational Assessment, a voluntary review of the systems that are in place to support education. The results of the assessment were disappointing and Palmer spearheaded efforts to gather further input and produce the district’s first strategic plan. This was a comprehensive process that included gathering input from every district building and department through “chalk talks”, public sessions with stakeholders and opportunities for individuals to review drafts of the plan and email input directly to Palmer from the district’s home page. This process led to a mission statement and comprehensive strategic plan that includes specific goals and measurements. Approved in August of 2009 the FCSD 1 Strategic Plan guides the district’s work still.
Fiscally Responsible. With the strategic plan in place this year the school board directed the administration to develop a resource allocation tool to assure that the district’s human and financial resources were transparently being allocated in appropriate ways to support the plan’s goals. This instrument was approved in the Spring of 2010 and will be used to develop the 2011 budget.
Responsive. Of course the school board needs to be able to “walk and chew gum at the same time” and these major directional accomplishments came while dealing with a wide variety of additional issues. The most satisfying to Palmer was the response to constituents who wished to see changes to Lander Valley High School’s graduation requirements. He was gratified to see a grassroot movement concerning an educational issue come before the board.
Professional. Palmer is the Director of Admission and Marketing at NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School where he has been employed since 1990. Prior to NOLS Palmer worked for more than a decade in college admissions at a variety of colleges and universities.
Father and Husband. Palmer’s wife, Peg is an administrator with a local home health agency. The couple’s oldest child, Clay is a LVHS graduate and a student at the University of Wyoming studying Rangeland Management. Middle child, Cole is a LVHS graduate and in his second year in the Automotive Technology program at Central Wyoming College. Loren, the Palmer’s youngest child, is a junior at Pathfinder High School.