Community event features superintendent

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Schmidt reveals goals during meeting with residents

By Kirsten Laskey

Superintendent Gene Schmidt joked that he felt a little nervous about attending an event he described as a “meet, greet and eat” Tuesday evening at Fuller Lodge.

Despite any jittery feelings, Schmidt said, “I’m delighted to be here.”

The community get-together, he explained, is an opportunity to learn more about Los Alamos. “I can not know Los Alamos unless I know you,” he said.

To have the community residents learn more about the school district and him, Schmidt revealed four goals that he and the school board have set.

The first goal deals with achieving excellence in education. The second objective is to reach fiscal stability while the third goal is to garner support for the district from the community, state and nation. The final objective is to monitor school construction and facility improvements.

As far as achieving academic excellence, Los Alamos Public Schools is on the right track. Schmidt explained that the district’s ACT scores are higher than the state average. Plus, as far as adequate yearly progress, “you are the envy of the state in the quality of student performance,” he said.  

The problem is it is not enough, Schmidt said. It is required that the progress is continual but in some cases has encountered plateau in the school district.

Science and math are areas of concern. As a result, strategies need to be developed and comprehensive professional development could be a possibility.

Another area that is being addressed is fiscal stability. Work is being done, Schmidt said, to create a long range fiscal stability plan. With the state government looking at creating cuts in the budget, he said the district has to have a plan for any possible cuts in education.

One of the ways the district has addressed this is by opening enrollment to 100 students from outside the district. This has not only brought more funding to the district, but these students are performing very well, Schmidt said.

In order to build support from local, state and federal governments, Schmidt said there are questions that need to be answered such as what are Los Alamos’ needs that have to be fulfilled in order to become a premiere school.

“(There are) questions we will be bringing to the community … we will become more active in the years to come to promote Los Alamos as a community and school system,” Schmidt said.

Community input is also needed in regards to construction projects. Schmidt mentioned that several wings at the high school will be reconstructed and the community’s opinions are needed in the project.

Besides informing the community about the goals the district has set, Schmidt set the record straight on a few recent events. The first one dealt with H1N1. Schmidt commented at one point, 148 students at the Los Alamos Middle School were absent from school due to flu-like symptoms. This number died down, he said, partly because parents kept their ill children out of school and because the school nurses quickly

identified the symptoms.

As for President Obama’s speech, despite any conspiracy theories, the school district could not show the speech because it lacked the audio and visual capacity to stream the president’s talk. However, copies of the speech are available to all local school sites. Each site can determine whether or not to show the speech, he said.

The district is recommending teachers interested in showing the speech to their students do so on Constitution Day, which is Thursday.

Schmidt also discussed two incidents involving students at the middle school and high school. While some have argued a full disclosure of what transpired is necessary, Schmidt emphasized an announcement for each event was made on E-Alerts, a feature on the district’s Web site. He added to protect the rights and privacy of these particular students and their families, the district believed details should be kept confidential.

Schmidt also touched on the Trinity Site Project. He said the county has been a good partner in this process and while change is hard, “People have to be patient during this change process.”

Several questions following Schmidt’s talk regarded traffic concerns surrounding the Diamond Drive project and the high school construction project. Schmidt said although the school district and county have met about this issue, nothing has been set yet.

 “We have great confidence in the county,” he said.

Another question addressed what Schmidt considered one of the major problems in the district.

“My concern is that the high school could be more inclusive,” he said, adding that the school needs to recognize there are all kinds of kids who go to the school – students who are interested in vocational education as well college-bound students.  

This answer drew a rousing applause from the audience.