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OHKAY OWINGEH — Underemployed even in good times, Rio Arriba County has made educating students a higher priority in recent years. School officials were looking for more help from the lab.
“How do we develop the intelligence (our students) possess?” Española Schools Superintendent Janette Archuletta asked Tuesday. “The question is not can our students learn.”
As a one of the keynote speakers at a Los Alamos National Laboratory leadership breakfast at Ohkay-Owingeh Resort and Casino, she called for more collaborators and mentors.
“The basics are no longer enough,” she said, emphasizing the importance of creating a “college-going culture” and “career pathways.”
In Northern New Mexico, one of the most promising career pathways leads up the hill to Los Alamos.
In recent years Los Alamos National Security, the operations manager for the laboratory, has rotated its leadership breakfast series around the region, while highlighting different aspects of its community program.
An effective program for constructive engagement with the community is one of the commitments LANS made under its profit-making contract with the Department Energy. The program, which is included in the laboratory’s annual performance evaluation, also includes community giving to non-profit organizations and economic development targeting local small businesses.
The topic of Tuesday’s breakfast was education and there was a full slate of political and educational officials on hand from Española and the nearby pueblos.
Archuleta noted three areas of progress in her system. Third grade through fifth grades were showing notable gains in math, bucking the national trend. Also in math, sixth through eighth grades demonstrated improvement for all students and subgroups.
For 2009, 50 percent of the Española Schools met their annual yearly progress goals, compared to only 20 percent last year.
Archuleta attributed some of these gains to the LANL-supported Math and Science Academy programs. The MSA is a virtual academy that teaches the teachers, and has gradually won support for its rigorous professional development from five school districts in Northern New Mexico. And now with the annual support of the Legislature, MSA has become one of the most established and successful of the dozens of educational programs and partnerships the lab has fostered.
These programs range from the LANL Foundation’s First Born program that got its start in Rio Arriba County, all the way through to graduate and lifelong learning programs sponsored by the lab.
In his welcoming remarks, LANL Director Michael Anastasio reported on a survey of community leaders. With a 74 percent response rate, he said the survey indicated a 72 percent favorable impression of the lab.
“I hope that’s a sign that all the good things we’ve been doing are paying off,” he said.
He said the laboratory had come out of the congressional appropriations process with “quite a good budget,” in part because of “all the help we got from the community and the congressional delegation.”
Of 160 proposals the laboratory has submitted under the new energy-related stimulus opportunities at the Department of Energy, he said, LANL has been funded for 40. He said LANL’s special stimulus budget, more than $200 million for environmental cleanup, has created 157 new jobs.
“We think over 300 jobs will be created or saved,” he said.
Representing the laboratory’s federal managers, Roger Snyder of the Los Alamos Site Office said DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration said the lab’s community involvement was getting high marks this year.