'I accept': McLeod agrees to contract to run school district

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By Carol A. Clark

Worry the school year might start leaderless disolved Thursday evening when Assistant Superintendent Mary McLeod agreed to a 12-month contract to run the district. Cheers and enthusiastic applause broke out with McLeod’s “I accept” response to the board of education’s offer during a school board meeting at Piñon Elementary School.

The board met in a closed session prior to the school board meeting to discuss the contract. In the public meeting, board members voted 5-to-0 to approve McLeod’s contract, which begins July 1 and runs through June 30, 2009. Superindent James Anderson retires in June.

McLeod will receive $140,000/year, plus the use of a Blackberry, Board President Steve Girrens said. The existing car used by Anderson will be at McLeod’s disposal to use for official business, he said.

The schools used a standard state administrator contract and modified it to read, ‘Interim Superintendent’ because McLeod’s term is for just one year, Anderson said.

Board Vice President Joan Ahlers explained that by writing the “interim” contract the way they did, the Los Alamos County residency requirement could be waived.

“This way, Mary won’t have to sell her house in Santa Fe and move up here for a year,” Ahlers joked.

Under the contract, McLeod will receive 20 working days of annual leave and 16 days of sick leave, Girrens said.

“We struck a line through the $150 per year allowance for a medical exam because it’s covered under our insurance plan,” he said. “The contract also includes membership in the appropriate organizations as pre-approved by the board.”

Other business

Chamisa Principal Cindy Montoya made a case for air conditioning to ease the burden heat places on her students and teachers. Many of the school’s windows don’t open, which eliminates cross ventilation, she said.

“The original design was to have cooling,” she said. “As we start school sooner, it impacts the learning environment because students can’t learn as well when it’s hot and stuffy.”

Montoya described all the things teachers and students have tried to offset the heat. For instance, on hot days, students would place damp towels on their foreheads and arms, and ask for water every few minutes.

“It’s a researched fact that being overheated causes mental and physical fatigue,” she said. “So there’s a lot of instructional time lost. There also are medical issues for some of the teachers and students. We want to put in cooling systems in the pods.”

LAPS Contract Administrator Herb McLean told board members his estimates total about $360,000 to install air conditioning in the pods. It’s so important to Chamisa to resolve the heat problem that the school proposed taking the bulk of the money from funds allotted for its gymnasium project.

“We have not discussed this with the Bond Oversite Committee yet,” McLean said. “We’ll be about $46,000 short and propose to use interest money from bond sales. This won’t affect any projects scheduled at other schools in the district.”

Chamisa will delete plans to install air handlers in the gym and instead use that money to put new air conditioning in the pods, he said.

LAPS Business Manager John Wolfe told the board there is interest money available to complete the project. His office recommends it be completed.

School board members voted unanimously to approve the project, which McLean said should be completed by Aug. 1.

Ahlers and other board members discussed the importance of making it clear that they are supporting the project because Chamisa chose to transfer previously allocated money from one project to another.

Board member Alison Beckman added that it’s important to maintain a track record to show bond money was spent on the air conditioning in place of being spent in the gym.

Girrens reported advancements regard the district’s 20-Year Facilities Renewal Plan. Girrens, Anderson and/or McLean have hit the road taking their plan to community organization. Last week, the Public Safety Association heard the presentation.

“A lot of the improvements will enhance campus security and they understood that right away,” he said.

Girrens and group also met with Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation Executive Director Kevin Holsapple recently. They’ve scheduled a May 5 presentation to the LACDC and Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce Board. A marketing and information committee has been formed, Girrens said.

The 20-Year Facilities Renewal Plan Committee  is set to meet again May 14.