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LAHS' Warnock is stepping down

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Education> Retiring principal will be missed by many at the high school

By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos High School principal Sandra Warnock announced her intent to retire at the end of the school year during a Wednesday meeting with her staff.
Shortly after the meeting, School Board President Jim Hall stated, “I am grateful for Ms. Warnock’s long service to the district. I will personally miss working with her.”
Warnock is completing a 30-year career with Los Alamos Public Schools that began in 1984 as a special education teacher at the high school.
Warnock served in that capacity for 22 years before accepting a position as an assistant principal at the high school. Warnock served as high school principal for the past four and a half years.
Warnock said there were many aspects she loved about being principal, but it was the people she worked with she loved about it the most.
“It was the people part of the job that I liked the most, as well the challenge of trying to make things better in the area of student achievement,” she said.
Sherry Anderson, Math department chair, said “I think that Sandy has been a great principal. She has always tried to do what is best for the students and staff while being fair to everyone.”
As LAHS principal, the positions she’s held since 2010, Warnock championed the implementation of Saturday School, an expanded dual credit program and an expanded Advanced Placement program, which recently garnered the high school national recognition as a member of the AP Honor Roll — the first New Mexico high school to receive this honor.
Under her leadership, the high school received two “A” grades in the new school report card evaluation format. In addition, LAHS was named on several prominent national high school listings such as U.S. News and World Reports, Newsweek and The Washington Post.
Margo Batha, English teacher at the high school, has enjoyed working with Warnock.
“We are really going to miss Sandy,” Batha said. “She is a tremendous principal. She really cares for students and staff.”
Dr. Gene Schmidt, Los Alamos Public Schools superintendent, thanked Warnock for her service to the students and staff.
“She has been an exceptional school principal in her educational leadership, her academic vision for the future and her ability to lead the school through the construction of the new building,” Schmidt said. “As a community, we are thankful for her commitment to the future of our youth.”
Plenty of others around LAHS agree.
“I have found Sandy to be very professional, incredibly supportive of staff, and approachable,” said Kathy Boerigter, LAHS science teacher. “She has guided me to being a better teacher. She has a great sense of humor and I have the greatest respect for her.”
Additionally, Warnock led the high school students and staff through the arduous process of constructing a new high school.
After stepping down, she plans to continue to be a member of the Los Alamos community and plans on exploring other professional opportunities in the area.
Judy Bjarke-McKenzie, LAPS Board Vice President, offered praise of the retiring principal.
“Ms. Warnock has done a wonderful job running our high school and getting our students where they need to be,” Bjarke-McKenzie said.
Alan Kirk, Los Alamos Municipal Judge, also gave high regard to Warnock.
“I had the opportunity to work with Ms. Warnock when she was vice-principal and principal,” Kirk said. “She really focused on eliminating truancy, growing the credit recovery program, and creating a Saturday School. All these programs, in partnership with the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, helped to improve the graduation rate. She will be missed tremendously.”
Warnock appreciated the outpouring of praise from her colleagues and associates upon hearing the news. She added that the coming months will be bittersweet.
“Los Alamos Public Schools has been very good to me for the past 30 years, it wasn’t an easy decision,” Warnock said. “I’m going to miss the kids, I’m going to miss the staff… It’s going to be a difficult four months.”
As for her eventual successor Warnock said, “They will be walking into a high school full of wonderful students and staff, and they are going to be a part of something that’s moving forward at a pretty good pace.”
Los Alamos Public Schools will be conducting a national search to replace Warnock. The school system said it will involve students, parents and staff in the hiring process.