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McLeod named interim superintendent

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By Katy Korkos

It has been a busy week for the school board, with a special meeting Tuesday, a regular session Thursday, followed by a work session later Thursday evening. The board wrapped up the current superintendent search by naming assistant superintendent Mary McLeod to the lead role in the district throughout the 2008-2009 school year, while vowing to initiate an improved search to replace Jim Anderson, who will retire in June. A total of seven applicants responded to the nationwide call for applications.“It’s not a reflection on the people (who applied),” board member Jody Benson said. “It’s not the quality but the quantity of the pool.” The board had used a 32-member screening committee and developed a matrix to help in choosing a new superintendent, and more than half of the committee attended Tuesday’s meeting to comment on the lessons learned in the search.“The overwhelming theme we heard Tuesday is this process erred in that it was probably deficient in how we sold our community,” board president Steven Girrens said. He added that this search process had been the same as the one the schools had used 14 years ago when Anderson was hired, when more than 50 people applied.“A lot of the candidates said we need to make a better packet when we’re marketing Los Alamos,” board member Jody Benson said.“The process didn’t cast the net far enough,” board member Alison Beckman said.Girrens said that the screening committee unanimously recommended to the board not to proceed with the pool of people who had applied.Beckman moved that assistant superintendent Mary McLeod be named superintendent for the 2008–2009 school year, that the board not further consider the applicants, and that it affirm to continue the search process. That motion passed in a 4-to-0 vote, with member Ken Johnson absent.The board also discussed whether the word “interim” in front of McLeod’s title would affect her ability to negotiate on behalf of the schools, and decided that the term was not necessary.“We still need to keep this on the tickler,” Girrens said. “We need to figure out how to capture what was told to us, and do something with what we’ve learned.” The board will consider increasing the salary that is offered next time around as well as using an employment recruiter to attract a wider pool of potential superintendents. The salary advertised for the position was $130,000.An item titled “Trinity Development Project” was also on Thursday’s agenda, but Anderson reported that there had been no movement on the negotiations between the county and the Boyer Company. The school board has gone on the record as stating that there will be two public meetings to discuss the agreements, which are expected to be completed very soon. The fact that the documents had not been sent to the schools by the close of business March 24 means that the meetings will be pushed back.“We’ll have to look at them beginning the third week in April,” board member Joan Ahlers said. The public meetings would then be held in May, and a joint meeting with the county council would be pushed back into June.Mountain School played host to Thursday’s meeting, and the colorful artwork that lined the walls reflected the enthusiasm of teachers, the school administration, the parent-teacher organizations and students. Each school in the system sent representatives of its site council to Thursday’s work session, and those representatives described how site councils and parent teacher organizations cooperate with school staff to enhance students’ lives at school.The elementary school site councils, from Barranca, Mountain, Chamisa, Piñon and Aspen had similar stories to tell about the needs they are trying to meet at their schools. Each school received a grant of $2,200 from the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation, and is planning to use the money for things like digital cameras and microscopes, and to enhance its curriculum.In each elementary school, the PTOs work to enrich students’ experiences at schools, by raising money and volunteering to create clubs and make field trips possible.The site council from the high school, represented by Linda Hull, has a slightly different mission. “We’re more issues-based,” Hull said. She said that the ‘Topper Advisory Council reviews the Education Plan for Student Success, participates in two secondary advisory council meetings and reviews the bylaws each year. Topics under discussion at the meetings have included aligning high school classes with UNM-LA, student assistant teams and smarter homework.The school board meets on the second Tuesday of each month and holds a work session on the fourth Thursday of each month. All meetings are open to the public, other than executive sessions dealing with limited personnel or property matters.