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New Superintendent’s mission is to listen and learn

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By Carol A. Clark

His first official day on the job was July 1 and already new Los Alamos Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt has met hundreds of local people.

“Morrie Pongratz (Voice of the Toppers) has been just wonderful taking me around and introducing me to everyone,” Schmidt said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “He invited me to join the Kiwanis at their Fourth of July celebration in White Rock and I also appreciate Jody Benson (school board member) and so many other people who’ve been ambassadors getting me in to places around the community.”

Schmidt spent several hours on July 4 at the entrance to Overlook Park shaking hands and introducing himself to current and former LAPS students and meeting parents, community members and local leaders.

“What I found in talking to so many people is that this town has a real sense of patriotism, they don’t wear it on their sleeve but I saw the pride the kids feel in learning and also the adults of their work and the security they’re providing to our nation,” he said.

Schmidt spent time with former superintendents Mary McLeod and Jim Anderson and praise them both for the legacy they’ve left behind.

“Mary and Jim have done so much to position the district to be in a really good place – instructionally, moving forward on our facilities and in putting a real focus on strengthening curriculum administration,” Schmidt said. “They have done the heavy lifting and I’m going to get credit for implementation.”

Schmidt is currently reading “The House at Otowi Bridge: The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos.”

He explained that there is a passage in which she speaks of a meeting at San Ildefonso Pueblo where someone said, “If our hearts are right … good things are going to happen.”

“If our hearts are right – That’s going to be my theme for this year,” he said. “And one of my missions this year is to listen and learn from the community.”

Schmidt received word Tuesday that his home in Washington sold. The closing is set for October, he said. His wife Wendy is packing up the couple’s belongings and Schmidt plans to fly to Boise the first week of August to meet her and help drive the moving van into Los Alamos.

“This is just one more strong indicator that we’re moving to Los Alamos with conviction and longevity,” he said.

Schmidt said he was raised Catholic and his wife Lutheran and he has attended both local churches.

“Our religion and faith is important to both of us,” he said. “We’ll likely continue to attend both. Wendy and I need to meet the community and go where the people are.”

During Tuesday’s school board meeting, members passed the adoption of a charge for the district’s Legislative Task Force by a vote of 4-0. Board member Melanie McKinley was absent.

“One of the jobs of the task force is to meet with community members,” Benson said.

Board member Thelma Hahn asked why the school district was paying the police department $60,000 a year. Board Vice President Ken Johnson explained that the district created a memo of understanding with the county several years ago after a female student was apparently assaulted on the Los Alamos High School campus.

The MOU details the terms of the agreement in which LAPD provides a school resource officer on campus when school is in session at both the high school and Los Alamos Middle School.

The board agreed to put the issue on a future agenda to discuss further.

The board also unanimously passed a resolution to enter into an agreement with the New Mexico Department of Transportation to improve the parking lots at Canyon School. Total project funding is set at $25, 057.

LAPS will provide 25 percent of the funding or $6,264. NMDOT will provide the remainder or $18,793. LAPS is responsible for any over runs due to poor substrate, unknown thickness of asphalt at repair points or other costs of that nature.

The school board meeting scheduled for July 23 has been cancelled. The agenda items for that meeting will be covered during the board’s annual retreat set for 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. this Saturday in the district boardroom.

The meeting is open to the public.