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Principal candidates make case

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By Tris DeRoma

The two remaining candidates vying to be Los Alamos High School’s new principal had a big day Monday, as they made presentations to the student body at the school. They made a similar presentation to the general public in the school’s Speech Theatre later that evening.
Michael Johnson’s and Deborah Belew-Nyquist’s 45-minute presentations included a question and answer period.
Both candidates have extensive experience in education management and teaching. Johnson is presently an assistant principal at Los Alamos High School. Belew-Nyquist is presently working as an educational consultant for the International Education Director, Children of Nations in Port Orchard, Wash.
The candidates shared their vision for the school.
“My vision is to engage the students, as well as educate and inspire them,” Johnson said, adding that he would do that by providing students with “a good, hard-paced curriculum that’s relevant and has lots of options and extracurricular activities.” He also said he would make room to provide as much individualized instruction as possible.
Belew-Nyquist said that if she was hired for the job, her vision would be an inclusive one.
“The question is ‘what’s my vision?’ Well, when I’m working in schools, it’s not what my vision is, it’s what our vision is,” she said.
Belew-Nyquist then proceeded to talk about the district’s as well as the high school’s vision statements, and how she would incorporate them into making a school that included everybody.
“I truly believe that educating our children is a shared responsibility of parents, staff, students and the community,” she said. “By being here tonight, you are really expressing that you are interested in being a part of the district and the school.”
After their presentations, Assistant Superintendent Gerry Washburn asked the candidates a series of questions gathered from the general public. Questions included basic ones, such as why they were interested in applying from the job at LAHS, to how they would deal with such issues as suicide and dropout rates, as well as what their vision is for parent participation.
One question asked each candidate would prepare students for the college or career of their choice upon graduation.
Johnson again emphasized giving the students as broad a curriculum as possible, fill with plenty of extracurricular activities and options.
“Students come from a variety of interests, and you want to fulfill their aspirations by as many choices as you can as well as extracurricular activities,” he said to the audience.
“Sometimes what they learn in those extracurricular activities they can take and use in the classroom.”
The candidates were also asked about what they thought the key safety concerns were facing the schools today.
Belew-Nyquist focused on school shootings and Internet safety. She recommended holding regular safety drills and keeping the community informed of safety procedures. As for Internet safety, she said vigilance is key.
“The learners we have today are different than they ever have been before,” she said. ”They have the world at their fingertips because they have Internet access and access to social networking. I think it’s incumbent upon all of us that we provide them with some great instruction on Internet safety.”
Student Council President Soumyo Lahiri-Gupta had a hand in organizing the events, and was glad the district was making student input a priority.
“I would have to say that overall, the district has been very forthcoming with student input,” Lahiri-Gupta said.
“They are really trying to listen to what we have to say and really get our voice out there.”