Schmidt uncertain of future plans

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By Tris DeRoma

It was just five years ago Gene Schmidt came to Los Alamos, fresh from his job as superintendent of schools for the Bridgeport School District in Washington State.
When he officially steps down June 30, he said his future plans may take him somewhere else in New Mexico, or back to Washington. One thing is for sure though, he said he is going to miss being superintendent here. He said he was impressed with the previous administration’s approach to education.
“I came to this community very impressed with the quality of the education, and that the community valued educating the whole child,” he said. “Art, drama, sports, music and education in general all seemed to have the same importance.”
He added that he was proud to have added to that legacy, if only if it was for a short time.
Schmidt said he was particularly proud of the guidance he lent to shepherding in the district’s reconstruction of the district’s seven schools, the most important part of that being getting the public to vote for the release of more than $40 million in bonding so far to aid in the construction. So far, Los Alamos High School (construction bonds that were OKd before Schmidt became superintendent) and Los Alamos Middle School have received redesigns, with Aspen Elementary School now being in the midst of its redesign.
“Certainly the passage of the bonds and the construction of the schools is something we can look at with pride,” he said, adding that they also “went through a time where the schools increased it’s reputation for a great education through a number of national and state awards.”
He was also proud of the fact they helped usher in the Trinity Place real estate deal for the new Smith’s Marketplace, a property that’s owned by the Los Alamos School Public School District.
Schmidt said he was also glad to be part of the process that selected six out of the seven principals for the district’s schools.
Principal Debbie Smith of Chamisa Elementary School worked with Schmidt on several local committees, including the Continuous Improvement Committee, a committee Schmidt formed to improve the school district.
“I felt like he was open to entertaining people’s thoughts and ideas,” Smith said.
“He would also write down your thoughts and ideas, which made you feel valued and respected.”
Schmidt also helped extend the district’s educational partnerships with other institutions, including Highlands University, University of New Mexico-Los Alamos and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
With Highlands University, Schmidt and the school board developed a paid-for master’s degree program for teachers looking for professional advancement.
He and the board are also working on a program with UNM-LA called “Early High School.” When it’s up and running, the program will offer students alternatives to the traditional path to college. In a recent article, Schmidt talked about the program and a recent $100,000 grant they received from the New Mexico Public Education Department to kickstart it.
“...with a little bit of certification and skill, a student can jump out of here with a wide open field of career opportunities awaiting them,” he said in the article.
UNM-LA’s executive director, Cedric Page, wished Schmidt luck in the future.
“We always looked for ways to support each other in meeting the needs of the students of Los Alamos,” Page said.
“Gene was always willing to invite to the table to involve us in ventures that involved the K through 20 mix of students.”
Board member Kevin Honnell, who did much work with Schmidt when he was president of the board, also wished Schmidt well.
“Dr. Schmidt is a dedicated and hard-working educator who, over the past five years, has given 110 percent to our community. He is a kind and considerate gentleman who truly cares about the success of every single student,” Honnell said. “I thank him for his investment in the children of Los Alamos and White Rock wish him well as he moves to the next stage of his career.”