School board members to scrutinize mandates

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Education > Trustees look to rein in requirements

By Tris DeRoma

The Los Alamos Board of Education will have a special meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at th Los Alamos High School Speech Theater to address the grievances expressed by many of the district’s teachers at last week’s meeting.

At a regularly scheduled meeting Oct. 8, teachers expressed a myriad of concerns over the many changes the federal government as well as New Mexico is in the process of implementing with regard to how students are graded, and how teachers are evaluated.

Since the beginning of this academic year, facets of “Common Core” and “NMTeach” have been rolled out in classrooms from kindergarten to high school and some Los Alamos teachers are saying it is too much, too soon.

Jonathan Lathrop, a teacher at the high school, told the board and district officials as much at the Oct. 8 meeting.

“In the 19 years I’ve been here, the morale of your teachers has reached an all-time low; in fact, I don’t think it goes too far to call it a crisis,” he said. He recounted the recent resignation of a well-known and experienced teacher who decided to go to a charter school.
“She felt like she had to leave and go to a charter school so she could teach,” he said, emphasizing the word could.

Before the upcoming meeting, Superintendent Dr. Gene Schmidt released a statement outlining how they plan to address their teacher’s complaints.

“Since the new standards and their timing are mandated by state rule, however, we have limited options. As such, the Board, at the recommendation of the administration, has directed the administration to work with teachers on lessening the impact of implementing these state mandated rules and create more time for teachers to focus on instruction of students,” Schmidt said in his statement.

“This will be done by carefully analyzing local programs and requirements that interfere with instructional time and ensuring that the district understands the minimum requirements of the mandates. This reasonable and measured approach begins Wednesday Oct. 16 when I convene a study group of teachers to review their concerns and develop a set of recommendations to be shared with the school board.”

In the agenda for today’s meeting, Board President Jim Hall outlined specific strategies and their outcomes.

“I move that the administration work with teaching staff to give priority to the following actions:
• Review district-promulgated programs and policies that reduce instructional time with students
• Identify district discretionary programs that can be suspended
• Review state-mandated programs and identify minimum requirements to accomplish program direction.
• Identify requirements that cause significant reduction in teacher’s available instructional time.
And, direct administration to come before the board at the Nov. 12 meeting with the following response;
• District discretionary programs that have been suspended
• District discretionary programs requiring board review and approval before being suspended
• State program requirements that are having an undue impact on instructional time.”