School board takes on new look

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By Carol A. Clark

The Los Alamos Board of Education starts its new year with two new members and three new officers.

Magistrate Judge Pat Casados delivered the oath of office to Melanie McKinley and Thelma Hahn at the top of Tuesday evening’s school board meeting in the high school speech theater.

Once the members were sworn in, the board elected new officers. By unanimous vote, Joan Ahlers became president, Ken Johnson vice president and Jody Benson secretary.

The new board voted 5-0 to adopt the policies 4043.2, Sick leave deferred payment and 4115, Evaluation of licensed personnel. It also voted 5-0 to table a document retention policy, which involves a new e-mail archiving system.

Kevin Powers of RBC Capital Markets briefed the board on the reasons timing is good to place $25 million in general obligation bonds up for sale.

“I met with staff shortly following passage of the school bond in January and we came up with an amendment that meets the needs of the district in terms of cash flow,” Powers said.

His three-part plan includes selling $25 million in bonds April 14, $10 million in late 2010 and $5 million in 2011.

Powers explained that it is advantageous for the district to sell the bonds now because of favorable interest rates. A year ago few bidders surfaced for bond sales, he said, adding that Tuesday morning nine institutions bid on $17 million worth of GO bonds for Santa Fe County.

“We believe you could sell your bonds at something short of 3.5 percent,” Powers told the board.

LAPS Business Services Director John Wolfe said in a follow up interview Wednesday that the bulk of the $25 million will be used for upgrading Los Alamos High School. B, C and D wings will be torn down and replacement classrooms will be constructed, he said, which will be determined through the design process.

“The design process is very important because that’s when we get parents, students, staff and community input,” Wolfe said.

The board approved the bond sale in a 5-0 vote.

In accordance with the Open Meetings Act, the board approved attendance of one or more members to meetings by means of telephone conference calls or similar electronic communications equipment.

The board also directed Superintendent Mary McLeod to extend an invitation to finalists for superintendent to bring their spouses with them when they travel to Los Alamos for interviews.

Ahlers and McLeod are scheduled to meet with county officials at 8 a.m. Monday to discuss the district’s ongoing negotiations surrounding the Trinity Development Project.

The board is set to meet again at 6 p.m., March 26 for a special school board meeting and work session at Mountain Elementary School. The meeting is open to the public.