Top school stories of 2012

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By Tris DeRoma

Here is a look at the top education stories in Los Alamos County for 2012.



LA named one of the best communities for young people


In September, county and school officials celebrated at Chamisa Elementary the fact that America’s Promise Alliance picked Los Alamos as one of the best 100 best communities for young people.

According to its website, the organization’s purpose is to “focus on ending the high school dropout crisis and ensuring that students graduate ready for college and the 21st century workforce. This marks the second time Los Alamos has won the honor.


Gas line leak causes school evacuation

Los Alamos Middle school students received a fright in August when a construction crew accidentally ruptured a gas line. After many meetings that involved the construction company, the school district and the Los Alamos Board of Education, it was decided the aging pipe should be removed and a new one was installed. 


Bond resolution passes 

The Los Alamos School Board spent many a long night in September shaping up a bond resolution. The resolution will ask Los Alamos residents permission to issue another $20 million in bonds for construction funds to be used on various renovations and maintenance to shore up Los Alamos Public Schools aging infrastructure. Residents will be getting a ballot in the mail in January.


LAPS earns accreditation

Officials from the Los Alamos School District were granted a rare form of accreditation through “AdvancED” an accreditation service that specializes in accrediting entire school systems.

According to Claudia Coughran, lead evaluator for the AdvancED accreditation team, LAPS joins only 30 other school systems throughout the world that has an entire district accredited.

“You are a pioneer in continuous improvement in wanting to reach world class standards for your students, and you really should be commended for that,” Coughran said to district employees that came to the presentation.


Chamisa teacher wins
Teacher of the Year

In 2012, a special assembly was held for Physical Education teacher Justin Black, the winner of the New Mexico Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Teacher of the Year Award.

Black won the award because of his technique of combining math and history with physical exercise.

“These exercises help with their coordination and it makes both sides of their brain active,” Black said.


Bus Loop done

In September of this year, mornings for students, parents and middle school officials just got a little less hectic, as the “bus loop” at the Los Alamos Middle School became open for business.

The opening was hailed as a major milestone in the school’s rebuild, a move that would also make dropping off and picking up students safer.


Operation Hilltopper a success

One Sunday in October, Los Alamos High School became ground zero for a town-wide emergency exercise that eerily reflected future real life events that fortunately happened elsewhere. 

The school became the site of a mass killing, perpetrated by a lone student with a gun. 

After an intense morning of watching Operation Hilltopper unfold, Phil Taylor, the emergency management coordinator for the Los Alamos County Office of Emergency Management, said the drill was worth the time and effort.

“It went faster than I expected,” Taylor said of his hectic morning. “This was the first full-scale exercise since I’ve been here on the county side.”


LAHS football player reinstated

High School football player Grant Washburn, was reinstated to the varsity team after the School Board decided he was not guilty of carrying marijuana on campus.  The School Board reasoned on a technicality; that there weren’t enough drugs (just residue was found) in the bag to be properly tested.

Some were also moved by the testimony of Washburn’s father, Gerry, an employee with the school system as well as Grant himself, who wasn’t aware the bag was even in his car. He also passed drug test shortly after the bag was confiscated.


Middle School
Athletic Field opens

The Los Alamos Middle School officially opened its athletic field in October, giving the middle school a professionally designed field to play on.

According to LAMS Football coach Darren Jones, the turf features the same type of artificial turf that’s on Sullivan Field, and ever since his kids have been using it, he can see a marked difference between the artificial turf and the natural grass field they’ve had since the early 60s.

“It’s really awesome,” he said. “We’ve had a soccer tournament here earlier and we’ve got a lot of good feedback about the new field.


 UNM-LA holds off on tax hike

This coming January, UNM-LA was planning to send out a ballot to Los Alamos residents proposing to raise the tax rate by two mils in an effort to bolster UNM-Los Alamos’ core academic programs. The UNM-LA Advisory Board earlier cited declining financial support from the state as the main impetus behind the need for a tax hike. If voters approved the proposal, then UNM-LA could have received approximately $1.4 million in additional annual revenue. Two mil points would equate to $66.67 for every $200,000 in property value.

But, according to UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page, the board has decided to hold off on the proposal. 

 “The UNM regents thought it best to wait until later in the year to see how things pan out with the economy, the general election in November and this fiscal cliff we’re supposed to go off at the first of the year,” Page said.