Warnock is ready to make a difference

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Interim principal is up for the challenge of making a long-term difference

By The Staff

When Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent, Gene Schmidt came to town, one motto he believed in was to, “surround yourself with positive people.” Schmidt has done just that by elevating Sandy Warnock to the position of Los Alamos High School Principal for the remainder of the school year.

Warnock began her career teaching in Wisconsin at the middle school prior to her arrival in Los Alamos with husband Phil and two toddlers in tow. She taught special education for 29 years before going into administration and has spent 25 years with the Los Alamos Public Schools.

Warnock enjoyed teaching at a mid-school level until she worked at the high school level. She loved the high school age set so much that she never left. “Both my children went through the Los Alamos school district and received an excellent education and that is what I want for all students,” Warnock said.

A portion of Schmidt’s role with LAPS is to inspire and build dreams and for Warnock, he’s doing just that. Warnock knows the students, has the confidence of the staff and the drive to make the transition seamless according to Schmidt. Schmidt also believes the district is holding true to the Board’s philosophy in its personal mantra to look inside the system. “She’s been very visible in her leadership role,” Schmidt said.

Warnock starts 2010 with a lot on her plate and even if she was apprehensive that quickly dissipated.

“It is quite comforting knowing that I am blessed with a terrific staff and we will address all issues that lay before us with solid forward planning against our obligations and by remaining flexible for those day-to-day issues and events that always arise,” Warnock said.

While overseeing one hundred staff and approximately 1,200 students, she will also continue work on the Standards Based Assessme.nt, accreditation and pending construction projects. While any of those daily tasks is enough to consider, Schmidt is grateful that Warnock is willing to accept difficult tasks and believes that says a lot about her personal conviction. “She’ll bring a fresh perspective to her role as principal at LAHS,” Schmidt said.

The term “interim,” in itself is slightly old school but the process for making the position permanent begins with evaluations in April. The Superintendent will review the work throughout the district prior to making any decisions, gaining input from key stakeholders along the way. Warnock is already up for the challenge of the idea of making the change long term. “I want the students, staff, parents and community to know that I am here for the long haul and will do what it takes to make the position permanent,” Warnock said.

Warnock brings a steady progression into the administrative position which has afforded her an intimate knowledge of the school, and day-to-day operation and issues.

“This methodical transition has allowed me to be mentored by two very good administrators with differing styles. I will strive to bring the best of both predecessors, the most recent being Grace Brown, and my own approach to this position. Phil nor I have plans to retire in the foreseeable future. I am here for the kids, my staff and this great, unique community.” Warnock said.

Another benefit of promoting from within is that Warnock and her administrative team, hit the ground running. Warnock described her staff as terrific and said, “I have had the pleasure of working along side many of them in the classroom so we know each other well.

Warnock is not alone in her endeavor as she is also surrounded by superb colleagues. Mike Johnson came to LAHS from Los Alamos Middle School in 2008. “He has done a great job for us as assistant principal,” Warnock said. “Vickie Nelms joined us back in 2007 and has made numerous positive changes in the Athletic Department as proven by our recent Governors Cup Award.”

Another friendly face to join the crew is Principal Cindy Montoya who is serving as vice principal for the remainder of the year from Chamisa Elementary. “We wanted to pair up people that would make Sandy even more successful. She has really grown the academic rigor at her school. She has a strong discipline background that will serve Sandy well,” Schmidt said.

“My administration team is great. I am very excited and optimistic about this team!” Warnock said.

Dawn Jalbert has headed to Chamisa during the interim to serve as Dean of Students. Jalbert has taken the time to visit every classroom speaking with students and answering questions. She has enjoyed meeting students and their parents and appreciates the warm welcome from families and staff.  

“It has been a joy to get into classrooms and see all the good teaching and learning that our teachers and kids are engaged in. I look forward to continuing the tradition of excellent education and high expectations that Mrs. Montoya and the Chamisa community have created,” Jalbert said.