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Education

  • LAHS rated one of the top N.M. schools

    U.S. News and World Report recently released their ratings for the top schools in the United States and Los Alamos High School takes a gold medal. LAHS took the number three spot for the state of New Mexico behind the Albuquerque Institute of Math and Science and South Valley Academy.
    “The performance of our AP students and the high quality program that our AP teachers provides a visual comparison,” said Dr. Gene Schmidt, Los Alamos Public Schools superintendent. “A comparison that highlights performances higher than the national average as compared with students from around the nation.”
    One thing that adds to the success of LAHS in their ratings is the number of Advanced Placement or AP classes and how well students due in the course.
    “AP classes, in general, have a much faster pace than other classes, have students who are more motivated to dive into a subject or master it prior to leaving the high school,” said AP math teacher, Judy Nekimken. “Those classes have students who generally are pretty good at thinking analytically and my students are measured against many thousands of others who are taught the same demanding curriculum at the end of the course.”

  • LAPS says goodbye to Schmidt

    Friends and colleagues gathered at Fuller Lodge Tuesday to say goodbye and best wishes to Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt.
    Schmidt is leaving Los Alamos to be a superintendent of Farmington Public Schools.
    The president of the Los Alamos School Board, Jim Hall, publicly congratulated Schmidt on maintaining the Los Alamos Public School district’s rating as the best school district in Los Alamos and for shepherding a number of improvements to the district, including overseeing the construction of three schools and implementing academic and professional programs for students as well as teachers.
    “All of those schools came in on budget and on time. We gained significant national recognition for the quality of our schools. “We hired a lot of good teachers, principals and staff, and we helped them all grow. For example, we established a master’s program — we have 39 teachers getting their master’s — it makes a great difference in the growth, the quality and the capability of our staff,” said Hall to the audience.
    Many of Schmidt’s colleagues, including Hall, remarked how seriously Schmidt took being the public face, as well as an ambassador of Los Alamos Public Schools to the community.

  • State pulls its support funds

    The Los Alamos school district recently received word that when the time comes to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for another school reconstruction project, Los Alamos residents may have to foot the bill for the entire project.
    The Public School Capital Outlay Council, the organization that approves the granting of matching state funding for school construction projects, narrowed its criteria, only approving pre applications from districts that are qualified to receive 50 percent in matching funds or higher.
    The Los Alamos Public School is qualified to receive 42 percent in matching funds or higher.
    “They (the PSCOC) essentially decided to draw a line in the sand at districts that received 50 percent match or higher, and everybody else’s applications were not considered,” said Joanie Ahlers, Los Alamos Public Schools’ chief operations officer at a recent school board meeting. “Our pre-application, that the board approved, was not considered.”

  • LAHS students sought for board

    The Los Alamos School Board is seriously considering adding another member to the five member board and maybe even two.
    However, qualifications the board has set for these members rules out the majority of Los Alamos residents as the board is looking for just high school students.
    The idea is to enhance communications between the board and the high school’s student body so the board can make better and more informed decisions that impact the students. The board also hopes to instill a few civics lessons into the students as well.
    Recently, School Board Vice President Matt Williams communicated with Los Alamos High School Council President Esteban Abeyta and LAHS Council Vice President Jessica Hieroninus about the issue, as well as Debbie Belew-Nyquist, the school’s principal.
    According to Williams’ comments at the meeting, a number of ways to bring the new members into the fold are being considered, either through appointment by the high school’s student council or by the high school’s administration. Williams said Nyquist thought appointment by the administration might be the best solution.

  • Washburn offered a new job

    Los Alamos Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Gerry Washburn has agreed in principle to a new job in Oregon.
    Washburn confirmed Saturday he is negotiating a contract to become superintendent of Roseburg, Oregon’s public schools.
    He is a longtime teacher and administrator at LAPS and coached the girls basketball team for a dozen years.
    The announcement comes just days before Superintendent Gene Schmidt starts his new job at Farmington.

  • LA School Board votes for budget

    The Los Alamos School Board passed its budget for 2015-16 Thursday night, but not after a lot of soul searching from administrators and board members, since this $38.6 million budget includes a list of $2.7 million in expenditures and business increases projected to be paid for through the district’s “lease funds.”
    Those are funding the district receives from its portfolio of properties it leases to businesses, including the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    Most of the properties are former school sites. At present, the lease fund contains a reserve of about $7 million, an amount that according to LAPS’ chief operations officer was built up over a period of 10 years.
    The $38.7 million budget was passed 4-1, with board members Bill Hargraves, Jenny McCumber, Andrea Cunningham and Board Vice President Matt Williams voting for the budget.
    President Jim Hall was the lone dissenter, stating that he did not believe in taking the $2.7 million in lease funds to balance the budget and urged his fellow board members to vote for asking the administration to take one more week to find ways to help the board reduce the $2.7 million deficit.

  • MATCH program will help young readers

    There is an innovative educational mentoring program in Los Alamos that could help children with reading efficiency.
    MATCH New Mexico is a program where college students come together with at-risk children in the third grade. The name of the program is “mind the reading gap” and its goal is to aid in a child’s future and give an equal chance of success for every child in New Mexico.
    A fundraiser for the program is from noon-3 p.m. April 26 at the Inn and Spa at Loretto, 211 Old Santa Fe Trail in downtown Santa Fe.
    Tickets are $30, which includes valet parking, entertainment and all activities.
    Tickets are available online through EventBrite.com. Search for “Mind the Reading Gap.”
    “The fundraiser is very important to the program and we want to get the word out,” said Betty Scannapieco, who is in charge of community outreach. “The point is to raise awareness and support to aid our society to change.”
    There will be a silent and live auction during the luncheon fundraiser.
    MATCH stands for Mentoring and Tutoring Create Hope.
    Working with college students, the third grader will be guided with one-on-one mentoring throughout the program.

  • Residents: keep schools open

    As decision time gets closer and closer about where to apply the next bond funding for school reconstruction, an information session was recently held in White Rock to address some rumors about what may happen to White Rock’s two elementary schools, Piñon and Chamisa.
    With Los Alamos School Board Vice President Matt Williams presiding, residents wanted to know if the school board was going to close one of the schools due to declining enrollment, or perhaps consolidate the two schools into one for the same reason.
    The answer, for now at least, is neither.
    Williams did most of the talking at the session, which was held inside the Chamisa Elementary School’s gymnasium.
    The first thing he did was help the audience members catch up by letting them know what the board was doing in the past months. Using information from three major sources, which included the board’s 20-Year Facilities Plan, budget figures, and other documents, Williams briefed audience members on what the present situation is in regards to both schools and how the board and the district arrived at those figures.

  • Letting the Music Play

    Local resident Debra Minyard (center) was formally recognized by the New Mexico Public Education Department Thursday evening at the University of New Mexico. Those in attendance included Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera (far right) and State representative Stephanie Garcia Richard (fourth from left). Additional supporters were husband Joshua, students, friends and co-workers from Pojoaque Valley High School, where Minyard is a music educator. She heads to Washington, D.C. this weekend to meet President Barack Obama.

  • Wharram got much done at LAPS

    At a regular school board meeting in February, the members of the old school board, which included Judy Bjarke-McKenzie, Kevin Honnell and Nan Holmes, as well as current members Matt Williams and Jim Hall said goodbye to an old friend.
    Those former members took part in one last official act, congratulating one of their unsung heroes off to other challenges.
    David Wharram, the construction manager the board hired several years ago through Gerald Martin Ltd. to oversee over $40 million in construction on three schools, was officially dismissed from his role as construction manager.
    Even though it was his job, board members at the meeting said they admired how Wharram through his years of school rebuilds unflinchingly delivered the good, the bad, and the ugly with his often lengthy updates of each construction project.
    Whether it was about unexpected financial windfalls, missed deadlines, or accidents, Wharram was known for treating each report with a “just the facts” type of attitude which allowed the board to make the informed decisions it had to make to keep things on track without being distracted by a lot of drama.
    Board members said Wharram’s no-nonsense style was also crucial to the school board since the projects were primarily funded by taxpayer money, as well as approved by taxpayers through ballot.