• Martinez proposes teacher pay bump

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Gov. Susana Martinez announced an $11.5 million package of proposals that includes paying new teachers more and creating a mentorship program that her administration hopes will eventually lead to improvements in student achievement.
    New Mexico consistently ranks at or near the bottom when it comes to education, and Martinez said during a visit to Zuni Elementary School in Albuquerque that increasing pay for starting teachers by $2,000 will help make the state’s recruitment efforts more competitive.
    If approved by the Legislature, starting pay for a teaching job would be $34,000 per year, and any teacher currently earning less would receive a raise.
    “Starting teacher salaries are too low in New Mexico, so we need to raise them again,” Martinez said in a statement.
    Last year, the state budget included an increase in the minimum salary for new teachers to $32,000 per year.
    The latest proposal would cost the state an estimated $6.7 million to raise the base salary again.

  • EMS program gets boost by passage of Bond ’C’ in election

    The University of New Mexico Los Alamos received some life saving support for its Emergency Medical Services program when voters went to the polls Nov. 4.
    Voters across the state were able to do that by voting for the “Bond C” question, which allowed the state to release $140 million in general obligation bonds to help fund some apparently much needed capital improvement projects within the state’s network of special schools tribal schools, colleges and universities.
    The question on the ballot was: “Shall the state be authorized to issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $140 million to make capital expenditures for certain higher education, special schools and tribal schools capital improvements and acquisitions and provide for a general property tax imposition and levy for the payment of principal of, interest on and expenses incurred in connection with the issuance of the bonds and the collection of the tax as permitted by law?”
    The $140 million will be distributed among at least 20 educational institutions across the state. UNM-LA will be receiving a half million dollars of that funding, which will be used to renovate and design a space for its emergency services program.
    UNM-LA CEO Wynn Goering made the announcement at a recent UNM-LA Advisory Board meeting.

  • LA school district honored in Santa Fe

    School board president Judy Bjarke-McKenzie and school board member Nan Holmes, along with superintendent Gene Schmidt and Quality New Mexico board member Bill Wadt attended a Quality New Mexico recognition ceremony hosted at the Governor’s Mansion Wednesday.
    Megan Baldrige, daughter of Malcolm Baldrige (for whom the Baldrige Award is named), was on hand to congratulate the award recipients.
    Included in the presentation was a certificate, which stated, “The House of Representative of the State of New Mexico Congratulates 2014 New Mexico Performance Excellence Awards Program — Los Alamos Public School District — Piñon Recognition Recipient.” The certificate went on to state the House of Representatives, “Does hereby extend its congratulations and acknowledgement; and further does herein direct that this official expression of its pride be forthwith sent on behalf of the people of the State of New Mexico.”
    New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran spoke on behalf of Governor Susana Martinez. Duran congratulated Performance Excellence Award recipients for their accomplishments. She complimented award recipients for striving for excellence and creating a culture of continuous improvement.

  • Career day

    UNM-LA staff hosted a presentation for home school students Thursday. Tables and information were set up for three hours and a tour was given to the students.

  • UNM-LA to host college day for area homeschoolers

    Homeschoolers from Los Alamos and surrounding school districts are invited to attend a Homeschool College Day at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos. This free event will take place 1:30-4:30 p.m. Thursday in the Lecture Hall in Building 2 on the UNM-LA campus
    UNM-LA advisors and faculty members will be on hand to discuss opportunities for high school aged students and the specifics related to Dual Credit and Concurrent Enrollment.
    Kathryn Vigil, UNM-LA Student Enrollment Director said, “The New Mexico Legislature has revised the Dual Credit program to include Homeschool students and make them eligible for the tuition waiver and other benefits that come with the program. UNM-LA and the Homeschool community have a long history and strong relationship.
    Parents and administrators will have the opportunity to discuss process, policy and opportunities while students can engage in a variety of interactive college classroom activities.

  • School board to look at pay for classified employees

    They make sure your child’s trip to school, as well as the return trip, is safe and uneventful. And when they are in school, they make sure the classroom is warm when it’s cold out, and cool when it’s hot.
    At lunch time, they make sure the food they provide is safe and nutritious. They fix the boo boos. They make sure the lights stay on and the messes are cleaned up so students have a safe and distraction-free place to learn in. They take care of the paperwork and keep the computers running. They do a lot of other jobs too.
    They are the Los Alamos school district’s “classified” employees. They may do every other job that doesn’t involve teaching, but those jobs are just as important.
    At a recent school board meeting, school administrators and representatives of the classified employees seemed to agree on one thing about what classified employees do; they aren’t getting paid enough to do it.
    Assistant Superintendent and Human Resources Director Gerry Washburn told the board that while the district’s annual 2 percent raise rate is better than the state (.6) as well as the nationwide average, “if we’re going to attract the best and brightest, we got some issues,” he said.

  • School board members wanted

    Los Alamos Public Schools School board president Judy Bjarke-McKenzie issued a call to residents recently who may be interested in running for School Board Districts 3, 4, or 5. She said, “Serving on the school board gives residents a voice in the future direction of the school system.”
    With the Dec.16 deadline for residents interested in running for a seat on the school board approaching, Bjarke-McKenzie encouraged Los Alamos residents to consider applying.
    Any resident of the district, who is a “qualified elector” (qualified to vote under the provision of both the New Mexico and U. S. Constitution) of the State of New Mexico, a resident of the school board district from which a member is to be elected, and who desires to become a candidate for the office of member of the board of the district is eligible to file a declaration of candidacy.
    The declaration of candidacy is available at the county clerk’s office or can be downloaded from the county clerk’s office website losalamosnm.us/clerk. Candidates must file a notarized declaration of candidacy to the office of the Los Alamos county clerk by Dec. 16 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Residents missing this filing date can choose to file declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate before 5 p.m.

  • Super Search Off And Running

    Judging by last week’s spate of board meetings, committee meetings, and public hearings, the Los Alamos School Board’s search for a superintendent seems to be getting off to a good start.
    In an effort to attract the best candidate, numerous meetings were held over the past several weeks in order to gauge public opinion on what the district should be looking for in its next superintendent. To make sure it received input from every sector of the community, the board had the chairs of the committees weigh in with the board.
    At a school board meeting last week, at least members from two of those boards spoke about what their committees wanted in the next superintendent.
    Bill Wadt, who chairs the board’s Community Leader Advisory Committee, spoke first at the meeting before the board, conveying several recommendations to the board on what the CLAC would like to see in Los Alamos’ next superintendent.
    Wadt emphasized his committee valued experience over a Ph.D degree as one of the most essential requirements.
    “As leaders in this community, we feel strongly that classroom teaching experience is essential, but a Ph.D isn’t,” he said to the board. Other recommendations he made is that the board hire a superintendent that makes children as well as teachers and staff members feel valued.

  • Area schools honor veterans

    Since the Los Alamos Public Schools are honoring Veteran’s Day with no school today, all of the schools in the district decided to hold their ceremonies on Monday.
    At Chamisa Elementary, students invited a vet they know to lunch with them. They also gave each one a bright red poppy flower, the symbol of Veteran’s Day.
    According to research by Chamisa’s students, the symbol was taken from a poem about a World War I battleground in Belgium known as Flanders Field.
    The students also gave them “thank you” cards for their service. Vets also received a cookie.
    A local scout troop opened the lunchtime event with an impressive color guard ceremony and the school band played patriotic songs throughout the event.
    The school also had tributes set up in the main entranceway to veterans as well as soldiers who are currently serving, complete with photographs of the veterans.
    At Mountain Elementary, they also had a flag ceremony, with the Los Alamos High School NJROTC Color guard raising the flag and leading the school in the Pledge of Allegiance.
    The students were also given stars where they could right the name of a veteran. Those were displayed in the front hallway of the school.
    At Los Alamos High School, the NJROTC Color guard also conducted the flag ceremony.

  • Highlands president to retire

    LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — The president of New Mexico Highlands University has announced his retirement after eight years as head of the school.
    Jim Fries told the Las Vegas Optic that he contemplated retirement for a year.
    Fries said he will be 72 next summer and he wants to invest more time in activities he enjoys.
    His announcement comes less than three weeks after faculty and staff publicly criticized him and his administration at a regents meeting.
    Faculty accused Fries of not communicating with them and not being transparent about budget decisions, among other things.
    “Instead of an atmosphere of leadership, we have an atmosphere of top-down direction with (an) expectation that faculty should just go along with the direction taken by the central administration,” faculty members said in a letter to regents and the administration.
    Asked whether that criticism was a factor in his decision to step down prior to his contract expiring, Fries said it wasn’t.