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Education

  • UNM-LA forges ahead with plans

    While the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos did not get the funds from taxpayers to support and expand its programs this year, campus officials are still optimistic things are going to turn out well.

    At a recent meeting, campus Director Dr. Cedric Page, and members of the community college’s advisory board discussed the outcome of a town-wide vote that took place in September. The vote was for a 2-mil tax levy, funds from which would have allowed the school to expand its reach into the community as well as end its reliance on finite funding for a number of academic programs.

    But, Los Alamos residents voted down the measure 2,908 to 2,662.

    Page said the meeting was mostly about analyzing the vote and deciding upon a general direction. They compared the vote to the same attempt made in 2010, as well as the vote earlier this year where residents approved Los Alamos Public Schools’ second $20 million bond for the reconstruction of Aspen Elementary School and other district projects.

    One observation they made was that the voters were similar in profile in terms of party affiliation and age. They also observed the LAPS bond vote had a 6,300 voter turnout where the September UNM-LA vote had about a thousand less.

  • Teachers rail against New Mexico mandate

    When your school board seriously debates defying a state mandate, you know things are bad.

    That’s exactly what happened Tuesday night after the Los Alamos Board of Education sat through hours of testimony from the district’s teachers. The teachers urged the board to help them stop or at least slow down, a new teacher and administrator evaluation process being ushered in by New Mexico Education Secretary designate Hanna Skandera.

    The program is called NMTeach, and is billed as “New Mexico’s Educator Effectiveness System.”

    Before the teachers made their presentation, Assistant Superintendent Gerry Washburn and Curriculum Expert Pam Miller gave theirs, hoping to dispel the many fears and misperceptions the teachers may have about the system.

    A summary sheet created by the Public Education Department emphasized three facts: that the system was created with plenty of teacher input, that only administrators from their district would be doing observations and that the system is not something that was “made up” as a means to fire teachers.

    While teachers said they understood the PED’s goal of making sure teachers are effective in the classroom, this system they said, has a lot of bugs in it.

  • Board confronts declines in student population

    In the coming months, the Los Alamos Board of Education will be considering if something should be done, if anything, about the declining, in-district student population in Los Alamos Public Schools.

    The decline in enrollment was pointed out during a presentation and an accompanying report to the Los Alamos Board of Education by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt and Assistant Superintendent of Schools Gerry Washburn.

    While the decline is not a severe one, (2.69 percent since 2012) Washburn and Schmidt projected the enrollment decline out over five years to demonstrate what could happen to their funding if the trend continues.

    “Mr. Washburn developed a five-year look ahead that illustrates the impact from a 2 percent, 3 percent and 5 percent decline in enrollment. Each decline in enrollment will be accompanied by a reduction in state funding.

  • Paint Fight

    Los Alamos High School sutdents took part in the annual paint fight over the weekend.

  • Smith's donates $49K to community groups, schools

    Smith’s Food and Drug distributed about $49,000 of annual proceeds from it’s “Earn and Learn” program to 20 community organizations and schools Wednesday.
    The top five earners were Aspen Elementary School, $4,630.96; Barranca Elementary School, $5,809.82; Mountain Elementary School, $5,689.19; Los Alamos Middle School, $5,193.30 and Los Alamos High School, $5,604.16.
    Superintendent of School Dr. Gene Schmidt was at the ceremony to show his support for the schools as well as the community.
    “This is one more example of how a business in our community reinvests,” said Schmidt. “When we see the checks go out, they go out all across the community. He added this is also about Los Alamos residents supporting its school system.
    “This wouldn’t be possible if people didn’t support their local businesses,” he said. “Even as we thank Smith’s for its contributions our schools, we thank the community for supporting local businesses.”
    Residents helped raise money for the recipients by linking their “Fresh Values” cards to the school or organization of their choice.

  • Teacher union fights state evaluation

    According to Ellen Mills, president of the Los Alamos Federation of School Employees, a recent meeting with state education secretary designee Hanna Skandera did not go well.

    As part of a delegation looking to modify Skandera’s new evaluation system for teachers, to see how well they are teaching students using the new “Common Core” method, Mills told the other members of LAFSE that Skandera did not seem interested in what she and the others had to say.

    “...While we asked that she slow the process down, that we do a pilot, maybe we focus on one area rather than jumping into the deep end with both cement shoes on,” she said, acknowledging that Skandera seemed to be listening to them. “After two hours of this dialogue… she stood up and said there will be no waiver, we are not slowing it down, we are going for full implementation. I then thought to myself, at that point, then why did we talk to you for the past few hours?”

  • LAPS proposes 'High School 2.0'

    The Los Alamos Public Schools is looking for seed money for its latest project; alternative programs for students who want to skip the college-after high school route, yet find a rewarding job upon graduating high school.

    Called "High School 2.0,” the program seeks to arm qualified students with a high school diploma as well as an Associate’s Degree from the University of New Mexico, Los Alamos in the following fields: fire science, pre-engineering with a focus on robotics, a premedical degree with a focus on emergency medical service and possibly other degree programs.

    “We already have a real solid AP program in place; what we’re trying to do is address the other end of the spectrum, kids that might be interested in a career-type path as well as those who at risk of dropping out because they see our current programs as meeting their needs,” said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Gerry Washburn, who also co-authored the proposal to fund the program.

  • LAPS preps for Common Core

    Whether they were curious or already knew what it was all about, parents showed up at the Crossroads Bible Church Friday to see how they could play a more active role in their child’s education.

    Los Alamos Public Schools is currently switching over to the “Common Core” system of learning, and thought it would be a good idea to host a seminar about it.

    The lower floors and rooms of the church were occupied by Sundance Educational Consulting, a company hired by the Los Alamos Public Schools to explain to parents what Common Core involves, as well as teach parents some techniques in Common Core that will enrich their child’s experience in the new system.

    “We hope to get parents to understand some of the latest requirements of Common Core,” said Christine Becker, president of Sundance. “But more than that, how they can be involved, and how they can assist their children to succeed with those standards. It’s about parent engagement.”

    Courses taught Friday included understanding the stages of development, what parents should expect of their child, how a child’s brain works, and how they can use Common Core to enrich their child’s learning experience in school.

  • District picks school for master's program

    The Los Alamos Board of Education has decided overwhelmingly in favor of Highlands University for a program designed to increase the number of teachers in the district with a master’s degree.

    In funding a master’s program for its teachers, the district is hoping to retain more teachers as well as beef up the “training and experience” factor for the district, which the NM Public Education Department rewards with more funding for the district.

    Recently, the district suffered a setback in that funding when seven well-experienced teachers, most with master’s degrees, retired last year, an event that cost the district in not only training, education and experience, but in funding as well.

    Instead of replacing the teachers, the board thought it would make greater economic sense to fund a program that would enhance the education and qualifications of teachers within the district and use the later gain in funding to in turn hire more teachers.

    At Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt and Assistant Superintendent of Schools Gerry Washburn presented their plan to the board.

    Schmidt said their plan had three goals, increasing teacher effectiveness, retaining and attracting quality teachers and addressing the PED funding issue.

  • Voters reject tax hike

    The crowd in the lobby of the Los Alamos Municipal Building was guarded, as members of the UNM-LA Advisory Board and the Los Alamos Committee For Higher Education waited anxiously to see if the residents of Los Alamos voted to approve a 2-mil increase in property taxes to prop up the university.

    The polls closed at 7 p.m., and County Clerk Sharon Stover had the results by 7:30 p.m.

    Though the margin was close, with 47.49 percent of ballots in favor, 52.21 percent voted against the tax hike. The unofficial tally is 2,662 for and 2,908 against.

    UNM-LA Business Director Lisa Wismer, who was one of many heavily involved in the “Vote Yes” campaign, offered some words of consolation.

    “I’d like to thank you for showing your support, appreciation and support you showed UNM-LA,” she told the crowd. “We all have a passion for education, and we wanted to convince the community to invest in the future, as far as it relates to UNM-LA, and it didn’t come out the way we hoped.”