• Task force suggests changes to NMPED mandates

    The Los Alamos Board of Education recently received an update from the district as to what it’s doing to help the district’s teachers through what many see as a difficult time of change and confusion for teachers, not only in this district but across the state.

    At the beginning of the school year, the New Mexico Public Education Department began a rollout of new programs known as NMTeach and Common Core.

    NMTeach is a teacher evaluation system the state came up with during a waiver agreement with the federal government over the “No Child Left Behind” act. The program features a set of tools and evaluation techniques to determine if teachers are competent in their chosen specialty. Common Core is a national program that is designed to instill in school students across the U.S. the same basic understanding of math and English according to the student’s grade.

    Teachers in Los Alamos as well as all over the state have been protesting the changes, stating that all the new testing, rules and requirements required to carry out the programs are overwhelming them as well as cutting into what they are originally there to do — teach children.

  • Parents weigh in on school district class size

    The Los Alamos Board of Education is not the only group concerned about the student-to-teacher ratio and other school-related issues; a group of parents have also been making its presence known too.
Calling themselves “Save Our Schools Los Alamos” (SOSLA), a representative of the group recently came to a recent school board meeting to talk about the ratio.
    The issue became a hot topic this year when it was revealed by school officials earlier this year that the second grades in many of the area elementary schools were going to contain at least five extra students, putting the class average in the higher-than-normal 25 to 30 student range for each second grade teachers. Schools effected by the jump include Mountain Elementary School and Barranca Mesa.
    According to school officials, part of the problem was they lost a larger than average number of teachers last year due to attrition and retirement.
    While they could have hired more teachers this year, the board decided funding would be better spent paying for a Master’s Degree program for the teachers in an effort to eventually shore up the training and experience of the teachers in the system.

  • Board passes MOU for teaching program

    The Los Alamos Board of Education recently voted to solidify an agreement with Highlands University that will make it easier for the Los Alamos Public School District’s teachers to attain Master’s Degrees in their chosen specialty.

    The teachers’ tuition is expected to be funded by LAPS, however, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Gerry Washburn revealed the university’s interim dean of education, Dr. Belinda Maumbach, is currently working on securing a grant “that would fund most, if not all of the tuition” for this year’s group of teachers who’ve already signed up for the program.

    “In my mind, we have a very good partner who’s very anxious to make this program work and to help us find ways to fund it so we have a sustained path forward, at least for the next three years,” Washburn said at the meeting to the board.

    The program provides six Master’s Degree programs, that include Master of Arts degrees in counseling, the arts and special education, educational leadership, and curriculum and instruction with elementary emphasis and secondary emphasis. The first session is slated to begin some time in January at the high school. More categories are due to be added in the future as the program grows.

  • Violence Against Teachers a 'Silent Epidemic'
  • Student council asks for dress code change

    If the student government at Los Alamos High School has its way, or more accurately the entire student body, students at the school could see a massive revamp of the dress code.

    Student Council President Soumyo Lahiri-Gupta, Vice President Jason Dunn and other officers of the council approached the Los Alamos Board of Education about making modifications a recent meeting.

    According to Dunn, their survey questions to the student population revealed two main gripes: the required length a pair of shorts must meet and the way the dress code is enforced.

    During the presentation, Board Secretary Matt Williams asked the students in attendance just how difficult it is to find shorts that go to four inches above the knee, the code’s current requirement.

    “It’s very hard,” said one student, while another added that Capri pants are another option, but “they aren’t shorts.” The students added that it gets very hot in the classrooms during the summer months, making it very uncomfortable.

    At the meeting, they presented the school board with a report of their findings as well as a suggested replacement of the code.

    “We believe that the adoption of this dress code will improve the overall morale at Los Alamos High School and increase student spirit,” Dunn said.

  • Torres wins top teacher award

    When Carolyn Torres, a math and science teacher at Chamisa Elementary School, won the Teacher of the Year Award for Los Alamos earlier this year, she automatically became a finalist for the state title — just like the 89 other teachers that won for their districts throughout the state.

    Tuesday, it was announced she won the state title.

    To put that in perspective, there are roughly 860 public and charter schools throughout the state, each staffed by an average of 20 teachers.

    Chamisa Elementary celebrated the day with a school assembly, where staff and her peers congratulated Torres as she sat where she seemed to be the most comfortable — right in the middle of her third grade class.
    Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt highlighted this fact during a special school assembly honoring Torres’s accomplishment.

    “I think of all of the schools, of which there are more than 800,” he said to the students, “I think of all the teachers in those schools of which there are more than 16,000, and here in Chamisa, you have the very best one.”

  • Chamisa teacher named tops in the state

    Carol Torres, center, shares a moment with her third grade students during a special school assembly honoring her accomplishment of becoming New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year. Check out the Los Alamos Monitor Wednesday for more coverage on the honor. 

  • Not good enough: Math, reading scores up slightly

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Sometimes the best isn't good enough: Most American fourth- and eighth-graders still lack basic skills in math and reading despite record high scores on a national exam.

    Yes, today's students are doing better than those who came before them. But the improvements have come at a snail's pace.

    The 2013 Nation's Report Card released Thursday finds that the vast majority of the students still are not demonstrating solid academic performance in either math or reading. Stubborn gaps persist between the performances of white children and their Hispanic and African-American counterparts, who scored much lower.

    Overall, just 42 percent of fourth-graders and 35 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above the proficient level in math. In reading, 35 percent of fourth graders and 36 percent of eighth graders hit that mark.

    Still, as state and federal policies evolve in the post-No Child Left Behind era, the nation's school kids are doing better today on the test than they did in the early 1990s, when such tracking started, with more improvement in math than in reading. Students of all races have shown improvement over the years.

  • Chamisa to 'raise the roof'

    From 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Chamisa Elementary will be hosting probably one of the most important events a parent can attend to help in their child’s education.

    The event will be held inside the school’s gym, and parents have the option to buy a pizza dinner.

    Called “Readers Raise the Roof,” the event is doubling as an introduction to reading for students in pre-K through third grade, as well as a workshop for parents looking for ideas on how to keep their kids interest up in reading when they aren’t in school.

    While the event is designed to be fun, there’s a serious motive behind it said Debbie Smith, the principal at Chamisa Elementary School.

    “At the youngest stages, a child’s first and most important teachers are their parents,” she said. “What parents do their children model, so what we want parents to do is model these best practices.”

  • Schmidt pitches flattening structure

    In an effort to reduce costs and make things more efficient, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt told the Los Alamos Board of Education he’s looking to streamline the structure of his administration.

    Already, he’s made the former head of human resources, Gerry Washburn, assistant superintendent, and put human resources under Washburn’s watch. At a recent work session with the board, Schmidt proposed even more changes.

    One of the more notable moves is his request would put the technology department under the curriculum department.

    “There are a lot of drivers behind this,” he told the board. “One of those is that increasingly, technology should be a support mechanism for curriculum.” Schmidt also said that by putting technology under another department, there will be much more transparency in the department as far as procurement and use of technology is concerned.

    “When technology was working as its own independent system, there weren’t really checks, oversights and balances, Schmidt said. “By putting the technology department under the auspices of director of curriculum and instruction, I believe we would have an oversight mechanism to make sure that the technology purchases and the infrastructure are used to benefit overall student achievement.”