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Education

  • Students pitch in for hurricane victims

    The images of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy hit Piñon Elementary School art teacher Stephanie Rittner hard.

    “I felt we couldn’t sit back and not do anything,” said Rittner, who is originally from New York. “As a community that has been through a natural disaster ourselves, I felt we could understand what they would need most. I was home with my daughter that day, so I emailed staff and they got on the ball.”

    Principal Jill Gonzales said that Rittner’s email became part of the conversation about what the school could do to help.

    Staff reached a consensus that a fund drive for the American Red Cross would be most useful. Gonzales was at a conference at that time, but encouraged them to organize it.

    Guidance Councilor Ellen Cort, secretary Wendy Hime and school clerk Kelly Hinojos were the organizing force behind the effort. They put out buckets for donations and cut out red, white and blue stars students could write their names on and post when they donated.

    Instructional assistant Jo Lakis created the artwork and graphics for a “thermometer” to record progress and an oversized ceremonial check to present to the Red Cross.

  • Sixth grade students moved by victims

    Sixth grade students who participated in the project were eager to talk about their reasons for donating. All had been deeply affected by the images of devastation on their television screens. Many had relatives living in affected areas.

    They were proud of contributing their own money to the effort.

    “The first night I watched the news and thought, ‘I can help. I just need to figure out how to do that,’ “ said a student named Janessa. “Then the next day, I heard about the fundraiser. I donated $5 and I’m going to give more today.”

    “My aunt’s next door neighbor had a tree fall on his house,” Lexy said. “I thought it might help him and help a lot of people.”

    “I just wanted to donate because I’m a Boy Scout and just like to help people out,” Shawn said.

    “I did it to give people hope, giving hope to the hopeless,” Caleb said.

    “I feel we have so much to offer, and Hurricane Sandy destroyed so many homes, we have to give to this,” Anna said.

    “I feel great knowing we helped a lot of people,” said Jacob, who has family in Virginia.

  • STEM participants create action plan

    New Mexico students lag significantly in most measures of K-12 academic success, especially in math and science. For this reason, statewide citizens came together to develop a STEM Education Action Plan that will help ensure important STEM education goals are achieved for New Mexico students and teachers.

    The event last week brought together more than100 participant students, Pre-K-20 educators, stem advocates, industry professionals, state agency education professionals and elected officials to develop an action plan that will address reforms in science, technology, engineering and math education in New Mexico.

    The action plan called for more teacher professional development, college recruitment and retention and improved and more significant classroom experiences in both K-12 and college.

    Participants expressed the need for more effective professional development. Ideas include better and more professional development resources, more collaboration among teachers, faculty from institutions of higher education and representatives from STEM industries and creating a longterm plan for professional development.  

  • Board approves funds to finish memorial garden

    If all goes according to plan, Los Alamos High School will soon have its Memorial Garden back.

    It’s been a pretty hard road to hoe for the garden.

    The garden was removed during a recent renovation to the high school, but was in danger of disappearing altogether until the Los Alamos Rotary Club decided to take it on as a community project.

    Then, Rotary Club officials revealed they may not have enough money to complete the project, after underestimating the cost to install the garden by $7,000.

    Recently, Skip King, the Rotary Club’s service director wrote a letter to Los Alamos Board of Education President Kevin Honnell, requesting the board help them finish the project with additional funding.

    “… I approached Superintendent Gene Schmidt asking for community service ideas. As soon as he mentioned the idea of the Memorial Garden, I knew it was the perfect project for our club. However, I knew it would be a financial challenge for us,” King said in the letter.

    He went on to note that the school’s $90,000 landscaping proposal came in under budget and asked the board if they could take funds from that and give it to the club to help finish the garden. He also mentioned that Rotary Club will be in charge of maintaining the finished garden at no cost to the school district.

  • Junior Hilltalkers chalk up points

    The Los Alamos Middle School debate team, otherwise known as the Junior Hilltalkers may be just over a year old, but they are acting like old pros, chalking up high scores in most speech and debate competitions they enter, according to Sherri Bublitz, their teacher and coach.

    At a  recent speech and debate competition at East Mountain High School in Sandia Park,  they combined forces with the  Los Alamos High Hilltalkers and the entire team managed to score second place overall against the 10 schools that took part in the competition.

    Along with the high school Hilltalkers, the middle schoolers competed in four types of debate: “congressional,” “Lincoln/Douglas,” “public forum” and “policy,” a type of debate that the U.S. Congress commonly uses, Bublitz said.

    The team also excelled in the speech categories.

    The team even had a first place winner in the “humorous interpretation” category, where LAMS student Trevor Nickless did his interpretation of Eric K. Kimmel’s  “The Three Samurai Cats.”

  • Rachel's Club Making a Difference

    Whether it’s a hand up, a hand out or just a hand, students in Los Alamos Middle School’s Friends of Rachel Club have been setting an example by using their hands for good.

    Whether it’s by giving out random “kindness” bags to students they pass in the hallway or by making posters, members of the Friends of Rachel Club are always finding creative ways to carry out their number one mission.

    “We plan ways to keep people aware and informed about bullying and why they shouldn’t do it,” said club member Aubrey Hollon.

    The club’s latest project has become a runaway success; just check the LAMS’ cafeteria wall. The club has recently been raising money by having anyone that wants to, dip their hand in some non-toxic paint and press their palm onto a section of the middle school’s interior cafeteria wall.

    So, why the obsession with hands? According to Rachel’s Club member Esperanza Tapia, the club is an affiliate of the Rachel’s Challenge organization, which was founded by Rachel Scott’s parents shortly after she was killed in 1999 during the Columbine High School massacre.

    Tapia explained that shortly after her death, her parents discovered something behind their late daughter’s dresser that gave them the idea for the foundation.

  • LAPS earns accreditation

    Officials from the Los Alamos School District breathed a sigh of relief Thursday when they were granted a rare form of accreditation through “AdvancED” an accreditation service that specializes in accrediting entire school systems.

    The officials, who included principals and some of the teachers from all of the LAPS schools as well as Superintendent Dr. Gene Schmidt and Assistant Superintendent Paula Dean, learned of the achievement at a special meeting Wednesday afternoon in Los Alamos High School’s ’Topper Theater.

    For the past few days, an evaluation team from AdvancED had been roaming the halls of all of the schools, checking out classrooms, interviewing administrators, custodians, food servers, teachers, students and parents, sitting in on teaching sessions, checking out offices, cafeterias and even talking to people they met in the street.

    Their mission?

    The AdvancED officials wanted to see if the Los Alamos Public Schools deserved district-wide accreditation.

    Members of the team included high ranking school officials from California, Minnesota and New Mexico. They were: Claudia Coughran, Dr. Clete Lipetzky, Ron Williams, Teresa Rowlison and Karen Dondelinger.

  • School Board Takes on Redistricting

    Don’t worry Barranca Elementary School parents, Los Alamos Board of Education President Kevin Honnell is still in your corner.

    However, due to redistricting, Honnell has been moved from 4 into the same district as Board member David Foster, according to the new plan.

    “What we wanted in this is that we wanted every district to have an elementary school,” LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt said, adding that one of the outcomes of the one elementary school, one district plan is that Honnell will now be sharing space with District 4 representative David Foster.

    “One of the things that happens in this new model is that Dave and Kevin’s house placements are now in District 5, but Kevin will still continue to represent his District 4,” Schmidt said.

    Honnell wasn’t at the meeting to comment on the changes, but Foster was. He said the change was fine with him.

    “I don’t see this as a problem, it’s two years out and I think everything has worked out just fine,” Foster said. “When we get elected, we basically focus on the entire school district.”

    When Honnell was contacted later, he said essentially the same thing.

  • LAPS seeks district-wide accreditation

    By next Wednesday afternoon, the Los Alamos Public School District should exactly know where it stands with “AdvancED,” an organization that accredits schools.

    According to Assistant Superintendent Paula Dean, AdvancED officials won’t just be involved in accrediting Los Alamos High School, but the entire school district.

    “For decades, only high schools have been accredited,” Dean said. “However, over the last couple of years, there’s been the possibility of having an entire district accredited and the agency that does the accrediting is called AdvancED.”

    Dean added that there’s a possibility that LAPS could possibly be the first or the second public school district in New Mexico to achieve district-wide accreditation. District-wide accreditation is becoming more important to school districts as today’s students face stiffer academic competition not only nationally, but globally as well.

    “District-wide accreditation would assure that the things that we do, such as professional development, instructional strategies and our curriculum are coordinated throughout the whole district,” Dean said. “It would also help us be recognized as a high quality district, because we are willing to apply for this higher level of scrutiny.”

  • Los Alamos High School goes green

    Workers try to beat the weather, making LAHS a little greener, in the process. Temperatures began to drop Friday.