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Education

  • Board weighs in on sequestration issue

    It may seem like a small gesture, but the Los Alamos Board of Education took time from a busy agenda this week to add its voice to the many school boards across the nation concerned about the “sequestration” issue.

    The board’s passed a resolution, which urges the U.S. Congress and the president to protect public education against a proposed budget action that will cut $1.2 trillion in spending over the next decade. The law was passed last summer, and is due to go in effect Jan. 1.  

    The resolution is for the school board to call on senators and representatives and tell them that we oppose sequestration,” school board member Dawn Venhaus said of the action. “We oppose this 20 percent cut across the board and that they need to make a deal.”

    “The Los Alamos School Board urges Congress and the administration to amend the Budget Control Act to mitigate the drastic cuts to education that would affect our students and communities, and to protect education as an investment critical to economic stability and American competitiveness,” the last section of the resolution stated.

    If the school board passed it, then it would be forward to Los Alamos representatives in congress, Venhaus said.

  • LAHS wins two design awards

    Los Alamos High School came up with two design awards at a ceremony last week in Albuquerque.
    The first award, presented by the New Mexico Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, named Los Alamos High School the winner of the 2012 Contractors for Excellence in Construction Award.
    Los Alamos also received the National Association of Industrial Office Properties 2012 “Merit Award.” Accepting the award on behalf of the school, Sanjay Engineer stated he was very proud of the award that “recognized the modern design and respected the tradition of the historical campus.”
    Sanjay Engineer from Fanning, Bard and Tatum Architects, was the lead architect on the high school project. He shared news Los Alamos High School also won the Associated Builders  and Contractors’ 2012 “Excellence in Construction Award” at the ceremony Oct. 26 in Albuquerque.
    High School Principal Sandy Warnock attended the NAIOP ceremony and accepted the plaque on behalf of the staff, students and community of Los Alamos.

  • Officials target Aspen

    Los Alamos Public School officials are hoping that when the district’s request-for-bonding ballot arrives in the mailboxes of Los Alamos residents in early January, residents will vote “yes” for the district to release another $20 million in general obligation bonds to help the school system rebuild its infrastructure.

    If the bond request sounds familiar, it’s because residents already voted for the bond issuance back in 2009. Then, residents voted for a one-time tax increase to fund $40 million in general obligation bonds for a project dubbed the “20-year Facilities Renewal Plan.”

    The district has already spent $20 million and is sending out a ballot again in early January asking residents for permission to release the next $20 million.  

    While the last bond funds cycle was earmarked for improving and renovating Los Alamos High School, LAPS officials have made Aspen Elementary School the next top priority in this round, asking residents for $12.4 million in bonds to fund a total rebuild of the school. New Mexico’s Public Schools Facilities Authority has even pledged an additional $5 million toward the rebuild of Aspen — if the voters approve the bond.

  • Global study of student scores a mixed bag for US

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Students in the U.S. perform better than the global average, but still lag behind many of their peers in Asia and Europe, an international study found.

    Fourth-graders have improved their scores in reading and math over the past four years, according to a study released Tuesday. But progress seems to fall off by eighth grade, where math and science scores are stagnant.

    Meanwhile, kids in countries like Finland and Singapore are outperforming American fourth-graders in science and reading. By eighth grade, American students have fallen behind their Russian, Japanese and Taiwanese counterparts in math, and trail students from Hong Kong, Slovenia and South Korea in science.

  • Lujan highlights $25 million in education funds for state

    Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District highlighted $25 million in Race to the Top funds that New Mexico will receive to improve education in the state.
    The grant from the Department of Education is part of the Early Learning Challenge that focuses on improving early learning and development programs for young children by supporting states’ efforts to:
    • increase the number and percentage of low-income and disadvantaged children in each age group of infants, toddlers and preschoolers who are enrolled in high-quality early learning programs;
    • design and implement an integrated system of high-quality early learning programs and services; and
    • ensure that any use of assessments conforms with the recommendations of the National Research Council’s reports on early childhood.
    “Education is the key to unlocking opportunities for our children and preparing them to be leaders in our community,” Luján said. 
    “It is vital that New Mexico’s children get off to a strong start with a solid foundation, and these funds through the Race to the Top program will enable New Mexico to invest in early education that is a critical component to future success.”
    New Mexico will receive the $25 million award over four years.

  • School board election set for Feb. 5

    School superintendent Gene Schmidt said it’s not too soon to begin thinking about the School Board election slated for Feb. 5.

    Two White Rock positions will be up for election. Current Piñon Elementary School Board representative Dawn Venhaus and Chamisa Elementary School Board representative Melanie McKinley announced that they would not seek reelection.

    A special information night is set for Dec. 4 at the Chamisa Elementary School Library. The informational meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. Board position one represents the west side of White Rock, Pajarito Acres and the Royal Crest Trailer Court of Los Alamos. Board position two represents the west side of White Rock. Both Board positions are for four years.

    According to school superintendent Gene Schmidt, board members have a wide range of responsibilities. A major function of any School Board is to develop and adopt policies that spell out how the school district will operate.

    The Board is also responsible for designating the chief executive, as well as planning and setting short- and long-range goals. The Board, in consultation with the superintendent, is responsible for approving and adopting an annul budget that will provide the financial basis for the buildings, furnishings, staff, materials and equipment needed to carry out education programs.

  • Infrastructure debate surfaces

    What began as a routine contract approval hearing turned into anything but, at a recent Los Alamos Board of Education meeting. Problems zeroing in on the school district’s aging infrastructure quickly took center stage.

    It all started when the Los Alamos Public School District’s purchasing manager, June Gladney, informed the board that the district has secured a contractor to repair the roof at Piñon Elementary’s “200” building, without the school board’s official approval. Usually, the school board would have a small debate about the specifics of the proposal, but this time, in order for LAPS to take advantage of state funding, the project had to be completed by the end of December.

    That is why the school district decided to go ahead with the project with little input from the board, merely requiring board President Kevin Honnell’s signature to start the project off before the board had time to look into the specifics of the contract.

    “To this end, the department has been very proactive to meet the Dec. 28 deadline,” Gladney told the board. “PSFA (Public School Facilities Authority) funding expires Dec. 31.  There is no getting around that, and that means this project has to be finished by Dec. 28, and that is what we told the contractor.”

  • Board mulls builder choice

    The redesign project of Aspen Elementary recently received a boost when the Los Alamos Public School District’s Citizen’s Review Committee picked a Construction Manager at Risk to head up the project.

    The CMAR will be Jaynes Corporation, according to LAPS Purchasing Manager June Gladney.

    “The interview with Jaynes’ staff was dynamic, exciting and on target. It is clear that they understand the CMAR process and how it will benefit our Aspen project,” Gladney said in a recent report on the matter.

    A CMAR is an industry term for a construction manager that, once a total construction cost estimate is agreed upon with the client, must make sure to stay within the agreed budget. A CMAR usually agrees to assume all cost overruns, thus, the “at-risk” part.

    Gladney reminded the board of the difference, using the construction currently going on at the middle school as an example.

    “I hope the board will approve our selection,” said Gladney, reminding the board that “this is a CMAR project, in that we are moving away from the McCarthy model. There will be a preconstruction phase where there will be a guaranteed maximum price and then move forward from there.

    The district sent out a request for proposals and Jaynes was one of six companies that responded.

  • LAHS staff: 'We're here for you'

    Counselors have been on hand at Los Alamos High School and middle school since Monday, and they will continue to be available as students and faculty mourn the passing of Nikolas Ventura-Arencon. His funeral was Wednesday morning at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church.

    Ventura-Arencon, 14, and a freshman at LAHS, was killed in a car accident on N.M. 4 last week.

    Since the accident, LAHS has been taking an active role in making sure students who knew Ventura-Arencon get the help they need to deal with the sudden death.

    Guidance Counselors Prentice Chatfield, Danielle Straate, Enid Burgess and Cindy Black have been visiting classes and talking with students about Ventura-Arencon.

    “We’ve had different reactions as any group of students would,” Straate said. “Some don’t react, some are crying, it’s very individualized.”

    Though events like this don’t happen frequently, the staff does have specialized training to help students deal with what has happened.

  • Council funds LAPS DP Road project

    In a move that reaffirms the Los Alamos County Council’s determination to backstop local schools, the council voted unanimously to approve a request from the Los Alamos Public Schools for financial support to develop its A-15 tract along DP Road.

    LAPS requested $51,700 to bring water and electricity to the parcel to make it attractive as lease property or for a land swap. LAPS Assets Manager Joan Ahlers estimates the improvements to the property will yield $5,400 to potentially $35,000 a year in additional revenue for the district.

    Leasing is one of the few options schools have for raising income for operational costs and salaries without reducing their share of the state’s funding formula.

    Likewise, capital improvements are one of the county’s few means of benefiting the schools without affecting that formula.

    The request is in alignment with council’s 2008 resolution to provide financial support for public schools. Deputy County Administrator/Chief Financial Officer Steven Lynne also noted that the county has a placeholder of $1.5 million within the Capital Improvement Project Fund for public schools partnership projects, which will serve as the pool of funds for the grant.