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Education

  • Two on board won't run

    School board members Melanie McKinley and Dawn Venhaus recently announced they will not be seeking re-election this year.

    Both members cited professional and personal reasons for why they won’t be seeking another term on the board.

    “Trying to balance teaching with raising four kids and serving on the school board, something had to give,” McKinley said. “It’s time for me to just step down for a while.”

    When McKinley’s term is up in February, she will have completed one four-year stint.  According to McKinley, she came on to the board during a very tough time, just when the school system was heading into some rough financial times.

    One of her proudest accomplishments she said was helping to guide the school system through that period.

    “I’m really proud of the fact that we weathered the storm and that we made it through without our education system suffering,” she said, adding that she and her fellow board members created a real legacy of sound fiscal management.

  • LA schools receive $138K

    The Los Alamos Public Schools got a nice surprise recently when it learned the state has awarded four of its schools $138,000. The schools are Los Alamos High School, Piñon Elementary, Barranca Elementary and Mountain Elementary.

    LAHS received $65,958.03; Mountain received $26,700.90; Barranca received $23,448.38 and Piñon received $22,283.53.

    According to New Mexico’s Public Education Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera, the funds were part of Gov. Susana Martinez’s “Real Accountability, Real Results” legislation to improve the state of New Mexico’s public school system. The law, passed in 2011, is designed to help schools that need improvement as well as reward those that are doing well. One of the key components of the law was assigning each school in New Mexico an easily identifiable letter grade.

    “The bottom line we said that since the school grades law was passed we want to champion success, and this is our opportunity,” Skandera said.

    The funds will be used to invest directly in the students through either the purchase of educational software, books or other teaching aids that would directly benefit the students.

  • Scholastic Book Fair

    Chamisa Elementary kicks off their book fair Friday. It will continue through Oct. 30 and is open to the community. The funds will benefit several learning programs at Chamisa. Items at the book fair include those for children, teens and adults and range from pencils, posters and books to items for the computer. Fair hours are 7:30-8:30 a.m., 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 3-6 p.m

  • UNM-LA tables tax hike

    A sluggish economy, the uncertainty of the budget situation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a similar proposal from the Los Alamos Public Schools all played a part in the University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents decision to squelch a proposal to the taxpayers of Los Alamos.

    This coming January, UNM-LA was planning to send out a ballot to Los Alamos residents proposing to raise the tax rate by two mils in an effort to bolster UNM-Los Alamos’ core academic programs.

    The UNM-LA Advisory Board earlier cited declining financial support from the state as the main impetus behind the need for a tax hike. If the proposal was approved by voters, then UNM-LA could have received approximately $1.4 million in additional annual revenue. Two mil points would equate to $66.67 for every $200,000 in property value.

    But, according to UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page, the board has decided to hold off on the proposal.

    “The regents thought it best to wait until later in the year to see how things pan out with the economy, the general election in November and this fiscal cliff we’re supposed to go off at the first of the year,” Page said.

  • LAMS Field Officially Opens

    It doesn’t have a name yet, but that didn’t stop Los Alamos Middle School from having a small dedication ceremony for its new football field Thursday, just before the Hawks played their game against the McCurdy Bobcats.

    According to LAMS Football coach Darren Jones, the field’s been open since fall sports began, and that now would be a great time for the ceremony.

    “Since this was going to be our last game here for the season, we decided now would be a good time,” Jones said.

    According to Jones, the turf features the same type of artificial turf that’s on Sullivan Field, and ever since his kids have been using it, he can see a marked difference between the artificial turf and the natural grass field they’ve had since the early 60s.

    “It’s really awesome,” he said. “We’ve had a soccer tournament here earlier and we’ve got a lot of good feedback about the new field.

    “The best part about it is that there are no bumps,” Jones said. “It’s a nice, level playing field, easy to run and maneuver on.”

    LAMS’ Assistant Principal Anna Vargas-Gutierrez characterized the field as a real accomplishment for the middle school.

  • Properties Generate Revenue for District

    Entrepreneurs looking for the ideal place to locate their business, need to look no further than the Los Alamos Public Schools. Some might not know the LAPS has a number of properties around town that are suitable for residents who might be looking to open a business.

    Currently the Los Alamos Public School District has at least two properties for lease, The “L” section of a building at 3540 Orange St. and two suites, “S” and “T” at 2101 Trinity Dr. And though they aren’t giving the properties away for free, the leases can be pretty reasonable. According to the district’s assets manager, Joan Ahlers, the process is pretty straightforward.

    “If somebody wants to lease from the school district, whether it’s vacant land or actual office space, they come through my office,” she said. “We then do a needs analysis and find out what may work for them.”

    After a price is negotiated, a three-step approval process then begins. First, the lease has to be approved by either the Public Education Department or the State Board of Finance. From there, the school board then approves the lease, before it moves on to planning and zoning at the county.

  • LAHS football player reinstated

    The Speech Theatre at Los Alamos High was the backdrop to a different kind of drama Tuesday night as friends, family and well-wishers showed up at the scheduled school board meeting to show their support for high school senior Grant Washburn.

    Among the crowd of supporters was Washburn’s dad, Gerry, a former school principal who now heads the school district’s human resources department.

    Part of the board’s agenda concerned the fate of the younger Washburn’s football career. Washburn was suspended from all extracurricular activities, including football, after a voluntary search of his vehicle Aug. 30 produced an empty baggie that subsequently tested for a substance consistent with marijuana.

    During the hearing, Washburn told the board that indeed, he left campus without permission to drop a friend off in another part of town. It was implied that it was this friend who left the rolling papers, two cigarette lighters and the empty baggie behind.

    The board patiently heard two hours of testimony over whether to reinstate the star football player and then took another hour to make its decision.

  • Smiths awards $47K to local schools

    At a time when funding for public schools is stretched, Smith’s Food & Drug Stores will donate $47,152.48 to Los Alamos and White Rock public and private K-12 schools through its Earn & Learn Program.
    A check presentation will be Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm in the speech theater at Los Alamos High School, 1300 Diamond Dr.  Smith’s Store Managers John Roberts from Los Alamos, and Boyd Moffett from White Rock will represent Smith’s.
    Local schools receiving a portion of the funds in undesignated cash contributions based upon their level of support in the program include: Los Alamos Middle School $5,066.60; Los Alamos High School $4,728.38; Mountain Elementary $4,380.14; Barranca Mesa Elementary $4,157.33; Aspen Elementary $3,665.20; Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation $3,099.73; and Los Alamos Band Boosters $2,927.88. Chamisa Elementary School in White Rock received $4,786.26.
    Since 2006, Smith’s has gifted $448,665 to Los Alamos area schools. The donation from Smith’s is unrestricted and schools may select the most appropriate use for the funds. Eligible schools must be a qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit, state-accredited, K-12 school located within Smith’s operating areas in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming and Montana.

  • LAHS students honored

    Los Alamos High School Principal Sandy Warnock announced this week that nine students have been named Commended Students in the 2012 National Merit Scholarship Program.  
    A Letter of Commendation from the school and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), which conducts the program, were presented by the principal to these scholastically talented seniors.
    They are Daniel Hill, Gabriel Intrator, Johnny Jacobs, Simona Martin, Emily McClenahan, Danielle Parsons, Maria Sandoval, Jessica Bohn and Samuel Baty.
    About 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise.
    Although they will not continue in the 2012 competition for National Merit Scholarships, Commended Students placed among the top five percent of more than 1.5 million students who entered the 2012 competition by taking the 2010 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

  • Major Piece of Middle School Completed

    Mornings for students, parents and middle school officials just got a little less hectic this week, as the “bus loop” at the Los Alamos Middle School became open for business.

    Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gene Schmidt said he was there the day the loop opened, because he didn’t want to miss it.

    “It was a very special moment for us, I’m very proud of what we accomplished,”
    Schmidt said, adding that it was one of many planned improvements to the infrastructure of the Los Alamos School District.

    “What we’re trying to do whenever possible is separate parent drop-offs, student/pedestrian walks and bus drop-offs,” Schmidt said.

    Not only will it increase safety, Schmidt said, but having a dedicated pick-up and drop-off area for buses will cut down on the confusion at peak parking times. “It avoids a lot of confusion in terms of right-of-way, when you have cars coming in, buses coming in, staff and kids walking through, it does a nice job of organizing the traffic flow pattern,” Schmidt said.

    Now that the bus loop is open, parents and pedestrians will have their own entrance to the school while the 13 buses used to transport students from Los Alamos and White Rock will have their own drop-off site from Hawk Drive.