• Court asked to block eval system

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Teachers unions and some state lawmakers want the state Court of Appeals to block the new teacher evaluation system they say violates state laws.
    The request comes after a state District Court judge last month refused to stop implementation of the New Mexico Public Education Department’s system.
    The judge ruled that Hanna Skandera, the department’s secretary-designate, has a right to carry out administrative rules such as the teacher evaluation program, the Albuquerque Journal reported Friday.
    The appeals court is expected to consider the issue over the next eight to 12 months, said Shane Youtz, the attorney representing the teachers group.
    The coalition opposing the evaluation program says it violates state laws requiring school principals to conduct in-class teacher observations. The education department’s system allows other teachers to do observations. The group also is challenging the exemption of charter schools from some evaluation rules.
    Ellen Bernstein, president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, said the coalition contends that the state doesn’t have a right to make rules conflicting with existing law.
    Education department spokesman Larry Behrens said the issues raised in the appeal have been asked and answered by New Mexico courts.

  • Board weighs 'PowerSchool'

    Another big dilemma for the district involves teachers who are trying to teach Common Core, but also have to teach to the state’s older standards as well, something that may not go away, even when Common Core becomes fully implemented. Which means the educators could forever be struggling between two worlds under the PowerSchool system.
    Brian Easton, who teaches economics at Los Alamos High School, said as much at the presentation, and more.
    “I teach economics. I have to teach both Common Core and state standards, and my state standards and benchmarks aren’t going away,” he said.
    “My problem is that I’m going to have to go back through my lesson plans and figure out which of these standards and benchmarks don’t match, which of these Common Core standards don’t match; we’re putting an incredible amount of effort and time toward something no one is asking us to do. We know we have to have standards-based grading. That’s required by law. We do not have to have a standards-based report card. I think that’s the question we need to be having here.”
    Easton went on to thank the PowerSchool instructors for trying to make PowerSchool accessible, but also said PowerSchool will be a “disaster” if it reaches high school, mainly because of the dual standard.

  • UNM-LA announces spring schedule lineup

    The University of New Mexico-Los Alamos (UNM-LA) Community Education department has announced the schedule for its Spring 2014 lineup of classes. The schedules are now available on the UNM-LA campus and in stands around Los Alamos and White Rock, and will be mailed out to households the first week in January.
    UNM-LA Community Education Director, Eva Artschwager says, “This spring we have a wonderful array of new and popular Enrichment courses. We will continue language classes in French, Spanish and Portuguese; expand our history and culture offerings to include the History of Technology and Homer’s Iliad; and add Pilates and Intermediate Yoga to our fitness section.
    The new schedule includes more classes for teens such as Digital Photography and Financial Literacy.
    Artschwager also noted new classes were added this spring for adults and retirees. “We’ve expanded our offerings to include classes in managing retirement income and the Affordable Health Care Act. We will be partnering with the Fuller Art Center and PEEC to bring several classes in paper arts to the community. It should be an exciting semester,” she added.

  • 'Promise' bus rolls into Los Alamos

    The “Keep the Promise” Bus rolled into Los Alamos Thursday, parking in the Sullivan Field parking lot around 3 p.m. right across from the high school.

    Even though it was quite cold, at least one Los Alamos School Board member came out to “sign the bus” as well as a few teachers and some kids.

    Keep the Promise is a partnership of businesses, educators and parents that’s concerned with the latest educational reforms coming out of the New Mexico Education Department. Since the beginning of the school year, the NMPED has introduced many changes to it’s teacher evaluation system as well as to the curriculum, which has many teachers upset.

    Isidoro Herrera, a member of the American Federation of Teachers who was on bus, said there are other issues they want to bring to forefront, too.

    “Teacher evaluations, fair salaries, and adequate salaries for all employees and staff are important issues too,” Herrera said.

    Many think the NMPED has introduced too much too soon, and has loaded its teacher evaluation process, known as

    “NMTeach” with too much “busywork,” which teachers in Los Alamos say is severely cutting into their teaching time with the students.

  • Keeping the promise

    Los Alamos School Board member Dr. Kevin Honnell stops off on his way to a school board meeting to sign the “Keeping the Promise Bus.” The bus came to Los Alamos to show support for teachers who are against a teacher evaluation system the state is trying implement across the state. “Keeping the Promise” in the middle of a whistlestop tour of the state. The organization is trying to drum up support for a campaign to get the New Mexico Public Education Department to reform the department’s evaluation process.

  • Local schools take on 'An Hour of Code'

    Right clicking on a web page often brings up some pretty interesting options. One of the commands that often comes up is “View Source,” a command that reveals the “code” behind what makes a web page a web page.
     As computers take over more and more areas of our lives, some think that it’s time people start exploring the “View Source” function as something a little more than a curiosity.
    After all, they figure, if the average person can learn code, then the better off everyone will be in a computer-operated world. And that’s just not the code behind Web sites, but the code in software, smartphone apps and things that haven’t even been thought of yet.
    “Nowadays, almost any job requires the use of a computer, whether that’s word processing, making web pages, sharing information or building applications,” said David Kratzer, a computer scientist who works at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

  • 'Portable Fairy' lifts spirits at Aspen

    No doubt, moving can be a stressful and frustrating experience; especially when you’re responsible for making the experience run as smoothly as possible for hundreds of school children. That was the situation faced by the staff of Aspen Elementary School at the beginning of the school year as construction began on their new school.

    But, such an experience can be laced with a bit of magic as well, as Principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom and her staff soon found out. Shortly after they settled into their portable classrooms for the year, little gifts started showing up in the staff mailboxes. Nothing expensive or too elaborate, just little knick- knacks designed to make everyone who received one feel that everything was going to be OK, that they were going to pull through the experience.

    According to Vandenkieboom, the gifts have been showing up since October, and no one knows who’s dropping them off. Apparently, the “Portable (classroom) Fairy” as she or he is now known as is a closely guarded secret.

    Vandenkieboom said there is at least one person who knows the Portable Fairy’s identity, but Vandenkieboom said that person refuses to spoil the magic by revealing who it is.

  • NMPED letter advances through committee

    A carefully-worded letter addressed to Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera recently advanced a few steps toward final approval. The letter, which has been worked and edited for weeks by a panel of parents, educators and staff members appointed by the school district has several goals.

    The main thrust of the letter is to seek approval from Skandera and the New Mexico Public Education Department to make changes to NMPED’s recently implemented programs and initiatives. The school district has already made some changes, and officials are hoping NMPED will give its approval to the changes, once NMPED understands the reasons outlined in the letter.

    Since the beginning of the school year, teachers in the Los Alamos Public Schools system and their support staff have been changes to the classroom NMPED has mandated through initiatives like “NMTeach” and “Common Core.” NMTeach basically focuses on teacher performance and Common Core is a nationally-based program designed to ensure New Mexico’s school children are learning math and English at a level consistent with students across the nation.

  • SFCC board ousts president

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Santa Fe Community College's president has been fired, and her lawyers say she'll sue.

    The governing board voted 3-2 Monday night to oust Ana "Cha" Guzman from her $180,000-a-year position. The board's vote lineup was the same as the one that voted last month to put Guzman on leave.

    The board didn't state specific grounds for firing Guzman, but one board member who voted to fire her said the college is divided and needs to move forward. Another said Guzman needs to go to uphold the college's reputation.

    Guzman attorney Timothy White says he believes the board fired Guzman because she was trying to clean up the college's finances.

    Guzman was hired in 2012 with a contract scheduled to end in 2016.

  • District rides out rules ruckus

    A number of school districts in the state remain unclear regarding just what it takes for students to graduate from high school. A recent article in the Santa Fe New Mexican detailed how much of that had to do with repeated miscommunication with the New Mexico Public Education Department, as well as a confusing set of alternative requirements issued by the NMPED.

    The confusion came to light at a recent meeting of the Legislative Education Study Committee, where it was announced that the state’s school districts, in light of the confusion, would be able to create their own requirements — but just for this year’s seniors.

    One of the new requirements is the addition of half a credit to the graduation requirements.

    “We’ve traditionally required 24 credits to graduate, and now we will require 24 and a half credits to graduate, starting with this year’s freshman class,” Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Gene Schmidt said of the changes.

    Assistant Superintendent of Schools Gerry Washburn said they’ve added the half credit to their elective courses,