• Suit filed against PED

    A lawsuit filed by Democratic legislators and a teachers union asks a court to block the New Mexico Department of Education’s new system for evaluating public school teachers’ performance.
    The Albuquerque Journal reports that the lawsuit filed Friday in state District Court in Albuquerque contends that parts of the department’s rule conflict with state law and are illegal.
    Department spokesman Larry Behrens calls the suit a delay tactic that harms public school students.
    Behrens also notes that the state Supreme Court previously rejected a challenge to the rule.
    “This lawsuit rehashes the same tired arguments the Supreme Court rejected late last year,” PED spokesman Larry Behrens told the Journal. “We will fight yet another tactic to delay because we understand that 300,000 New Mexico students deserve better.”
    Attorney Shane Youtz represents the plaintiffs. He says the new suit is narrower.
    The suit cites provisions of the rule allowing charter schools to apply for waivers and for personnel other than principals to observe teachers in the classroom.
    Educators allege that Education Secretary designate Hanna Skandera violated her statutory authority by promulgating the PED’s teacher
    evaluation rule.

  • National Merit Scholarship semifinalists

    The National Merit Scholarship Corporation recently announced its semifinalists for its scholarship program. And Los Alamos had plenty of nominations. They are: Back row: left to right: Calvin McKinley, Daniel Ahrens, Tristan Goodwin, Collin Hemez. Front row: left to right: George Barnum, Melanie Boncella, Lauren Tencate, Alexandra Berl.

  • Skandera congratulates LAHS

    The best of Los Alamos High School was on full display Wednesday as Education Secretary designate Hanna Skandera came to town.

    She was here to congratulate Los Alamos High School for getting an “A” during a recent evaluation by the state.

    Accompanied by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt, she received a warm welcome as soon as she entered the school’s lobby, greeted by the high school’s principal, Sandra Warnock.

    As members of the high school orchestra played classical music in an alcove above the lobby, Skandera got to meet the school’s award-winning “Team Y” robotics team as well as their latest creation, a basketball-shooting robot.

    She also sampled some of the appetizers and desserts the schools culinary arts students made.

    She also gave a speech at the event, a speech that centered on the high school’s achievements.

    “Job well done, not only to your leadership, but to every teacher, parent and community member that has made this a school of excellence,” she said. “Thank you for letting me be a part of your hard work, your commitment to your students, and for letting me celebrate your success with you.”

  • Skandera draws critics on visit to Los Alamos

    Secretary of Education designate Hanna Skandera came to Los Alamos Wednesday to tour the middle school and high school, and celebrate the high school’s academic success.

    There was a little tension in the air, however, as teachers demonstrated across the street from Los Alamos High School while she toured the school.

    The demonstration had to do with Skandera’s new evaluation system for teachers that she is trying to get passed through the state legislature. To many teachers, it’s the last straw from a state government they think is clueless when it comes to public education.

    A mixture of teachers and parents confronted Skandera at the high school.

    One teacher, Jenny Diesburg-Lathrop, who teaches fifth grade at Aspen Elementary, said even though she had a chance to talk to Skandera one-on-one about the issue during the visit, she felt like Skandera wasn’t listening.

    “No. I don’t feel like I got my point across,” she said. “I really do feel like she has an agenda and that agenda is to get the evaluation passed through.”

    Across the street, roughly 10 people held up signs and voiced their displeasure about Skandera’s evaluation system on the sidewalk of the lemon lot.

  • Skandera to speak at community dinner

    Secretary of Education-Designate Hanna Skandera will speak at a community dinner, 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Los Alamos Research Park Conference Center, Room 203A, 4200 W. Jemez Road.

    Some of the challenges and changes happening in New Mexico public education include Common Core. New Mexico, 45 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for public schooling. Common Core establishes new education guidelines and a different approach to learning, teaching and testing. The curriculum and the teaching and testing methods have resulted in much controversy, and the various aspects of Common Core are being debated across the country.

    Skandera served as Deputy Commissioner of Education under former Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush. She has also served as a senior policy advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education. During former President George W. Bush’s administration, she assisted Secretary Margaret Spellings with policy development and implementation, strategy and communication. She also served as former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Undersecretary for Education.

    The dinner is sponsored by the Los Alamos Republican Party. Everyone is welcome, and it is hoped that there will be attendees of all political perspectives.

  • Sporting College Colors
  • LA teacher loses battle to cancer

    Marilyn Fabry, a Los Alamos teacher for close to 20 years, lost her battle with cancer Saturday.

    She was 60.

    Last Monday was proclaimed Marilyn Fabry Day by the Los Alamos Board of Education, and on Tuesday, dozens of students showed up outside her house to wish her well.

    They all wore orange because Fabry was a fan of the soft drink “Orange Crush.”

    Los Alamos High School principal Sandra Warnock sent the following email to parents Tuesday morning.

    “It is with deep regret that I inform you about a recent loss to our school community. On Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, Marilyn Fabry passed away peacefully after a courageous battle with cancer. This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns, and questions for our entire school, especially our students.

    “Our school has a Crisis Intervention Team made up of professionals trained to help with the needs of students and school personnel at difficult times such as this. Counselors from the high school, middle school and elementary schools, as well as district psychologists, are available today for grief counseling for any student.

    “I am saddened by the loss to our school community and will make every effort to help your child and the Los Alamos High School staff through the resources we have in place.

  • HillTalkers weigh in on mil-levy debate

    The Los Alamos High School HillTalkers, the school’s debate team weighed in on whether or not Los Alamos voters should grant the University of New Mexico- Los Alamos more funding through a 2 mil tax levy.

    The debate team showed up at a forum and presentation on the subject presented by the League of Women Voters and UNM-LA at one of the school’s lecture halls Thursday night.

    Arguing “for” the levy increase were junior Sarah Bouquin and senior Daniel Ahrens. Arguing “against” the levy were juniors Dakota Klasky, and Irene Garrish.

    Ahrens opened the debate, saying why the public should step forward and support the levy. Among the points he made was a sharp decline in state funding for UNM-LA that occurred in the last five years, and the fact that UNM and the state legislature has called for communities to fund their own colleges.

    “As the responsibility for funding shifts to local communities we need to enact strong policy initiatives to support our local education,” he said.

    In response, Garrish quoted a letter from a local resident who said that “Los Alamos is a fairly affluent town, but we have a substantial population of fixed-income taxpayers who simply cannot afford a tax hike,” she quoted.

  • Gov announces stipends for teachers

    Governor Susana Martinez announced Wednesday that a new education reform initiative will pay 400 New Mexico teachers an additional $5,000 to work with students in struggling schools or to help students earn Advanced Placement (AP) credits.
    The first step in the initiative will reward 100 teachers who agree to move from a school with a grade of an A or B to a school with a D or F grade. Teachers must commit to a minimum of two years at the struggling school in order to receive the stipend.
    Additionally, 300 teachers—currently instructing AP classes—will be eligible for an incentive. Awards will be based on teachers who increase the number of students successfully passing AP courses.

  • State eyes changes to special ed funding

    At a recent Los Alamos Board of Education meeting, officials from the school district revealed the state is considering making a major change to how it funds special education and the Gifted and Talented Education Program. According to the way the state funds special education, GATE is considered a part of special education.
    According to LAPS’ Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe, the state is particularly looking at changing over to census-based funding for special education.

    After the meeting, Wolfe told the Los Alamos Monitor that this is only a recommendation and that so far, no legislation has resulted from the report. He said he and other school officials will be watching closely to see whether or not the state legislature acts on the recommendations, which were presented in a report by the Legislative Finance Committee.

    If that were to happen Wolfe said the district could stand to lose $270,000 in special education funding. “This would have a negative impact on those districts that would exceed the census right now,” he said at the meeting.