• Teacher raises included as part of new school budget

    The Los Alamos Board of Education unanimously approved a $35.7 million budget for 2013-14 during its meeting Thursday.

    The budget plan includes a 2 percent raise for teachers from a combination of state and local funding.

    While the raises were expected, there was debate among the board members as to whether or not the seven elementary teachers that retired this year should be replaced.

    Though they said the decision was a tough one to make, they ultimately decided not to replace the teachers since budgetary projections showed the board that due to the way the Public Education Department’s school funding formula is set up, they would ultimately stand to lose out on state funding critical to the operation of the school district in the future.

    Instead the board opted to use the money it does have to fund a reading coach for the five elementary schools, so the district would not have to discontinue the schools’ reading program.

    School Board president Jim Hall said he appreciated the budget committee’s input in helping the board finalize the budget. He also added reassurances that at some point, those teachers will be replaced.

  • Field day fun for Aspen students

    Aspen Elementary held it’s first “Field Day” a few weeks ago, much to the delight of students and teachers.
    The brainchild of Colin Hemez, a student at Los Alamos High School and Andy Garcia, a coach at Aspen Elementary School, the students participated in many activities, including: running races, “Zumba” excercises, ball games and just some good old running around. A couple of trucks from the Los Alamos Fire Department were there too, and firefighters were on hand to demonstrate some of the more interesting tools on board as well as give tours of the trucks’ interiors.
    “It was really fun. It felt like a celebration,” Kathryn Vandenkieboom, principal of Aspen Elementary said.
    She said not only did the kids get some exercise, but they learned teamwork as well.
    “Colin was looking to do a service project and he at first thought about organizing a race,” Garcia said. But after we met it turned into a field day for the entire school.”
    According to Garcia, it was the first time the school had a field day. It’s an event they hope to make into a tradition, he added.
    “Next year, the school will be in the middle of construction but the year after that we definitely plan to continue it.”

  • School passes new budget

    The Los Alamos Public Schools passed a budget Thursday, allocating $35.7 million for Los Alamos’ school students. The budget keeps the reading program intact for the elementary schools, but will not replace the seven retired teachers. However, there will be one “reading coach” to monitor the reading program at the elementary schools. Read about the budget in Sunday’s Los Alamos Monitor.

  • School district looks over funding snafu

    The Associated Press is reporting that New Mexico’s Public Education Department made a clerical error that added S218,076.73 in extra funding to the Los Alamos Public School District’s “at-risk” students fund.
    Each year, the PED gives schools a certain amount of funding to aid the district’s “at-risk” students. The funding amount is supposed to be based on the number of students the district has at that time. At-risk students are considered to be students who don’t attend school regularly, cannot speak English, or are considered living below poverty level.
    In the article, the PED is said to have made an alphabetical error in its annual list, due to where they placed West Las Vegas. This resulted in Los Alamos as one of the districts that received more funding than it should and others to have received less than they should, according to the article.

  • Field Day Fun at Sullivan Field

    The Los Alamos Public School District had a field day for its fifth and sixth graders at Sullivan field today. The students participated in many physical activities, including relay races, tug of war and other activities that tested coordination and balance.

  • Teacher suing district lost previous complaint

    A judgment made earlier this year by the New Mexico Human Rights Division of the State of New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions could affect the outcome of a pending lawsuit filed against the Los Alamos Public School District by a school employee.

    The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court by Mountain Elementary teacher Zeynep Unal, alleges she was forced out of her teaching position at Aspen Elementary through the use of trumped up disciplinary actions allegedly used to intimidate, harass and discriminate against her.

    “Defendants unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff through their repeated and continued harassment of her,” a statement in the lawsuit read. “The repeated and continuous harassment included unfounded disciplinary actions, an attempted improper termination and other adverse actions and unequal terms and conditions of employment.

    The Defendants engaged in this repeated and continuous harassment because of the plaintiff’s national origin in violation of her rights under federal and state law.”

    Unal is from Turkey. The lawsuit was filed April 18. Besides the Los Alamos School District, Unal also named Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt and Aspen Elementary School principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom as defendants.

  • New Rotary group raises funds to benefit local fourth graders

    A newly-formed satellite group of the Rotary Club of Los Alamos called STARS (Service to All Rotary Satellite) will host a fundraising event from 4-7 p.m. Sunday June 2 at the Dixie Girl Restaurant.
    The theme of the event is “Are You Smarter than a 4th Grader?” and all members of the community are invited to join. The evening’s events will include a trivia quiz competition for all ages, as well as an all-you-can-eat pasta buffet with salad, drinks and dessert.
    Funds raised at the event will benefit a program to provide four weeks of swim lessons to all 4th graders in the Los Alamos school district, a program that was eliminated several years ago due to budget cuts.
    Tony Hinojosa, Physical Education instructor at Mountain School, has been advocating to reinstate the program. He started by appealing to the Mountain School PTA to fund the lessons for its own 4th graders.
    This year, all Mountain 4th graders were given swim lessons at the Aquatic Center. In a similar program funded by the Mountain PTA, Hinojosa took 5th graders to Pajarito Mountain for ski and snowboard lessons.

  • Glow Run fun

    Participants begin the race and run past Chamisa Cheetah, Chamisa Elementary School mascot. The first Glow Run was on Saturday in White Rock. The fun included the sale of glow lights, popcorn and homemade fudge to boost the bottom line. 100 participants were registered for the run which raised approximately $1,100 in the hopes of adding a paved track to the campus in the future. 

  • School board tackles construction concerns

    While everyone else is thinking thoughts of summer vacation this time of year, the thoughts of the Los Alamos Board of Education have already moved on to the next school year.

    Specifically, Aug 14, the day most students go back to school.

    The board’s session was to address concerns surrounding the final construction phases at the middle school and the beginning phases of construction at Aspen Elementary.

    The chief concern among board members was making sure both middle school students and elementary students had a place to go when their schools open next year. That involved a lengthy discussion on the dilemma of moving the campus of portable classrooms that the middle school students have called home for the last two years to see service at Aspen.

    Move them too soon, when construction at the middle school isn’t completed, middle school students won’t have a place to go in August. Move them too late, neither will the Aspen Elementary students.

  • 'Summer school' not what it used to be

    Here’s a sentence describing one of the classes in “The Summer Program for Younger Students,” a special curriculum created by the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

    “Launch a rocket on the last day of class.”

    They’re talking about model rockets, but still, who wouldn’t want to sign up for that? Other courses in the program promise that students will get to learn about fire, fossils, robots, how to solve real life mysteries, program a computer, even train a dog.

    It’s these types of learning experiences that have kept the youth of Los Alamos coming back to the “Summer Program for Younger Students” for the past 20 years.