• Teacher sues district

    Zeynep Unal, a Turkish-born special education teacher who has been employed by the Los Alamos Public Schools since 2005, is suing the district for violations of the New Mexico Human Rights Act, defamation and breach of contract.
    The suit claims that Unal continues to suffer from loss of income, severe emotional distress, anxiety, humiliation, embarrassment and the violation of her federal and state statutory rights.
    Los Alamos Public Schools, the Los Alamos Public Schools School Board, Aspen Elementary School principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom and superintendent Gene Schmidt are named as defendants in the case.
    “I can’t comment on its merits,” said school board president Jim Hall. “It’s inappropriate to comment on a legal matter especially involving personnel. We have to wait and see what happens and let the court process play out.”
    “Until our attorneys look at this and study this, I can not comment,” Schmidt said.
    Unal’s attorney, Kate Ferlic of Santa Fe, filed the suit in district court Friday.
    Schmidt said Saturday morning the school district had not been served yet but confirmed the case was filed in district court.

  • Chamisa gears up for fun fest this weekend

    The Chamisa Elementary PTO is working on its annual carnival, which is open to the community and takes place this weekend.
    The April 20 event is a fundraiser for a major school project as they ready for end of the year activities.
    “We have brought in new games and have gotten some of the teachers to agree to going into a dunk tank,” said President Trisha Conlin. “There will be food and plenty of fun.”
    The PTO has been working on fundraising to acquire new shade structures for the school. The hard working crew has raised enough money from fundraisers to put 3 canopies up in the upper team playground with hopes to inspire raising additional funds for another playground, in the future.
    The fun fest will take place from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. with a $7 admission fee that allows students to have four hours of non-stop games and play.
    Parents can watch for free or contribute to the $2,000 goal by paying a $3 fee to play or take some throws at the dunk tank.
    Cheetahs are currently collecting change in small boxes for teachers to see who gets to take the plunge on Saturday.
    The fun doesn’t just stop with games, but includes a cupcake walk, bounce houses and prizes and Chamisa hopes the whole community will support this worthwhile effort.

  • UNM-LA set to state case

    UNM-LA officially received permission last week from the university’s Board of Regents to go ahead with its plans to ask the residents of Los Alamos to help shore up the schools ailing financial situation through a 2-mil increase in property taxes in September.
    The permission came shortly after a presentation made by UNM-LA Director Cedric Page, a community support group called the Los Alamos Committee for Higher Education and support from the members of the UNM-LA Advisory Board.
    A day after, members of LACHE and the UNM-LA Advisory Board met at UNM-LA to discuss what they shared with the Board of Regents Tuesday.
    According to LACHE Chair Michael Wismer, declining state aid coupled with rising student enrollment played a key factor in the regents giving UNM-LA permission.
    “The main message Cedric communicated was that we were in a dire situation,” Wismer said. “There’s been a 38 percent decline in revenue from the state over five years. Paired with the fact that there’s been a 14 percent increase in enrollment shows that we cannot sustain this trend.”
    Wismer also shared a video that was played at the Board of Regents meeting that featured the support of County Council members.

  • LAHS ’Topper Band Performs At Disneyland

    The Los Alamos High School Topper Band had a spring break to remember.
    It marched its way down Main Street in the Walt Disneyland Main Street parade in Anaheim, Calif., last Sunday.
    It was an event-filled trip.
    The band performied in a “Soundtrack Session” with a Disney clinician, visited Disneyland and California Adventure parks, toured parts of Los Angeles, such as the Santa Monica Pier, Science Center, Rodeo Drive and saw a professional production of “West Side Story,” Topper Band Director, Zane Meek said.
    Meek, who is in his fourth year here, left with the band last Saturday morning, for their first ever Disney appearance, performing “Gangnam Style,” and the “Manhattan Beach March,” while marching for Mickey.
    “We would like to thank the community for their support and everyone for their commitment to quality music programs in the schools,” Meek said.
    The team needed to raise roughly $70,000 for the trip, which averages out to about $900 per student.
    “We also got a lot of help from the community and all of us want to make sure that they know how much we appreciated the help,” said parent Karen Mehlin.

  • Board OKs athletic pass cost increase

    Next year, families and adults looking to purchase a season pass to watch middle school and high school sports are going to being paying a little more for the experience.
    The $50 adult pass will now be $75 and the $100 family passes (two adults two students) will be $125.
    Athletic Director Vicki Nelms made the presentation before the school board recently, explaining to the board the reasons behind the increase.
    “The money goes back to our budget, it helps us to take care of our athletic programs,” she told the board, adding that the department sells about 600 of the passes every year and that they make about $50,000 to $60,000 from the passes every year.
    It was also pointed out in the presentation that if individuals or families did not use the passes, and they attended every event through the purchase of a single ticket, it would cost an adult individual or a family $755 a season, instead of $75, $125 respectively.
    When asked by board member David Foster the reasons for the request, Nelms gave many.
    “When we had the budget cuts several years ago, we took a hit like everybody else did,” Nelms said.

  • No more tuition increases at UNM-LA until spring 2014

    The University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents voted Tuesday for a tuition increase, a three percent raise for faculty a one percent raise for staff, as well as a one-time, $1,000 supplement to UNM staff.
    The increase, which is for the main campus only, will be 6.6 percent for students who are taking 15 or more credits. For those who are taking up to 15 credits, the tuition increase will be 13.2 percent.
    What does this mean for the students on the Los Alamos campus?
    According to UNM-LA Director, Dr. Cedric Page, while the 3 percent raise and the $1,000 supplement applies, the 6.6 percent tuition increase does not. Instead, at some point in the future, maybe as soon as the spring of 2014, the Los Alamos campus will adopt a 5.6 percent increase to accommodate the 3 percent raises and the $1,000 supplement.
    For now, however, Page said the current tuition fees at the Los Alamos campus remain firm and will not be changed. “We’ve already published our tuition rates for the summer and the fall and that’s what students will be paying,” Page said.
    The Tuesday vote ended a moratorium on raises that lasted for several years. Page said the raises and the supplements were to help counter that.

  • LAMS unveils first new classroom

    Los Alamos Middle School officials, representatives of the construction company and students invited the public to a very special milestone: a look at the first classroom of the school’s new campus. And it wasn’t just any classroom either; it happened to be the “Living Skills” classroom, the classroom where the school’s special-needs students learn basic life skills in order to gain a degree of independence.

    The school’s orchestra was on hand to kick off the ribbon-cutting ceremony with a rousing rendition of Keith Sharp’s “Fiddle O’Finnigan” before Principal Rex Kilburn welcomed everyone inside the spacious room, which, with its kitchen, resembled a two-room apartment more than a classroom.

    Kilburn first thanked the community for approving the second $20 million bond issue that allowed the school district to continue the construction.

    “We wouldn’t be here without the community supporting the bond and letting this construction go on,” Kilburn said.

    He also thanked Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Paula Dean and the Los Alamos School Board.

  • LA school board to streamline meetings

    Education is one thing and construction is another, according to the Los Alamos School Board’s new president, Jim Hall.

    In an effort to streamline board meetings and put more focus on educational topics, Hall and the rest of the board have opted to have meetings that focus solely on education issues and then have meetings on the ongoing construction taking place at the Los Alamos Middle School and Aspen Elementary School on another day. 

    The board has also opted to select and group “routine” items from the regular agenda and put them into a consent agenda so they can treat the group as one item.

  • Aspen classrooms to shrink under new plan

    The redesign plans of Aspen Elementary were changed recently and those design modifications were revealed in a school board meeting. The school’s trademark 1,000 square-foot classes will need to be smaller.

    According to Ray Vigil, the lead architect from the firm Vigil and Associates, they were told in a recent meeting with the Public Schools Facilities Authority that they would have to reduce the size of each classroom to 850-square-feet.

    Vigil told the school board the reduction would accomplish two things, bring the project back into line with the original budget, and comply with the PSFA’s standards for class size.

    “By reducing a little bit of over two feet from each classroom we were able to shave off 6,000 square feet,” Vigil said. “So that little piece of everyone reducing their area gave us a large bang for our money, which helps bring us into our guaranteed maximum price as well as in compliance with the request from the Public School Facilities Authority.”

    Vigil estimated the reduction will ultimately take about $600,000 to $800,000 off the cost of the project. The total price tag for the makeover project is estimated to be around $12 million.

  • The official wave

    Los Alamos Magistrate Judge Pat Casados administered the oath of office to incoming school board members Matt Williams and Jim Hall. Shortly after completing their oath, Hall was voted in as president and Williams was elected secretary of the school board.