• Chamisa returns to normal

    Wednesday was a moving day for part of the staff at Chamisa Elementary, as teachers and staff helped put their classrooms back together again after flooding damage three weeks ago sent water down through the ceiling and walls of the some parts of the school, damaging several classrooms.

    The damage was caused by a “perfect storm” of snow melt followed by freezing cold. The school’s main drainage pipes became blocked with ice, backing up snow melt from the roof, which caused water to enter through the ceiling.

    This week, students and teachers started moving everything back into the classrooms located in the school’s “primary pod,” which bore the brunt of the damage.

    “Most of the kids have done pretty well. For some it was a little challenging,” second grade teacher Megan Lee said.

    Lee shared the library with another second grade teacher until repairs were completed.

    “The library was a great place to be, because then the kids could just pick up a book after they were done working,” Lee said.

    Chamisa Principal Debbie Smith said the school will be put back together soon.

  • LAPS' Dean to retire

    After 42 years of helping children as well as her fellow educators rise to their full potential, Los Alamos Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Paula Dean is retiring.

    “It will be very nice to have some time for other things,” she said. “As I told Gene (Dr. Gene Schmidt, LAPS superintendent) it’s like starting in a new life path. In my letter I also said I will be looking over my shoulder to see how the Los Alamos Schools are doing.”

    She said her immediate plans are to take a brief time out before looking for the next opportunity, whatever that may be.

    Dean came to New Mexico in 1998 and started her career with LAPS as the director of Curriculum and Development.

    She then spent a brief stint in Santa Fe as an assistant superintendent. She then became principal of Barranca Mesa Elementary for four years before becoming assistant superintendent for the past three years.

    “I worked in many districts over a very long career (Dean was a teacher and principal in Illinois before coming to Los Alamos) and this is the best functioning district I was ever in,” Dean said of the Los Alamos School District. “I was very happy to get back to Los Alamos.”

  • Garcia Richard intros education amendment

    State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, (D-Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Sandoval and Rio Arriba), may be new to the legislature, but she’s managed to get everyone’s attention with a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to adequately fund New Mexico’s schools.

    The amendment would reduce the number of children per classroom in all New Mexico school districts by the 2020-21 school year, a task that may take about $800 million in new construction and new hires to accomplish, according to an impact report prepared by the Legislative Finance Committee.

    Since it is an amendment to the constitution, that means that if it passes the legislature, it will become a referendum that will go before voters.

    “This is why I’m interested in putting this forth as a constitutional amendment,” Garcia Richard said. “It takes it to the people that should have a part in this decision-making process. It takes it to the parents; it takes it to the educators, bottom-line, to all the taxpayers. It’s for them to make the decision.”

    If it passes that test, then the amendment will be gradually phased in, starting in the school year 2015-16.

    Though 2020 may seem like a long way off, Garcia Richard said serious commitment to funding New Mexico’s public schools need to start now.

  • Another ’Topper Revue in the books

    ‘Topper Revue emcees (not in order) Orli Shlachter, Gary Cooper, Monica Poston, Cassidy Reeves, Dallin Parker and Daniel Hill, all Los Alamos High School seniors, hosted the annual talent show. Those who missed it will have to wait until next year, as the last show was at 7 p.m. Saturday. This year’s show featured musical talent, dance, vocalists, skits and poetry, all performed by LAHS students.

  • School officials descend on Round House

    They went to Santa Fe’s capitol to do battle, but they ended up making friends instead.
    A delegation of education officials, which included the Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Gene Schmidt, Assistant Superintendent Paula Dean, the district’s Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe and School Board Member Judy Bjarke-McKenzie, took a trip to Santa Fe’s Round House in order to try and kill a proposed amendment to the Public School Finance Act that would, potentially cut the Los Alamos Public School District off from a million dollars or more of annual funding meant for certain special programs and personnel.
    While the amendment seeks to introduce “performance-based school budgets,” “clarify classification of special education students and ancillary staff and to modify and update the at-risk factor in the funding formula,” Los Alamos school officials are afraid the changes may mean an abrupt cutoff to this crucial funding, long before the district can find alternative sources to make up for the loss.

  • Middle school construction

    McCarthy Construction has been making steady progress in setting up the framework for the new middle school as these recently taken photos indicate. 

  • Dolin, Hall in contest for UNM-LA advisory board

    On the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos campus, big things are happening. The campus’ advisory board is at hard of work on its plans for the future, most notably the expansion of some programs and the introduction of some new ones.

    All this is happening in spite of a challenging economy and in the face of declining state funding. Figures show state funding for the Los Alamos campus has gone down by 40 percent recently, making the goals of the board even more challenging.

    In the middle of this is this month’s UNM-LA Advisory Board election, where the board will fill three open seats. The election is Tuesday, and those interested in voting can do so either at the White Rock Fire Station or at the Community Building in Los Alamos.

    Three seats are open but only one is contested. That race is between UNM-LA Advisory Board three-term (12 years) incumbent Ronald M. Dolin and challenger Michelle K. Hall.

    Micheline Devaurs is unopposed and Nelson Hoffman is being replaced by John Hofmann. The other members of the board, Stephen T. Boerigter, chair and Linda Hull, secretary, have terms that run until 2015.

  • NM could lose millions in education funding

    SANTA FE (AP) — Millions of dollars of federal money for special-education programs in New Mexico is at risk because the state hasn’t met all of Washington’s requirements to qualify for the funding.
    Between $43 million and $93 million could be withheld in future years, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
    Officials with the U.S. Department of Education said the problem is that the state failed to abide by a requirement to not reduce its own spending on federally funded programs and so far has failed to obtain a waiver from the agency.
    State legislators addressed the issue Monday during a joint hearing of the Senate and House education committees. They said they’re still trying to sort out exactly what happened, and they expressed concerns over what the situation means for the state’s education budget.
    The Public Education Department maintains that it has been discussing the issue with the federal agency since the beginning of Gov. Susana Martinez’s tenure as governor.
    Correspondence between the state and the agency show that New Mexico was notified of stricter spending guidelines in the fall of 2011, and the two parties agreed that the state should request a waiver the following spring.

  • Classes resume for Chamisa students

    Third graders returned to Chamisa Elementary Wednesday after a combination of warm temperatures, tree leaves and ice caused flooding problems at the school.
    The flooding mainly affected the K-3 classrooms in the school’s “primary pod,” severely damaging ceilings and carpeting in the school. Two classrooms in another part of the school were also damaged.
    School was canceled Monday and Tuesday. But Chamisa Elementary School principal Debbie Smith announced that they would bring the students back on a staggered schedule.
    Third graders came back Wednesday morning and Kindergarten through second grade will be back Thursday.
    Smith and the teachers had plans to meet third grade students and any interested parents in the gym when school started this morning. “We will be temporarily relocating the students to different spaces in the school,” Smith said.
    The memo also stated:
    • Kindergarten through second grade students will resume classes Thursday. Smith and the teachers will meet students (and interested parents) in the gym Thursday morning at 8:20 to direct them to temporary classroom locations in the school.

  • Voters OK bond issue

    Los Alamos voters gave the green light for the Los Alamos Public School System to spend another $20 million in general obligation bonds, according to the county clerk’s office.

    The unofficial ballot count shows residents approved the measure 4,283 to 1,784.

    The bond funds will allow continued construction and renovation to go on at the Los Alamos Middle School as well as allow planned renovations and construction take place at Aspen Elementary over the next five years. Other priorities will be design plans for new music and choral facilities at Los Alamos High School, completing the Los Alamos Middle School courtyard, as well as design plans for the new middle school gym.

    Earlier this month, 13,826 ballots were mailed to registered voters in the county, but only 6,186 were returned to the clerk’s office by the deadline of 7 p.m. Tuesday. Of the 6,186 ballots, 6,067 were validated as of Tuesday night.

    A number of residents braving the cold to shop at Smith’s Tuesday took time out to voice their opinions about the bond vote.

    “I voted ‘yes,’ ” resident John Roberts said. “I voted ‘yes’ because it is going to be spent on school facilities.”