• Budget committee hammers out priorities

    After a few weeks of fact-finding into what the Los Alamos Public Schools spends its money on, the 2015 Education Budget Committee came up with a list of priorities the district should focus its funds on. The top three, in order, are:
    • Teacher compensation (23 votes)
    • Financial and educational support for the professional development of teachers (12 votes)
    • Mental health and well being of students (10 votes)
    The committee, which is made up of parents, teachers, business people, school administrators and executives from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, worked out the list of priorities during a meeting held at the Los Alamos High School Media Center.
    Committee member Bill Wadt, who also has a seat on the LANL Foundation’s board of directors, was glad to see mental health was a priority.
    “I think that shows the sensitivity of this community, that it realizes there is a mental health issue in this community and that we need to do more to address it,” he said, shortly after the vote was taken.
    Assistant Superintendent Gerry Washburn oversaw the process, and was also glad to see how the entire list of priorities turned out.

  • Education issues topic of meeting

    Los Alamos School Board vice president Matt Williams will host a discussion about the current issues facing Los Alamos Public Schools.
    Williams will present information on the recent LAPS budget committee meetings and the 20-Year Facilities Plan at the meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday. The meeting will take place at the Chamisa Elementary School gymnasium.

    Meeting time is 6 p.m.
    Williams said one of the topics of discussion at the meeting will be the rebuilding of one of the elementary schools, which the school board will have to commit to within the next five months. How the rebuild may affect other school sites will also be discussed.
    The public is invited to attend. A question-and-answer period will follow the presentation.
    Those interested in expressing their opinions, including those who are not able to attend Tuesday’s meeting, may contact Williams directly at m.williams@laschools.net or the school board at laps.board@laschools.net.

  • UNM-LA gathers info on housing

    In an effort to solve its student housing shortage, the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos is going to go right to the source — the students themselves.
    At some point in the near future, UNM-LA administration officials will ask the student council to hold forums and conduct surveys to find out what students want as far as housing goes.
    “We need to drill down to what’s important for the student, what’s important for their experience and what’s important for us as an institution,” said one administrator at a recent UNM-LA Advisory Board meeting.
    UNM-LA once had student housing, but that building, an apartment complex located on 9th Street in the center of town has fallen into disrepair and is no longer occupied by students or utilized by UNM-LA in any way.
    UNM’s Board of Regents is currently preparing the building for sale.
    According to UNM-LA CEO Wynn Goering, the cost of maintaining the building became too much.
    “When the building on 9th Street was donated to UNM, there was not a branch in Los Alamos,” he said. “We have been utilizing it exclusively and the branch (UNM-LA) had been putting operating money into it. We concluded that the needs of the building were prohibitive. We couldn’t possibly make enough money to get it back.”

  • Dawn Brown gets board recognition

    The New Mexico School Boards Association recently awarded its Excellence for Student Achievement Award to several students as well as district employees for their work in either attaining excellence as a student or helping Los Alamos students attain that excellence.
    The nominees, as well as the winner, were presented with certificates at the most recent Los Alamos School Board meeting.
    Dawn Brown won the award for her work in organizing the school district’s science fair each year. She will be receiving a plaque at the next meeting.
    Other nominees included Los Alamos High School Student Estaban Abeyta, Los Alamos High School Principal Debbie Belew-Nyquist, Student Services Coordinator Karla Crane, Special Education Teacher Dana Kline, YMCA After School Director Andrea Lynch, Los Alamos High School Teacher Lynn Ovaska, Special Education Teacher Christine Peters, Juvenile Justice Advisory Board Youth Resource Advocate Troy Palmer, Los Alamos High School Teacher John Pawlak and Los Alamos Public Schools Technology Support Teacher Lorraine Whalen.

  • Budget committee has good forecast

    Some interesting economic facts about Los Alamos County were revealed at a recent budget session by the Los Alamos School Board.
    The findings are related to the board’s the 2014-15 Budget Committee’s fact finding into its preparation for district’s next school budget.
    At the budget committee’s opening session a few weeks ago, committee members made a public invitation for leaders from the county’s various economic sectors, which included Los Alamos National Laboratory, the real estate market, the county and other areas, to come to this week’s meeting to give presentations and insights into the community’s economic well being.
    It is hoped the series of presentations will help the committee down the road in its plan to reorganize budget priorities amid predictions that state funding for the budget is generally going to be the same amount the Los Alamos Public Schools received last year.
    This year, LAPS predicting the school system will receive about $34 million, which includes the $8 million in annual funding the district receives from the U.S. Department of Energy.

  • Special Ed. staff gets recognition

    The New Mexico Public Education Department sent a letter of congratulations to Los Alamos High School’s Special Education Department this week.
    The NMPED congratulated LAHS’ department on achieving 100 percent compliance with paperwork and protocols for students transitioning from high school to college and/or the work world.
    In order to be compliant, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities are expected to address the following three conditions.
    Transition planning is focused on preparing high school students to access appropriate post secondary training, employment opportunities and independent living supports.
    Federal regulations require local school districts to participate in annual reviews of IEP files.
    LAPS officials said they were proud of the recognition the department received, saying this year’s recognition of the district’s 100 percent compliance “continues the pattern of excellence established by LAHS special education staff over the last several years,” according to a press release announcing the letter.
    Karla Crane, coordinator of student services at LAPS, complimented the work of the high school special education team for their service in the education of students with disabilities.

  • Students, teachers show up for protest of PARCC tests

    When people think of a protester, they usually picture someone who’s noisy, rowdy and sometimes violent, with plenty of sign waving and personal confrontation.
    However, some Los Alamos High School students had a different idea when they decided to protest a new type of assessment test they will be taking next week.
    Called the “Partnership For Assessment Of Readiness For College And Careers” exam, (PARCC) the test replaces the Standards Based Assessment (SBA) test, the test the high school students have been taking since elementary school.
    About 70 students assembled peaceably in the school’s lobby around 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
    A pair of them, Evan Oro and Katy Stockton handed out a 3-page argument what’s wrong with the test, as well as a tip sheet for teachers on how they too could protest the test by skewing the results to “demonstrate (the New Mexico Public Education Department’s) arbitrary use of numbers and how the system can be totally manipulated.”
    Then, all of the students, as well as a few teachers staged a “sit-in” as school district officials, including LAHS Principal Debbie Belew-Nyquist and Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt engaged the students in conversation about their feelings about PARCC.

  • Students protesting LAHS testing

    About 50 students at Los Alamos High School were involved in a sit-in protest at Los Alamos High School this afternoon.

    The students were protesting the PARCC testing that will be starting at LAHS next week.

    It was held after school today. Student organizers passed out a letter explaning their position on the testing.

    Several Los Alamos Public School officials were on-hand, including Superintendent Gene Schmidt and LAHS principal Debbie Belew-Nyquist.

    All the protesting at the school was peaceful and civil.

  • LAPS pay raises may not happen

    It now seems unlikely certain employees that work for the Los Alamos Public Schools will be getting that 1.5 percent pay raise after all, at least not this school year.
    In February, the Los Alamos School Board approved a 1.5-percent increase for all school employees that weren’t teachers.
    The raise was to be retroactive to the beginning of the school year.
    The district would have spent $60,696 this year, relying on salary savings. Next year, the district planned to spend $121,000 in raises and would have paid for it through the money the district saved through upcoming retirements.
    Assistant Superintendent of Schools Gerry Washburn made the announcement at a recent board meeting.
    While the school board approved the raise, it was up to the New Mexico Public Education Department to approve the raises in accordance to state law.
    However, according to Washburn, the idea was shot down by the New Mexico Attorney General’s office over the retroactive aspect of the increase.
    “They consider it a gift of public funds, so we can’t do that,” Washburn said at the meeting.
    A statement from the State Attorney General’s office to the administration further clarified the reasoning.

  • UNM-LA board votes to raise fees

    The advisory board of the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos campus unanimously voted Monday to raise tuition by 6.31 percent.
    The proposal will be sent to the UNM Board of Regents for final approval.
    If approved by the regents, the increase translates into an extra $4.75 per credit hour for classes for New Mexico residents. Now, residents will be paying $74 per credit hour to take classes at the school.
    Non-residents will be paying $205 per credit hour at UNM-LA, which translates into a net increase of $6 per credit hour.
    Before the vote, UNM-LA’s CEO Wynn Goering told the board why the hike is necessary. Factoring into the hike are the amount of educational funding the state legislature is expected to distribute to higher education this year, enrollment levels and property taxes.
    “For better or worse, Los Alamos County this past year was one of the few counties in the state whose valuation went down…what that means to the (UNM-LA) branch is that’s a decrease in the amount of revenue we have available,” Goering said to the board.
    Other driving factors included the recent dramatic tuition hikes of other regional community colleges, such as Northern New Mexico College.