• Teachers key to education

    When will Governor Susana Martinez and Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera learn?
    The proposed budget for Education for the 2015 Fiscal Year includes plenty of funding for such gimmicks as increased testing, carrots for high test performance and sticks for low (without factoring in poverty statistics, percent of non-English speakers and parent participation), and fancy teaching programs from out-of-state providers, but none for raises for teacher salaries.
    Granted, the governor proposes raising the starting salary for new teachers about 10 percent, but only to suck them into teaching in our state and then treat them like dirt along with existing faculty.
    No thought is given to trying to retain experienced teachers by paying them a living wage.
    Given the number of actual hours that teachers spend in the classroom (before and after class hours and on weekends), at home, and attending various training and certification sessions, their salaries barely qualify as minimum wage.
    And their benefits are gradually decreasing while teachers’ share for them is constantly increasing.
    Teachers are the keystone species in the education ecosystem.

  • Tell full story of Manhattan Project

    The United States Department of Interior has recommended Los Alamos as the site of a national park, or national historical park, for the Manhattan Project, which built the atomic bomb in World War II in secret at more than 30 U.S. sites.
    Builders of the A-bomb anticipated its use against Germany, but in May 1945 Germany surrendered. In July, the bomb was tested successfully near Alamogordo and the U.S. called upon Japan to surrender. When Japan refused, the U.S. bombed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9. Surrender followed in September.
    The conventional justification is about 500,000 American lives were saved by eliminating the need for an invasion of Japan. In opposition is the contention that the A-bomb was unnecessary because Japan was close to surrender.
    The A-bomb was a great scientific achievement by many of the world’s most distinguished scientists, under the leadership of theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, with military support by Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

  • Open letter to study group for teacher concerns

    I am pleased to share that School Board President Jim Hall, School Board
    Vice President Judy Bjarke-McKenzie, Curriculum and Instruction Director Pam
    Miller, and I met with Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera and Deputy Secretary Leighann Lenti during the winter break. The conversation was cordial.
    Ms. Skandera promised to review our letter and provide feedback within a week to our concerns. During the conversation, she expressed willingness to consider extending the district some flexibility in observation options.
    In saying this, she appeared to welcome the district’s submission of a proposal at the end of this school year to better meet our needs for teacher observation/evaluation protocols. As part of our proposal for improving the teacher evaluation system, Ms. Skandera has asked that the district compile a year’s worth of data using the current observation protocols and value-added model.

  • Pongratz's comments were off-base

    I totally agree with Morrie Pongratz that the teen center is important and serves a real good purpose.
    But, so do all the other county services.
    Really, Morrie, you came off sounding quite whiny — we need to serve some cheese with that.
    It is quite unlike you to be so ill-informed. The APP funds are from a different pot, as the Los Alamos Monitor pointed out.
    Aesthetics is quite important to work on this town. Many of us need a kick in the butt to spruce up our own properties and APP can be the stimulus.
    And to pick on PEEC, shame on you. Have you looked at their website? They do marvelous things for all ages, but particularly the younger group. This is important to help young people and their parents find exciting, stimulating, alternative ways to entertain themselves while spending time outdoors.
    I am sorry the committee could not agree on a place for the teen center but that argument really did not help the funding situation you were ranting about.
    The county is having budget issues and trying to solve them reasonably.
    We are all going to see some changes and will need to accommodate. Life is tough — nobody ever promised a rose garden.
    Becky Scaborough
    Los Alamos 

  • Contrasts seen in leaders

    alk or drive past the “Oppie” and Groves statues standing together near Fuller Lodge. The wonders of art include stirring varied thoughts in different people at different times. In some sense, this trait defines art.
    The statues are cast in different shades of bronze. Oppenheimer’s shade of metal is brighter in the sun; Groves’s metal is darker.  
    What could this difference mean?
    Oppenheimer was a civilian who drew and led the best scientists from two continents to work toward a common goal against a common enemy.
    Groves was a military mind in a military uniform, who brought to bear a leader’s skills in logistics, managerial discipline and urgent purpose.
    Oppenheimer became history’s face of the wartime effort. Groves remains a different icon, whose contrasting strengths were equally vital in the partnership.
    The history of that era hinged on the complementary differences between Oppenheimer and Groves. A strong leadership team grew from odd compatibilities in their dissimilar natures. The statues remind me so.
    As art does so well, the shades of bronze suggest more than seeing a set of the two leaders, in matched bronze, standing where they stand.
    John Bartlit
    Los Alamos

  • Obamacare designed to fail

    nvisaged is impossible. Health care can be 1. universal (available to all), or selective (available to some) 2. comprehensive (covers all conditions at any age), or rationed (like the UK), and 3, affordable or prohibitively expensive.
    But health care cannot be universal, comprehensive and affordable. If it is universal and comprehensive, it is prohibitively expensive and unaffordable. If it is universal and affordable, services must be rationed. If it is comprehensive and affordable, it can only be affordable for those who can afford it, and is therefore not universal.
    The logical conclusion is that Obamacare as designed is fundamentally flawed.
    Jacqueline Krohn, M.D.
    Los Alamos

  • Saving the Organ Mountains

     have been to many national parks in the United States and have seen the wildlife and beautiful landscapes they offer. If it weren’t for these places many plant and animal species would be endangered. For instance, the existence of Yellowstone National Park saves wolves, which then protects the circle of life in the park by keeping down elk and deer, which threaten aspen trees.
    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in Las Cruces need to be protected as a national monument. Sen. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich’s bill is a great first step, but President Barack Obama needs to take action himself. If this is accomplished, the land will be preserved for generations of families in New Mexico, not torn down by mining and housing developments.
    My dad used to say that he saw a bald eagle every now and then from exploring in the Organ Mountains when he was younger, but it has been 30 years since he saw one there, and the last time he saw one it was in Yellowstone. Preserve the Organ Mountains so we can preserve their wildlife for future generations.
    Holly Caulder

  • Why Pay Attention to Attendance?

    Why does your child miss school? Ask parents this question and you might be surprised at the variety of answers you receive.
    “He needs a break and a day off once in a while.”
    “She has so much to do, she needs to stay home to catch up.”
    “He has a lot of trouble getting up in the morning.”
    “She’s only a third grader. Surely she won’t miss much.”
    “He isn’t feeling well. And he really hasn’t been acting like himself lately.”
    A day off here, a few tardies there — these absences may not seem like much, but according to Attendance Works (a website dedicated to advancing student success by reducing chronic absence), we should be paying more attention. When students miss school, they miss out on vital academic time and are at risk of falling behind and eventually failing. Studies have shown that elementary school students who are chronically absent score lower on standardized tests and are more likely to become high school dropouts later on.

  • Charter issue regarding utilities

    A fundamental question in the Los Alamos charter regarding utilities pertains to the issue of who is in charge in the event that the County Council and the Board of Public Utilities arrive at a policy or management impasse.
    At present the BPU has authority over the County’s Utilities Department while the council has the legal responsibility for all county operations including utilities and is answerable to the voters. Clearly authority and responsibility should be joined or there is no accountability.
    There are legal liability issues at stake, not just sensible management and leadership.
    Council does appoint the members of the BPU to five year staggered terms, but otherwise has little authority or control over the members actions or performance. It has been asserted that council’s power over the utilities purse strings gives council ultimate control, but that cannot address time urgent issues and in any case the options available to council are minimal.
    Any effort to deny funding for the DPU would have a negative effect on consumers, not the Board or Utilities Department Manager. Such action would make no sense.
    Both the first and second Charter Review Committees examined several alternatives to join responsibility and authority recognizing that council is legally responsible.

  • Hilltalkers give thanks

    The Los Alamos High School Hilltalkers and the Los Alamos Middle School Hawktalkers would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported our recent local event.
    The 51st annual speech and debate tournament was a huge success.
    More than 250 competitors representing 13 schools from Zuni, Farmington and Albuquerque traveled to compete in the two-day event. Special thanks to the Rotary Club, the Pajarito Masonic Lodge, Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Vecinos program, the League of Women Voters, the Toastmasters of Los Alamos, Betty Ehart Senior Center, KRSN, Los Alamos Monitor and the parents and friends of the Hilltalkers and Hawktalkers teams.
    This educational opportunity would not have been possible without the generous support of community members and organizations.
    The next opportunity for volunteer judges will be at the state tournament to be March 6-8 at the Santa Fe Courtyard Marriott. We welcome your participation. Contact team coach Margo Batha at 663-2651 or m.batha@laschools.net to sign up to volunteer as a judge.
    If you are interested in making a donation to the speech and debate program, the annual United Way pledge drive is currently underway. The Hilltalkers are eligible to receive tax-deductible donations and matching funds through the LANL designation program.