Advancing Lives: On a journey to excellence

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Over the past year, the Los Alamos Public Schools conducted an extensive community listening process in an effort to develop a strategic plan to raise the quality of our schools to an even higher level of achievement.  Repeatedly, we asked the questions of “What do we do well?” and “What can we do better?” I feel we have heard your voices, and in the process, learned a great deal about the things our community values about education.  From information gathered, the school district will lay out a five-year strategic plan to move the district forward on a journey to excellence.

 Key goals of the five-year plan include (1) raising the academic achievement of all students, (2) increasing the effectiveness of teachers and leaders in our schools, and (3) expanding our educational partnerships with the community.  These three overarching goals will be supported by aligning our resources and developing a continuous improvement feedback loop that monitors our progress.

Each of these key goals is supported by sub-themes that build on the success of the strategic plan.   For example, to help ensure that the achievement for all students is a strong consideration in the upcoming year, the district will introduce K-3 Common Core standards which are essential to developing comprehensive learning support systems.  The district will also introduce a new grant funded program called Reads to Lead for K-3 students. Both of these programs will help early learners get off to a strong academic start. In addition, the district will internationally benchmark our educational programs through an audit process conducted by AdvancEd.

Quality teachers and leaders will be a strong focus in the upcoming year as well.  To build on our schools’ success, the district will look to partner with the New Mexico Public Education Department to identify the characteristics and methodologies that effective teachers and leaders possess. 

 With a greater understanding of these skill sets, the district can reframe its professional development.  The district will also partner with National Board for Professional Teaching Standards whose mission is “to advance student learning and achievement by establishing the definitive standards and systems for certifying accomplished educators, providing programs and advocating policies that support excellence in teaching and leading, and engaging National Board certified teachers and leaders in that process.”

Expanding community partners will allow the district to look for new and better ways to utilize volunteers in our schools. Los Alamos has a wide assortment of talented individuals. It behooves us to capture these strengths as a strategy to enrich the lives of our students.  For example, our students stand to gain valuable career exploration opportunities by participating in conversations with experts from the business world. 

In closing, the upcoming year holds great promise for the future of our children. The development and implementation of our strategic plan places us on this journey to excellence.  I look forward to sharing success stories of our journey throughout the upcoming year.

 Gene Schmidt is the superintendent of the Los Alamos Public Schools.