Board, superintendent agree to transition to replacement

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Education> Schmidt receives a one-year contract extension

By Tris DeRoma

The Los Alamos School Board agreed to extend the contract of Superintendent Gene Schmidt by one year during a special board meeting Thursday night.
According School Board President Judy Bjarke-McKenzie, the deal will give the board time to find a new, permanent superintendent and provide for a more stable transition that will not involve an interim superintendent who some may see as a diminished position.
The year will also give Schmidt time to see some of the projects he initiated come to fruition.
“Instead of having two transitions involving an interim superintendent, then later on a new superintendent, we thought that would be too confusing,” Bjarke-McKenzie said, adding that the board will be working on a list of candidates throughout the year.
Schmidt, too, said that it was the right thing to do, especially for the students.
Board members also expressed concern that the succession issue was taking time away from what’s supposed to be a priority — educating students.
“That will be our goal over the next year,” Schmidt said. “We will continue to raise student achievement, as well as work on what the transition to the next superintendent is going to look like, and I look forward to my role as a guide in that process.”
Six weeks ago, Schmidt announced his resignation, saying he no longer had the full support of the school board. In fact, Schmidt decided to throw his hat into the ring for the Taos schools superintendent job.
The school board had declined to respond directly to Schmidt’s comments. And it was not until Thursday, the board decided to offer Schmidt a one-year contract extension.
Schmidt also wanted to make it clear to his administration, staff and especially the public that there has been no change in the status of his role.
“I am the superintendent, and I’m in charge,” he said. “I will lead, and I will continue to guide the district on its path toward educational excellence.”
Some of the projects Schmidt and the board would like to bring to completion include “Early College Academy,” a project Schmidt helped write the grant for.
“That will do wonderful things for students who are not traditional college attendees,” Schmidt said.
Another project Schmidt hopes to bring to at least partial fruition is the district’s strategic plan, the school district’s master plan and vision for its immediate future.
“We’ve worked on the strategic plan for many years, and I think it’s important we provide a briefing to the public as to what’s been done, what still might be done, because what that does for the next school board or the next superintendent is give them an understanding of what this community has challenged itself to do.”
The other goal that will be a priority in the coming year is the district’s proposed alternatives to the state’s teacher evaluations and student testing. Many teachers in the district have indicated that the state’s evaluation techniques are too heavy handed and don’t devote enough time to the teacher/student learning process.
“We had promised the PED [Public Education Department] that we would bring proposals as to what we think are better ideas,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt also took the time out to address his relationship with the board.
“I think the public needs to understand that what’s so special about Los Alamos is that everyone has an opinion, and those opinions are all good,” he said.
“It’s appreciated when the community helps shape the future of the education of their community. I think the board is to be complimented for setting the district on a course I think will be very successful.”