A new superintendent is chosen

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By Carol A. Clark

Dr. Eugene Schmidt received the call Thursday evening from School Board President Joan Ahlers informing him that he’d been chosen as the new superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools.

When asked if he accepted, Schmidt said, “Wendy and I are anxious to accept and very excited to come to Los Alamos.”

Schmidt is currently the superintendent of the Bridgeport School District in Washington.

He also asked if he could wear his Los Alamos T-shirt to school in the morning that his students had given him after he applied for the job here.

Schmidt was one of three finalists, which included Dr. John Davis of Alaska and Walter Gibson of Los Lunas, who introduced themselves to more than 100 Los Alamos residents gathered at the Los Alamos High School Speech Theater last week.

“We had three great candidates,” School Board President Joan Ahlers said. “For all intents and purposes, we really couldn’t have made a bad decision.”

Board member Jody Benson agreed.

“We liked all of them … each had a different gift,” she said.

The board praised the public and the search committee for their input and participation, which ultimately led to the selection of Schmidt.

The committee met for 10.5 hours Saturday to sift through all of the comment cards and e-mails received from community members before deciding on Schmidt, who scored at the top in each category.

While he officially takes over in July, Schmidt and his wife plan to make a trip here in May to more familiarize themselves with the town, Ahlers said.

A second piece of big news was announced at Thursday’s school board meeting, held in the gymnasium at Piñon Elementary School.Kevin Powers of RBC Capital Markets told the board that at 11 a.m., Los Alamos National Bank (LANB) with Kious & Company purchased $10 million worth of general obligation school building bonds.

“The winning bid was 2.3227 percent interest,” Powers said as he praised LANB for its continual support of the district. “It’s a great situation you have here with a local bank that really comes in and supports its schools.”

Had the bank not bid, he said, it would have cost taxpayers nearly a full percentage point.

Los Alamos is one of only four schools in the state with an AA3 rating. Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces also rate AA3, Powers said explaining that a high rating translates to a lower interest cost.

School board members voted 5-0 to adopt a resolution authorizing the issuance and sale of the general obligation school building bonds.

The bonds mature through 2021, Powers said.

LAPS will actually receive $10,105,000, which will be deposited in the district’s checking account in about 30 days, he said.

In other action, the district must shave $2.5 million from next year’s budget, which is due to the state by May 5, due to declining enrollment.

“Everything is up for consideration,” Ahlers said when Chair Alan Kirk of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board requested the annual $10,000 that JJAB receives from the district for program funding.

Ahlers said the board will know within about a week, which areas will be funded.

Chamber of Commerce spokesperson, Katy Korkos, addressed the board and was granted permission to place an announcement sign on the Canyon School property adjacent to Central Avenue.

Superintendent Mary McLeod briefed the board on the latest events surrounding the Trinity Site project.

“Joan (Ahlers) and I met with Tony (Mortillaro, assistant county administrator) and Max (Baker, county administrator) and we all agreed that by June 1 we would know where we are going,” McLeod said.

McLeod said she and Ahlers are going to meet with attorney John Kennedy and while they anticipate going with the Boyer Company contract, they will have a “generic” document drawn up in case.

The gymnasium broke into appreciative applause when she announced that the county council voted to pick up several million dollars in demolition costs on the project.

“That is really a wonderful testimony of their commitment to us,” she said.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or 505-662-4185 ext.  25. Read her blog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.