Schools met difficult challenges in 2008

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By Carol A. Clark

Attempts to fill retired Superintendent James Anderson’s substantial shoes proved unsuccessful and led the Los Alamos Board of Education to convince Assistant Superintendent Mary McLeod to take the reins for at least one year.

Many notables expressed appreciation for Anderson’s contributions, including New Mexico’s congressional delegation.

Business leader Roger Waterman described Los Alamos as having been blessed that Anderson led the schools for 14 years.

“We have a lot of problems in this town but the quality of education is not one of them and that doesn't happen by accident,” Waterman said at the time.

“It takes a lot of people and strong leadership at the top. I think the school system and the medical center are amongst the last two benefits left in this town that attract new families to move here and Jim is a big reason for this. He has high morals and a high commitment to quality products. I think he's a very talented man ... he’s contributed so much to our youth ... I’m sorry to see him go but happy he’s leaving on such a high note.”

Anderson had a significant hand in the creation of two important foundations.

The LANL Foundation, which began several years ago and more recently the LAPS Foundation.

“Another incredible opportunity for me and one that’s very, very unique is the work we did with the DOE and the congressional delegation to maintain our funding ($8 million) and ultimately get legislation passed that perpetuates that funding out into the future,” Anderson said at the time.

“That process was something that was both a lot of fun and high stakes for the district.”

Since Anderson’s departure last summer, the board has hired a consultant to assist in the search for his replacement.

At his retirement, Anderson said the district is blessed to have someone like McLeod take over – “she won’t skip a beat,” he said.

So far she’s batting a thousand.

McLeod convinced the 29-member Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC) at the state capitol to hold LAPS harmless from a bill that would have cost the district nearly $3 million in state revenues.

HB 241 involves a new funding formula for New Mexico school districts in which most would realize a funding increase but in the way the formula is calculated, LAPS would have lost nearly $3 million.

Another source of satisfaction for Anderson was his record six bond and referendum elections that will have raised more than $52 million for the district since 1995.

LAPS recently put a $3 million bond issue out to bid and accepted low bidder Los Alamos National Bank in November

The bond is the residual amount from a $7 million general obligation school building bond election held Sept. 19, 2006.

Based on recommendations from the district’s 20-Year Facilities Renewal Plan developed by the Facilities Planning Committee, a bond election is planned for January to address the pressing facility renewal needs.

Ballots for the election are set to be mailed out Jan. 6 and must be returned by Jan. 27.

The majority of school facilities are at least 45-years-old with Los Alamos High School nearing 60.

The bond is for $40 million – 6 percent bonding capacity of the total assessed value of the school district.

The first and largest project to be tackled if the bond passes is the replacement of B, C and D wings at the high school.

Other projects during the first four-year bond cycle include the replacement of structural concrete panels at the LAHS IMC (library), construction of a new Multipurpose/PE building and a new classroom building at Los Alamos Middle School, as well as preliminary design work on a replacement classroom wing at Aspen Elementary School.

The makeup of the school board is set to change in March, with the decision by President Steve Girrens and board member Alison Beckman declining to seek re-election.

Melanie McKinley decided to run in Girrens’ District 2 in White Rock. Thelma Hahn filed for Beckman's District 1, also in White Rock.

Three seats are up on the UNM-Los Alamos Advisory Board. The seat held for two terms by Linda Daly is available as she wants to spend more time with her family and is not seeking re-election.

“Though the university faces financial challenges in the years ahead, I feel the leadership under Dr. Cedric Page and the current board, is the strongest it’s ever been,” Daly said at the time.

Micheline Devauers filed her candidacy for the college board and current board member Nelson Hoffman has filed to serve another term.

For further information, contact the Office of the County Clerk, 662-8010 or Clerks@mail.lacnm.us.