• Judge forces issue on N.M. teacher evals

    SANTA FE — On Thursday, Santa Fe First Judicial District Court Judge David Thomson put the fight between unions and the New Mexico Public Education Department’s over the teacher evaluation process on a very fast track.
    In February, the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, the Albuquerque Federation of Teachers and several individuals filed a lawsuit against the New Mexico Public Education Department and the New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera.
    The plaintiffs called the new teacher evaluation process “flawed” and a violation of a teacher’s constitutional rights.
    A request for a preliminary injunction was filed three months later by the plaintiffs in an effort to halt the evaluation process, saying that it was already doing “irreparable harm” to thousands of teachers across New Mexico.
    Thursday, Thomson heard from both sides on why he should, or should not, file a preliminary injunction.

  • Music rooms at LAHS need TLC

    If you’re a longtime Los Alamos resident and you happen to revisit the high school’s “music wing,” where all the music classes take place, chances are you’d instantly recognize it.
    That’s because according to some of the faculty, not much has changed there in the past 60 years.
    As the Los Alamos School Board makes preparations to bond for more school reconstruction projects, members from the Los Alamos High School’s music faculty reminded the board of that.
    The high school was the first school Los Alamos residents approved for reconstruction, which started in 2009.
    However one section of the school, where most of the school’s bands, symphonies and choral groups are headquartered, along with the group’s equipment, was skipped for reconstruction for a later time.
    Jason Rutledge, the high school’s choir director came to a recent board meeting to remind the board that that time has come.
    He told the board that problems caused by 60 years of wear and tear, along with a growing student population, have over have only gotten worse. He told the board the entire wing should be included for funding when it comes time for the district’s next general obligation bond vote.

  • Bluecoat system approved for LAPS

    At a recent meeting, the Los Alamos School Board was reminded once again that Los Alamos is not just another small town in New Mexico.
    Unlike other towns, it’s also home to a historically famous, top-secret facility focused on nuclear weapons design and research.
    As a result, statistically, there’s more of a chance that Los Alamos employees, as well as members of their own families, can and do become targets of computer hacks and breaches.
    At the meeting, district officials asked the board to sign a contract for a new “content filtering system” the district wants to purchase, a system that will hopefully keep students’ school online activities safe, private and secure while they are at school.
    According to the district’s Chief Operations Officer, Joanie Ahlers, it was time to make the switch to a more powerful system.
    “Just because our name is Los Alamos Public Schools, we do receive a large number of outside attacks, including those from foreign countries. We felt that from a security standpoint and considering who the parents are to some of our students, we felt compelled to choose an appliance that can do a number of advanced things than just be a basic filter,” she said to the board.

  • LA students among state’s winners

    A trio of Los Alamos Public Schools students were among the winners of the Gov. Susana Martinez’s True Summer Reading Challenge and were recognized in a ceremony at Piñon Elementary School Monday.
    Among those honored were Bryanna Trujillo, a first grader from Barranca Mesa, Rocco Del Mauro, a second grader from Piñon, and Benjamin Sanchez, a third grader from Aspen.
    Martinez paid a visit to Piñon Monday afternoon, one of two stops she made to announce the winners of the challenge.
    The New Mexico True Summer Reading Challenge was designed to encourage school-aged kids in the state to read during the summer months. The emphasis was on keeping students sharp during the summer when they might otherwise be in front of the television.
    “Knowing how to read is the very foundation of learning,” Martinez said in a statement announcing the winners Monday. “Once our kids learn to read, they read to learn. And that is a skill they will need for the rest of their lives.”
    To enter, students must have submitted a log of the books they read over the summer. Those who read at least 12 books and submitted an essay on why they love New Mexico were entered in a random drawing to win one of several nifty prizes given away by the state.

  • Sanchez: ‘Read to Lead’ is beneficial

    When Lt. Gov. John Sanchez visited Chamisa Elementary School recently, he brought gifts. A lot of them.
    Sanchez and his aides brought stacks and stacks of “B is for Buckaroo,” an alphabet book by Gleaves and Louise Doak Whitney designed for readers kindergarten through third grade.
    The visit coincides with state’s “Read to Lead” initiative, a program Gov. Susana Martinez started in 2012 in an effort to promote literacy.
    Throughout 2015, the governor, as well as the lieutenant governor will be making stops throughout the state, handing out the book to eager students and hopefully igniting a love for reading in the students that will last a lifetime.
    “We can’t think of a better investment that the state can make not only in our kids but our teachers, too,” Sanchez said. “If a child learns how to read then they can keep on learning their entire life. It’s the greatest gift we can give them.”
    During his visit, Sanchez read the entire book to Chamisa’s first, second and third graders before giving them their own copy.
    He also shared with the students his own love of reading and why reading is so important.

  • LAPS says it conducts proper background checks

    Los Alamos Public School Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus issued a statement about the background checks for the district’s employees just hours after the state ordered an immediate check for districts’ compliance to state standards.
    In the statement released Wednesday, Steinhaus let the community know LAPS conducts background searches on each of its new applicants and makes those wishing to work for the district sign a statement authorizing such a check.
    “When a person is hired by LAPS, the standard intake process includes submitting fingerprints through the criminal background check system called 3M Cogent,” Steinhaus said in the release.
    Tuesday, Gov. Susana Martinez ordered compliance investigators with the state’s Public Education Department to conduct immediate reviews of background check policies for each of the state’s 89 public school districts.
    Martinez’s order came on the heels of the discovery that Albuquerque Public Schools’ instruction and technology supervisor, Jason Martinez, had been brought up on child sex abuse and domestic violence charges in the state of Colorado, according to the Associated Press.
    The governor and the accused APS official are not related.

  • Lunch ordering process changes

    Los Alamos Public Schools is changing its ordering and payment process for lunches due to its change of providers.
    For approximately the next two weeks, lunches can be ordered through the website, HotLunch.com. A link to that website can be found at laschools.net.
    For those wishing to order, they should visit the website, make the selections of what days they will have hot lunches and order and pay at the site. For specific menus, click on the “Elementary Lunch Menu” for August 2015 to find out what is being served.
    According to the schools, Southwest Food Excellence is going to have three different entrée choices each day, along with a fruit and vegetable bar.
    Those ordering lunches will not have to preselect specific entrees.
    Prices are $4 per lunch. Those who received reduced-prices lunches last school year have a 30-day grace period until 2015-16 applications are processed.
    Those with questions should call the school’s administration at 663-2223.

  • Students earn summer credits

    For some teenagers, summer means getting a job and earning money, traveling to interesting places; or even sleeping late, relaxing with family and friends, and enjoying a much-needed break from schoolwork.
    For other teenagers, however, summer 2015 was a time to earn essential high school credits for graduation.
    This summer, 80 Los Alamos High School students took part in the LAHS Summer Credit Recovery Program.
    According to LAPS, with the help of the summer teaching staff and technology support, the program recorded a 65 percent increase in the transition rate from 2014.
    The summer LAPS teaching staff included Lorraine Whalen, Kathy Hipwood and Lee Delano, among others.
    The summer curricula included Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, English 9, 10, 11 and 12 and Spanish.
    Each course was a rigorous full-semester online class aligned with state standards.
    A learning coach and three certified teachers were available for customized tutoring sessions and to help answer questions.
    Students also committed a significant amount time outside of regular summer school hours in order to complete their classes.

  • Aspen's principal ready to get started

    Kathryn Vandenkieboom had a pretty good year last year, as students and staff moved into their new building, but she’s hoping this year will be even better.
    “Aspen’s staff is made up of wonderful, truly caring, people,” said Vandenkieboom. “I feel fortunate to work with all of them.”
    There’s at least one new family member on the team, as Jennifer Washnok joins the Aspen Tiger team as a living skills teacher. “We’re very lucky to have Jennifer on our staff, she has a wealth of knowledge about kids with special needs,” she said.
    The living skills classes head to Aspen and the Tiger team is currently interviewing candidates for a new reading intervention teacher. The new position will help both students and teachers to develop the skills it takes to be a strong reader.
    Mrs. Boom, as she is called by the children, wants all families to get involved with the Aspen’s PTO. The group has contributed in large ways like new basketball court surface and markings and reading to kids.
    Vandenkieboom spent this summer in Ocean City, Maryland, with husband, John, but it wasn’t all fun and games — one of her summer activities included scrubbing the grout in her entire house with her toothbrush.

  • Parker moves on to his new assignment

    Bradford Parker graduated from elementary school and went all the way to high school this summer.
    But once a Bobcat, always a Bobcat.
    Parker said he enjoyed everything about last year. If he had to pick one thing, he would have to pick at least two.
    “The Barranca teachers, students and parents were great,” he said. “If I had to pick one of my favorite things it would have to be a tossup between Spirit Weeks, PTO activities and the Bobcat Bonanza,” he said.
    Parker has spent a very busy summer adjusting to a new staff and a slightly larger workload as his staff and number of students multiplies.
    “I have had many exchanges with the high school staff today and I am encouraged by each one,” Parker said. “Our staff is strong both affectively and cognitively. I consider it an honor to serve with these professionals.”
    Parker has also spent some time hiring new staff this summer. He is impressed by the variety of new hires and looks forward to getting to know all of the staff.
    “I am excited about bringing a data analysis processing method to the staff,” said Parker. “This is one contribution I believe I can make to an already impressive school.”