• Fire damages Piñon playground

    It took five days for workers to install the new slide at the Piñon Elementary School.
    It took less than five minutes, though, for all that work to go up in flames.
    Superintendent Gene Schmidt announced the school district has posted a $1,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the person(s) responsible for the vandalism to the Piñon playground.
    Police and the fire department responded to a call of a fire on the Piñon playground.
    At approximately 1:28 a.m. Thursday, which was also the first day of school, a report from a resident was called in to Fire Station 3. Police officers Corporal Sheldon Simpson, Detective Joey Robinson, and firefighters from Engine 10 responded and extinguished the fire within minutes.
    No structures were damaged; however, the recently installed “big toy” slide on the upper playground was badly damaged. The slide, made of plastic, melted and excessive burn marks could be seen.
    Principal Jill Gonzales, who arrived at the scene at around 2:30 a.m. said when she arrived the arson investigator already was there.
    “The top priority is to get this replaced,” Gonzales said.
    Schmidt said, “It saddens me this senseless, mean-spirited act disrupted the first day for students.”

  • Heading back to school

    Today was the first day of school for Los Alamos County students. 

  • Back to school reception
  • School superintendent search gets underway

    Two Los Alamos residents have apparently expressed an interest in becoming the next superintendent, according to Judy Bjarke-McKenzie. Because of workplace confidentiality laws regarding employees and potential employees, Bjarke-McKenzie said she can say no more about it, except that the search is just beginning.
    “These two individuals approached us,” she said shortly after their executive session meeting ended last week. “We also plan to cast a wider net.”
    Bjarke-McKenzie said she hopes the process of finding a candidate will wrap up sometime in January.
    “We’re are also planning on having staff and community input,” she said, adding that they also plan to set the candidate qualifications and criteria at a public meeting sometime in the near future.
    In March of this year, Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt announced his resignation, effective at the end of this year. He cited not having the full support of the school board as a reason.
    While rumors swirled about what those possible reasons could be, from disagreements on how to modify the state’s teacher evaluation process to disagreements on how to handle declining school enrollment through closing a schools, no one in the administration or on the school board would disclose the reasons or confirm rumors.

  • New principal to lead Mountain

    When the school bell rings in August, one former kindergartener becomes the principal at Mountain Elementary.
    LAPS teacher and former Piñon Panther, Jennifer Guy has risen through the ranks and will take the reins at Mountain’s top spot.
    Guy takes the position after teaching 24 years in a variety of grade levels, K through eighth, and in a great deal of learning situations.
    “I have been extensively involved with mentoring programs for teachers across the state,” said Guy. “I have worked with teachers and leaders from around the state and across the country on Common Core standards and student assessments.”
    Last year, she had the opportunity to work as an administrative intern, under the tutelage of Piñon Elementary Principal, Jill Gonzales, which Guy describes as “wonderful.”
    Guy also comes to the playground with a Master’s degree in Pedagogy and Learning, licenses and endorsements in Teaching English as a Second Language and Early Childhood education and completed the back to school list, by recently earning her administrative certification from Eastern New Mexico University.
    Guy had been teaching kindergarten at Piñon for the past eight years and loves the joy they bring to learning, which she brings as well.

  • Having fun is what it's all about at Chamisa

    Time flies when you’re having fun.
    And as she starts year five at the helm of Chamisa and her 22nd year in education, for principal Debbie Smith, time has flown by fast.
    “Chamisa is a highly creative and collaborative learning community,” said Smith. “Last year, staff participated in several events involving the students, parents, and community with lasting impact on future learning opportunities.”
    One such event was their Raise the Roof Literacy Night and Family Reading Challenge.
    In that event, staff worked to provide an evening of engaging, entertaining ideas for parents to become literacy partners with their classroom teachers. The success also extended to local businesses, as rewards were garnered for their Family Reading Challenge during the year.
    A second successful collaboration with friend and neighbor, Piñon Elementary is their annual White Rock Cultural Fair.
    The event involves individuals and families from the local area and the region working as presenters. They share food, crafts, art, dance, music, languages and storytelling from their cultures.

  • Change of heart

    The Change of Heart program produces hundreds of thank you cards for teachers and staff from 6th through 8th grade students.

  • Opportunities abound at Barranca

    Those that get the shortest of summer vacations probably work the most hours, but you’d never think that from talking to Barranca Bobcat Brad Parker. “I love being at Barranca Mesa Elementary School and can’t wait until our students return,” Parker said.
    While this is only Parker’s second year at Barranca Elementary, his experience is vast.
    Parker will begin his 26th year in education with 19 years in school administration ranging from pre-K to 12th grade. He has seen it all having been a science teacher at Santa Fe High School, Los Alamos Middle School and, “three years in the Belly of the Beast (PED),” according to Parker.
    Parker is very proud of how students and staff handled the sometimes difficult task of standardized testing. Parker believes that by taking the tests seriously and combining excellent teaching resulted in improvements in both their reading and math scores.
    Plans are also in the works where staff will be looking at how to formally, systemically and systematically use data to effect changes in student learning and believes this professional development will make a huge difference in student learning.

  • Piñon looks to keep momentum going

    The Piñon Panthers are ready for another exciting year as principal Jill Gonzales begins her fifth year at Piñon and serving students in education since 1995.
    Gonzales and her staff rose to the challenge in excellence last year as they worked to implement several initiatives: the New Mexico Public Education Department’s Teacher Evaluation System, Common Core State Standards, PowerSchool grading system, and a new math adoption.
    “In addition, we continued to participate in the Smithsonian/Department of Education’s Laser i3 inquiry-based science research project as well as participating as a control group in a national math research project,” said Gonzales. “Through it all, our teachers and staff always sought to put the academic, social and emotional needs of students first.”
    There’s no doubt there, as the obvious energy, smiles and engagement is seen throughout the classrooms and at play.
    Piñon had much to be proud of in the way of accomplishments the previous year. These included teachers who completed masters’ programs, National Board Certification and Dossiers, to new fun and innovative programs such as Readers Raise the Roof, Family Literacy Night, Piñon’s Variety Show, Hour of Code, Math and Science Night.

  • WEB Crew to make debut at LAMS

    Los Alamos Middle School will be introducing a new program for incoming seventh graders this year.
    WEB Crew, Where Everyone Belongs, is a year-long program run by the Prevention Office with the help of Los Alamos County.
    The WEB philosophy is built upon “Students Helping Students Succeed.”
    “I am very excited for the WEB Crew Program to begin at the middle school,” said LAMS principal Rex Kilburn. “I hope that with the introduction of this program that aspects of student culture will change at LAMS.”
    Prior to the start of the year, the WEB leaders were trained on building relationships and drafted their words of wisdom on how to be successful in middle school as seen through their eyes.
    New seventh graders are invited to attend a special orientation on Sept. 12, from 8 a.m.-noon, at LAMS.
    The students will participate in team building activities, learn skills to be successful and tour the facility, all before the hustle and bustle of the traditional first day.
    “One of the most exciting feelings as each new school year begins is to see and meet the new students to the school,” said Kilburn. “Being able to do this a few days ahead of time will be fantastic for me and will help the seventh graders get acclimated sooner.”