• Lawyers file amendment in teacher's lawsuit

    Attorneys for Zeynep Unal, a special education teacher who currently works at Mountain Elementary School, recently filed an amended complaint to a 2013 lawsuit she filed against the Los Alamos Public Schools, The Los Alamos School Board, Principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom and Superintendent of Schools Eugene Schmidt.
    In her lawsuit, Unal alleges she was harassed and discriminated against by her former boss, Vandenkieboom, the principal at Aspen Elementary School.
    Court documents said Vandenkieboom would discriminate against her by excluding her from formal meetings and making “insensitive remarks regarding the ethnicity and national origin of both the plaintiff and other persons as well (Unal is Turkish).”
    Unal also claimed that Vandenkieboom made working conditions difficult for her, primarily by refusing her teacher’s assistants to deal with heavy class loads at the time, which occurred during the 2008-09 school year. Other teachers, Unal said, were provided aides. “...other teachers’ overloads were ameliorated within weeks of requests by other teachers,” Unal said in her report.
    Unal also alleged that the harassment and discrimination she experienced caused her health problems as well as anxiety issues, which caused her to go on hiatus for the 2011-2012 school year.

  • LA schools make the grade

    Editor's Note: See the individual schools' report cards attached with this story.

  • Auditorium gets makeover

    Those attending the 44th Annual Oppenheimer Lecture on Monday will also be the first to take in the sights of sounds of a different experience — the newly-renovated, Los Alamos High School’s Duane E. Smith Auditorium.
    Theater Manager Ross Mason and his crew of contractors and student techs have been working on renovating the theater’s interior since June.
    The aged structure was due for a massive overhaul, the seats themselves were last replaced in 1980.
    Those familiar with the theater’s operation said little piles of the aged foam from the chairs would have to occasionally be swept out from underneath the chairs — that’s how old and broken down the chairs were. “They should last another 40 years, if the kids take care of them,” Mason said.
    The cost of the chairs was defrayed somewhat through a special donor campaign, where donors could pay $250 for a plaque to be placed on a chair in the 52-seat center section. While all the new chairs are roomy and comfortable, the donor chairs are slightly wider and bigger in the seat. The armrests also fold up. According to Mason, the bid for the chair project was about $159,000.
    Mason said now with the new chairs, people will be able to worry about the show and not their comfort.

  • Students prepare for zombie attack

    Floods? Been there. Wildfires? Done that. Power outages? Please. Los Alamos has had its share of all these disaster and hardship events, but there’s one thing it hasn’t prepared for — a zombie apocalypse.
    Fortunately, the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos will be addressing this pressing issue all next week through a program called “The Art and Science of Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse.”
    The program is a part of the university’s summer Teens College, which is geared to students in grades seven through 10.
    This is the first time that associate English professor Mickey Marsee and community education advisor Eileen Gallegos put a program like this together. Despite it being the first time, the program was an initial success, as 77 students signed up for the program. Throughout the week, students will be introduced to forensics, mind control, emergency preparedness, health and first aid. They will also learn about wilderness survival, firemaking and cyber security. They will also learn how to apply “zombie makeup” and be introduced to the exciting world of video game design.

  • Outdoor learning at Chamisa

    Chamisa is the first school to get one, and others may soon follow.
    Thanks to a $10,000 grant provided by the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation, Chamisa Elementary School recently set up its first outdoor classroom, a geodesic structure located just behind the main building.
    The school’s principal, Debbie Smith, is sure the school will get multiple uses out of it for years to come. Ecology, alternative energy, Earth sciences, biology, and botany are just some of the planned uses for the building, she said.
    The grant to build the impressive-looking structure came through the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation. According to Joanna Gillespie, the grant was a result of a donation from the Ed and Betty Rynd estate.
    “One of the things we elected to do with the funds as a way to honor them was to name an outdoor classroom at each of the seven schools after them,” Gillespie said. “They were a couple that was very dedicated to community service and education. Those are values that the foundation also holds dear, and we thought this was a good way to honor their memory.”
    Chamisa, as will the other schools, had some leeway as to the classroom’s design and function.

  • Board takes no action on merit pay

    After much debate, public opinion and a little soul searching, the Los Alamos School Board decided to let a state-sanctioned “one-time” merit pay program die where it stood.
    No votes were taken on the matter. Instead, the board opted to take no motion on the offer and moved on to the next item on their agenda, effectively rejecting the New Mexico Public Education Department’s invitation for the district to sign up for a program, that, if it met all the qualifications, could’ve meant a little extra cash for some of the district’s teachers and principals.
    According to the program’s application, teachers marked “exemplary” could earn a $7,000 bonus; those with a rating of “highly exemplary” could earn a $5,000 bonus.
    Called the “New Mexico Incentive Pilot Program” the purpose of the program, according to NMPED, is to “reward New Mexico’s best teachers and principals throughout the state,” according to a statement in the program’s application form.

  • Mountain School names new principal

    Los Alamos Public Schools announced Tuesday that Jennifer Guy has been selected to serve as the next principal of Mountain Elementary School.
    Guy has most recently served Los Alamos Public Schools as a kindergarten teacher at Pinon Elementary School.
    Guy said that she is “very honored and excited to join the Mountain staff and community. I look forward to working with staff, students, and parents to continue to foster the level of excellence and love of learning that has been established at Mountain.”
    Guy has 24 years of teaching experience serving at Hobbs Municipal Schools, Moriarity Public Schools, and Los Alamos Public Schools. She has taught students from kindergarten through 8th grade, as well as special education classrooms.
    She has been actively involved in new teacher development at the district and state level through the dossier writing process. She also served on the New Mexico Educator Leader Cadre, which was working on preparing the state for the new state wide standardized student assessments.
    Among the honors she has received over the years are: Lea County Educator of the Year (twice), Reading Renaissance Master Teacher, Golden Apple Nominee, and Certified Core Knowledge Teacher.
    Guy has a master’s degree from Eastern New Mexico University in Pedagogy and Learning.

  • Board raises hot lunch prices

    During a recent special session, the school board opted to raise the price of hot lunch by 25 cents, from $3.75 to $4.
    Though the board was toying with the idea for a few months, it was all but forced to do so once it received new information about the hot lunch program’s financials at the special session.
    During the session, it was revealed that the program actually lost money this year.
    According to figures presented by the district’s CFO John Wolfe and business service specialist Regina Mertz, the district finished the program $3,426 in the red. The board weighed this sobering news with other factors, which included an aging dishwasher and heating equipment that apparently is in need of repair.
    What prompted the price discussion in the first place was that the district’s hot lunch provider, Summit, recently announced that it was raising its production costs from $3.71 to 3.79. Summit creates the hot lunches off campus and delivers them to the kitchen at the Los Alamos Middle School. From there, they are distributed to the other schools.

  • Committee will look at schools

    The Los Alamos School Board has voted to restock its Master Planning Facilities committee and the public is invited to join.
    Several years ago, using the truism “In order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been,” the Los Alamos School Board invented a committee to keep an eye on the state of its infrastructure.
    Formed about eight years ago, the Twenty Year Facilities Committee’s main purpose was to report on the physical state of the school district’s facilities and to establish whether or not they were still serving their intended purpose.
    Since 2006, the committee’s reports proved to be invaluable tools in convincing the public why it needed to OK construction bonds for Los Alamos Middle School and Aspen Elementary School.
    In recent years, though, the committee has been inactive and some members have moved on to other projects and committees.
    With that in mind, the school district’s chief operations officer, Joanie Ahlers, asked the school Board to consider restarting the committee.

  • School lunch price increase considered

    The Los Alamos School Board is considering raising the price of school lunch by as much as 25 cents in reaction to a price increase by the district school lunch supplier, Summit.
    According to the Los Alamos Public School District’s CFO, John Wolfe, Summit is raising its price from $3.71 to $3.79. The price the district currently charges consumers of the lunch is $3.75. In light of Summit’s price change, the district is considering raising the consumer price to a minimum of $3.80 or perhaps to $4.
    “Obviously, (Summit’s price increase) puts us in an immediate deficit situation as far as operating costs go,” Wolfe said to the board. “We are going to have to raise the price.”
    Wolfe also reported that so far, the lunch program is running at a profit, but, LAPS is unsure what the New Mexico Department of Education’s new reimbursement rates for free and reduced lunch will be in light of Summit’s price hike.
    There are also so impending equipment repairs and modifications that have to be made in the district’s middle school kitchen as well. According to Wolfe, the new price of $4 should be adequate to cover these unknown costs with the program running a deficit.