• American Federation of Teachers-NM keeps heat on NMPED

    An organization aligning itself with New Mexico’s education reform movement recently made its move on the New Mexico Public Education Department, dropping off two petitions with it collected on a recent bus tour of New Mexico.
    One of those petitions, created by Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, had 3,000 signatures.
    Ly personally dropped off the petition with Hanna Skandera, New Mexico’s education secretary in mid-December at New Mexico’s Public Education Office in Santa Fe.
    The petition, which can be found on Move.org, is asking residents to help reform New Mexico’s public education system.
    “We want curriculum that focuses on teaching and learning, not testing, and that includes art, music and the sciences. We want to put the public back in public education,” a statement in the petition read. “The top-down policies of the last decade have not worked. It’s clear that austerity, competition, division and hyper-testing have not and will not help our students. Top-down edicts, sanctions, mass school closures and denigrating teachers will not move the needle in the right direction. Our children and our schools deserve better.”

  • Top Education Stories Of 2013

    The Los Alamos Monitor looks at the top education stories of 2013 in no particular order.

    Paula Dean retires
    With “great reluctance,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt accepted Assistant Superintendent of Schools Paula Dean’s retirement this year.
    Schmidt credited her for actively promoting academic achievement for the district’s students and professional development among the teachers and staff. Schmidt also credited her with playing a leading role in helping the Los Alamos Public School District achieve district wide accreditation.
    She was replaced by Gerry Washburn.

    School bond passes 4,283 to 1,784
    County Clerk Sharon Stover congratulates Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt in her offices Tuesday. Los Alamos voted 4283 to 1784 in favor of the bond. The vote gives the school board and the district permission to spend $20 million in bond funds to improve the infrastructure of the school district.
    The money will allow continued construction and renovation to go on at the Los Alamos Middle School as well as allow planned renovations and construction take place at Aspen Elementary over the next five years.

  • Summer school may return for elementary school students

    If all goes well, the holiday spirit may pay off in dividends this summer for elementary school students needing to improve their grade point average.
    Los Alamos teacher Suzanne Lynne, as well as District Curriculum Coordinator Pam Miller have been working hard to bring back summer school for elementary school students this summer. All they are waiting on now is the Los Alamos School Board’s final approval, which they may receive as early as January.
    Their plan is charge a tuition of $100 per student per subject for the month-long session, which will consist of hour and a half classes in math and reading, five days a week.
    According to Miller, summer school for elementary school students has not always been able to happen, in fact it didn’t even happen at all last year. In the years that it did, tuition has been as high as $175, as well as free, but both fee structures presented the same problem, low attendance.
    If it was too expensive, people simply didn’t sign up and if it was free, then people didn’t place a high priority on attendance Miller and Lynne said at the meeting.
    There’s a reason why the School Board is interested in summer school at this early date. If the program is approved, school officials can start identifying students now who may need the extra help this year.

  • Students 'D'mand better

    It was the test mark heard around the state. Tired of what she said is a state constantly prioritizing poorly-written tests over classroom learning, Los Alamos High School senior Emma Lathrop created and led a protest that not only seems to be catching on around the state, but throughout the country as well.
    Her method was simple. Instead of using slogans and picket signs, Lathrop asked her fellow students to instead mark every answer “D” on the on this semester’s end-of-course exams.
    The end-of-course exam is the tool the state uses to see if students are reaching certain academic benchmarks and goals. Lathrop and others have said the tests are useless as far as measuring real academic performance, and worse, full of inaccuracies and typographical errors.
    The tests are part of a greater teacher evaluation system started this school year.

  • Athletic Director of the year

    The New Mexico High School Coaches Association recently awarded Vicki Nelms its 2013 Athletic Director of the Year award.

  • Court asked to block eval system

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Teachers unions and some state lawmakers want the state Court of Appeals to block the new teacher evaluation system they say violates state laws.
    The request comes after a state District Court judge last month refused to stop implementation of the New Mexico Public Education Department’s system.
    The judge ruled that Hanna Skandera, the department’s secretary-designate, has a right to carry out administrative rules such as the teacher evaluation program, the Albuquerque Journal reported Friday.
    The appeals court is expected to consider the issue over the next eight to 12 months, said Shane Youtz, the attorney representing the teachers group.
    The coalition opposing the evaluation program says it violates state laws requiring school principals to conduct in-class teacher observations. The education department’s system allows other teachers to do observations. The group also is challenging the exemption of charter schools from some evaluation rules.
    Ellen Bernstein, president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, said the coalition contends that the state doesn’t have a right to make rules conflicting with existing law.
    Education department spokesman Larry Behrens said the issues raised in the appeal have been asked and answered by New Mexico courts.

  • Board weighs 'PowerSchool'

    Another big dilemma for the district involves teachers who are trying to teach Common Core, but also have to teach to the state’s older standards as well, something that may not go away, even when Common Core becomes fully implemented. Which means the educators could forever be struggling between two worlds under the PowerSchool system.
    Brian Easton, who teaches economics at Los Alamos High School, said as much at the presentation, and more.
    “I teach economics. I have to teach both Common Core and state standards, and my state standards and benchmarks aren’t going away,” he said.
    “My problem is that I’m going to have to go back through my lesson plans and figure out which of these standards and benchmarks don’t match, which of these Common Core standards don’t match; we’re putting an incredible amount of effort and time toward something no one is asking us to do. We know we have to have standards-based grading. That’s required by law. We do not have to have a standards-based report card. I think that’s the question we need to be having here.”
    Easton went on to thank the PowerSchool instructors for trying to make PowerSchool accessible, but also said PowerSchool will be a “disaster” if it reaches high school, mainly because of the dual standard.

  • UNM-LA announces spring schedule lineup

    The University of New Mexico-Los Alamos (UNM-LA) Community Education department has announced the schedule for its Spring 2014 lineup of classes. The schedules are now available on the UNM-LA campus and in stands around Los Alamos and White Rock, and will be mailed out to households the first week in January.
    UNM-LA Community Education Director, Eva Artschwager says, “This spring we have a wonderful array of new and popular Enrichment courses. We will continue language classes in French, Spanish and Portuguese; expand our history and culture offerings to include the History of Technology and Homer’s Iliad; and add Pilates and Intermediate Yoga to our fitness section.
    The new schedule includes more classes for teens such as Digital Photography and Financial Literacy.
    Artschwager also noted new classes were added this spring for adults and retirees. “We’ve expanded our offerings to include classes in managing retirement income and the Affordable Health Care Act. We will be partnering with the Fuller Art Center and PEEC to bring several classes in paper arts to the community. It should be an exciting semester,” she added.

  • 'Promise' bus rolls into Los Alamos

    The “Keep the Promise” Bus rolled into Los Alamos Thursday, parking in the Sullivan Field parking lot around 3 p.m. right across from the high school.

    Even though it was quite cold, at least one Los Alamos School Board member came out to “sign the bus” as well as a few teachers and some kids.

    Keep the Promise is a partnership of businesses, educators and parents that’s concerned with the latest educational reforms coming out of the New Mexico Education Department. Since the beginning of the school year, the NMPED has introduced many changes to it’s teacher evaluation system as well as to the curriculum, which has many teachers upset.

    Isidoro Herrera, a member of the American Federation of Teachers who was on bus, said there are other issues they want to bring to forefront, too.

    “Teacher evaluations, fair salaries, and adequate salaries for all employees and staff are important issues too,” Herrera said.

    Many think the NMPED has introduced too much too soon, and has loaded its teacher evaluation process, known as

    “NMTeach” with too much “busywork,” which teachers in Los Alamos say is severely cutting into their teaching time with the students.

  • Keeping the promise

    Los Alamos School Board member Dr. Kevin Honnell stops off on his way to a school board meeting to sign the “Keeping the Promise Bus.” The bus came to Los Alamos to show support for teachers who are against a teacher evaluation system the state is trying implement across the state. “Keeping the Promise” in the middle of a whistlestop tour of the state. The organization is trying to drum up support for a campaign to get the New Mexico Public Education Department to reform the department’s evaluation process.