• Local schools take on 'An Hour of Code'

    Right clicking on a web page often brings up some pretty interesting options. One of the commands that often comes up is “View Source,” a command that reveals the “code” behind what makes a web page a web page.
     As computers take over more and more areas of our lives, some think that it’s time people start exploring the “View Source” function as something a little more than a curiosity.
    After all, they figure, if the average person can learn code, then the better off everyone will be in a computer-operated world. And that’s just not the code behind Web sites, but the code in software, smartphone apps and things that haven’t even been thought of yet.
    “Nowadays, almost any job requires the use of a computer, whether that’s word processing, making web pages, sharing information or building applications,” said David Kratzer, a computer scientist who works at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

  • 'Portable Fairy' lifts spirits at Aspen

    No doubt, moving can be a stressful and frustrating experience; especially when you’re responsible for making the experience run as smoothly as possible for hundreds of school children. That was the situation faced by the staff of Aspen Elementary School at the beginning of the school year as construction began on their new school.

    But, such an experience can be laced with a bit of magic as well, as Principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom and her staff soon found out. Shortly after they settled into their portable classrooms for the year, little gifts started showing up in the staff mailboxes. Nothing expensive or too elaborate, just little knick- knacks designed to make everyone who received one feel that everything was going to be OK, that they were going to pull through the experience.

    According to Vandenkieboom, the gifts have been showing up since October, and no one knows who’s dropping them off. Apparently, the “Portable (classroom) Fairy” as she or he is now known as is a closely guarded secret.

    Vandenkieboom said there is at least one person who knows the Portable Fairy’s identity, but Vandenkieboom said that person refuses to spoil the magic by revealing who it is.

  • NMPED letter advances through committee

    A carefully-worded letter addressed to Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera recently advanced a few steps toward final approval. The letter, which has been worked and edited for weeks by a panel of parents, educators and staff members appointed by the school district has several goals.

    The main thrust of the letter is to seek approval from Skandera and the New Mexico Public Education Department to make changes to NMPED’s recently implemented programs and initiatives. The school district has already made some changes, and officials are hoping NMPED will give its approval to the changes, once NMPED understands the reasons outlined in the letter.

    Since the beginning of the school year, teachers in the Los Alamos Public Schools system and their support staff have been changes to the classroom NMPED has mandated through initiatives like “NMTeach” and “Common Core.” NMTeach basically focuses on teacher performance and Common Core is a nationally-based program designed to ensure New Mexico’s school children are learning math and English at a level consistent with students across the nation.

  • SFCC board ousts president

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Santa Fe Community College's president has been fired, and her lawyers say she'll sue.

    The governing board voted 3-2 Monday night to oust Ana "Cha" Guzman from her $180,000-a-year position. The board's vote lineup was the same as the one that voted last month to put Guzman on leave.

    The board didn't state specific grounds for firing Guzman, but one board member who voted to fire her said the college is divided and needs to move forward. Another said Guzman needs to go to uphold the college's reputation.

    Guzman attorney Timothy White says he believes the board fired Guzman because she was trying to clean up the college's finances.

    Guzman was hired in 2012 with a contract scheduled to end in 2016.

  • District rides out rules ruckus

    A number of school districts in the state remain unclear regarding just what it takes for students to graduate from high school. A recent article in the Santa Fe New Mexican detailed how much of that had to do with repeated miscommunication with the New Mexico Public Education Department, as well as a confusing set of alternative requirements issued by the NMPED.

    The confusion came to light at a recent meeting of the Legislative Education Study Committee, where it was announced that the state’s school districts, in light of the confusion, would be able to create their own requirements — but just for this year’s seniors.

    One of the new requirements is the addition of half a credit to the graduation requirements.

    “We’ve traditionally required 24 credits to graduate, and now we will require 24 and a half credits to graduate, starting with this year’s freshman class,” Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Gene Schmidt said of the changes.

    Assistant Superintendent of Schools Gerry Washburn said they’ve added the half credit to their elective courses,

  • Student Art Gets Worldwide Showcase

    There once was a time when a child’s schoolwork would only make it to the refrigerator door, or perhaps a school-wide exhibit before being stored away in their family’s memory box.

    Not any more.

    Michelle Grove, an art teacher at Los Alamos Middle School, has found a way to get her students’ work out there so people all over the world can see it.

    Teaming up with the website “Artsonia.com,” Grove has been posting her students’ work to the site since 2012.
    Los Alamos Middle School has 1,227 pieces of artwork on the site. Billed as “the largest kids’ museum online,” the site also acts as a repository for lesson plans as well as a social media hub where visitors can vote, comment and financially support the school of their choice through the purchase of a student’s artwork.

    Through the site, visitors can order up holiday cards, mouse pads mugs and other items featuring a picture of the work. The website also says 20 percent of the proceeds from each sale go back into the middle school’s arts program.

    Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt said it’s quite easy to be enthusiastic about what’s going on at the middle school art department.

  • Trustees look to build coalition

    As the Los Alamos Public Schools administration and its board of trustees continue to carefully tinker with state mandates in an effort to appease educators, all eyes are turning to a very important meeting due to take place in March.
    The meeting will be hosted by LAPS, and it includes all the other school districts in the LAPS region, known as “District II.” Those districts include Chama, Cuba, Española, Jemez Mountain, Mesa Vista, Pecos, Penasco, Pojoaque, Questa, Santa Fe, and Taos. All of these districts as well as Los Alamos belong to the New Mexico School Boards Association. While the agenda will feature many issues, one topic that will be sure to come up is the series of mandates the New Mexico Public Education Department recently implemented, and how each district is handling them.
    Much has been made of the mandates, as teachers have complained to the press at how much the mandates, which revolve around a teacher evaluation system and the teaching of “Common Core,” which is a national set of standards designed to have every student in the country performing well in reading and math.

  • Task force suggests changes to NMPED mandates

    The Los Alamos Board of Education recently received an update from the district as to what it’s doing to help the district’s teachers through what many see as a difficult time of change and confusion for teachers, not only in this district but across the state.

    At the beginning of the school year, the New Mexico Public Education Department began a rollout of new programs known as NMTeach and Common Core.

    NMTeach is a teacher evaluation system the state came up with during a waiver agreement with the federal government over the “No Child Left Behind” act. The program features a set of tools and evaluation techniques to determine if teachers are competent in their chosen specialty. Common Core is a national program that is designed to instill in school students across the U.S. the same basic understanding of math and English according to the student’s grade.

    Teachers in Los Alamos as well as all over the state have been protesting the changes, stating that all the new testing, rules and requirements required to carry out the programs are overwhelming them as well as cutting into what they are originally there to do — teach children.

  • Parents weigh in on school district class size

    The Los Alamos Board of Education is not the only group concerned about the student-to-teacher ratio and other school-related issues; a group of parents have also been making its presence known too.
Calling themselves “Save Our Schools Los Alamos” (SOSLA), a representative of the group recently came to a recent school board meeting to talk about the ratio.
    The issue became a hot topic this year when it was revealed by school officials earlier this year that the second grades in many of the area elementary schools were going to contain at least five extra students, putting the class average in the higher-than-normal 25 to 30 student range for each second grade teachers. Schools effected by the jump include Mountain Elementary School and Barranca Mesa.
    According to school officials, part of the problem was they lost a larger than average number of teachers last year due to attrition and retirement.
    While they could have hired more teachers this year, the board decided funding would be better spent paying for a Master’s Degree program for the teachers in an effort to eventually shore up the training and experience of the teachers in the system.

  • Board passes MOU for teaching program

    The Los Alamos Board of Education recently voted to solidify an agreement with Highlands University that will make it easier for the Los Alamos Public School District’s teachers to attain Master’s Degrees in their chosen specialty.

    The teachers’ tuition is expected to be funded by LAPS, however, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Gerry Washburn revealed the university’s interim dean of education, Dr. Belinda Maumbach, is currently working on securing a grant “that would fund most, if not all of the tuition” for this year’s group of teachers who’ve already signed up for the program.

    “In my mind, we have a very good partner who’s very anxious to make this program work and to help us find ways to fund it so we have a sustained path forward, at least for the next three years,” Washburn said at the meeting to the board.

    The program provides six Master’s Degree programs, that include Master of Arts degrees in counseling, the arts and special education, educational leadership, and curriculum and instruction with elementary emphasis and secondary emphasis. The first session is slated to begin some time in January at the high school. More categories are due to be added in the future as the program grows.