• LAPS preps for Common Core

    Whether they were curious or already knew what it was all about, parents showed up at the Crossroads Bible Church Friday to see how they could play a more active role in their child’s education.

    Los Alamos Public Schools is currently switching over to the “Common Core” system of learning, and thought it would be a good idea to host a seminar about it.

    The lower floors and rooms of the church were occupied by Sundance Educational Consulting, a company hired by the Los Alamos Public Schools to explain to parents what Common Core involves, as well as teach parents some techniques in Common Core that will enrich their child’s experience in the new system.

    “We hope to get parents to understand some of the latest requirements of Common Core,” said Christine Becker, president of Sundance. “But more than that, how they can be involved, and how they can assist their children to succeed with those standards. It’s about parent engagement.”

    Courses taught Friday included understanding the stages of development, what parents should expect of their child, how a child’s brain works, and how they can use Common Core to enrich their child’s learning experience in school.

  • District picks school for master's program

    The Los Alamos Board of Education has decided overwhelmingly in favor of Highlands University for a program designed to increase the number of teachers in the district with a master’s degree.

    In funding a master’s program for its teachers, the district is hoping to retain more teachers as well as beef up the “training and experience” factor for the district, which the NM Public Education Department rewards with more funding for the district.

    Recently, the district suffered a setback in that funding when seven well-experienced teachers, most with master’s degrees, retired last year, an event that cost the district in not only training, education and experience, but in funding as well.

    Instead of replacing the teachers, the board thought it would make greater economic sense to fund a program that would enhance the education and qualifications of teachers within the district and use the later gain in funding to in turn hire more teachers.

    At Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt and Assistant Superintendent of Schools Gerry Washburn presented their plan to the board.

    Schmidt said their plan had three goals, increasing teacher effectiveness, retaining and attracting quality teachers and addressing the PED funding issue.

  • Voters reject tax hike

    The crowd in the lobby of the Los Alamos Municipal Building was guarded, as members of the UNM-LA Advisory Board and the Los Alamos Committee For Higher Education waited anxiously to see if the residents of Los Alamos voted to approve a 2-mil increase in property taxes to prop up the university.

    The polls closed at 7 p.m., and County Clerk Sharon Stover had the results by 7:30 p.m.

    Though the margin was close, with 47.49 percent of ballots in favor, 52.21 percent voted against the tax hike. The unofficial tally is 2,662 for and 2,908 against.

    UNM-LA Business Director Lisa Wismer, who was one of many heavily involved in the “Vote Yes” campaign, offered some words of consolation.

    “I’d like to thank you for showing your support, appreciation and support you showed UNM-LA,” she told the crowd. “We all have a passion for education, and we wanted to convince the community to invest in the future, as far as it relates to UNM-LA, and it didn’t come out the way we hoped.”

  • Middle school opens

    The Los Alamos Middle School opened its new facility Tuesday morning as Ellie Simons teaches a computer skills class.

  • Final day to vote on UNM-LA mil-levy

    Whether you’re for or against a tax increase to support the University of New Mexico- Los Alamos, your opinion won’t count unless you vote by 7 p.m. today.

    After that, it will be too late to make your opinion known regardless of how you stand on a 2-mil tax levy being proposed by UNM-LA.

    UNM-LA decided to initiate the tax vote in the face of what school officials have said are the rising costs of education, coupled with sharp declines in state funding over the past five years.

    Since the beginning of this year, officials have been out in the community campaigning for the levy, letting residents know about what they say is the valuable role UNM-LA plays in the community and in the education of students in the Los Alamos Public Schools.

    Among the things supporters touted were UNM-LA’s dual-credit program, where Los Alamos High School students can take college courses at the school at no cost.

    Officials have also noted some of the college’s new degree programs, such as fire science and robotics, may have to shut down, since they were started under grant programs, programs that are due to run out of funding soon.

  • Suit filed against PED

    A lawsuit filed by Democratic legislators and a teachers union asks a court to block the New Mexico Department of Education’s new system for evaluating public school teachers’ performance.
    The Albuquerque Journal reports that the lawsuit filed Friday in state District Court in Albuquerque contends that parts of the department’s rule conflict with state law and are illegal.
    Department spokesman Larry Behrens calls the suit a delay tactic that harms public school students.
    Behrens also notes that the state Supreme Court previously rejected a challenge to the rule.
    “This lawsuit rehashes the same tired arguments the Supreme Court rejected late last year,” PED spokesman Larry Behrens told the Journal. “We will fight yet another tactic to delay because we understand that 300,000 New Mexico students deserve better.”
    Attorney Shane Youtz represents the plaintiffs. He says the new suit is narrower.
    The suit cites provisions of the rule allowing charter schools to apply for waivers and for personnel other than principals to observe teachers in the classroom.
    Educators allege that Education Secretary designate Hanna Skandera violated her statutory authority by promulgating the PED’s teacher
    evaluation rule.

  • National Merit Scholarship semifinalists

    The National Merit Scholarship Corporation recently announced its semifinalists for its scholarship program. And Los Alamos had plenty of nominations. They are: Back row: left to right: Calvin McKinley, Daniel Ahrens, Tristan Goodwin, Collin Hemez. Front row: left to right: George Barnum, Melanie Boncella, Lauren Tencate, Alexandra Berl.

  • Skandera congratulates LAHS

    The best of Los Alamos High School was on full display Wednesday as Education Secretary designate Hanna Skandera came to town.

    She was here to congratulate Los Alamos High School for getting an “A” during a recent evaluation by the state.

    Accompanied by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt, she received a warm welcome as soon as she entered the school’s lobby, greeted by the high school’s principal, Sandra Warnock.

    As members of the high school orchestra played classical music in an alcove above the lobby, Skandera got to meet the school’s award-winning “Team Y” robotics team as well as their latest creation, a basketball-shooting robot.

    She also sampled some of the appetizers and desserts the schools culinary arts students made.

    She also gave a speech at the event, a speech that centered on the high school’s achievements.

    “Job well done, not only to your leadership, but to every teacher, parent and community member that has made this a school of excellence,” she said. “Thank you for letting me be a part of your hard work, your commitment to your students, and for letting me celebrate your success with you.”

  • Skandera draws critics on visit to Los Alamos

    Secretary of Education designate Hanna Skandera came to Los Alamos Wednesday to tour the middle school and high school, and celebrate the high school’s academic success.

    There was a little tension in the air, however, as teachers demonstrated across the street from Los Alamos High School while she toured the school.

    The demonstration had to do with Skandera’s new evaluation system for teachers that she is trying to get passed through the state legislature. To many teachers, it’s the last straw from a state government they think is clueless when it comes to public education.

    A mixture of teachers and parents confronted Skandera at the high school.

    One teacher, Jenny Diesburg-Lathrop, who teaches fifth grade at Aspen Elementary, said even though she had a chance to talk to Skandera one-on-one about the issue during the visit, she felt like Skandera wasn’t listening.

    “No. I don’t feel like I got my point across,” she said. “I really do feel like she has an agenda and that agenda is to get the evaluation passed through.”

    Across the street, roughly 10 people held up signs and voiced their displeasure about Skandera’s evaluation system on the sidewalk of the lemon lot.

  • Skandera to speak at community dinner

    Secretary of Education-Designate Hanna Skandera will speak at a community dinner, 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Los Alamos Research Park Conference Center, Room 203A, 4200 W. Jemez Road.

    Some of the challenges and changes happening in New Mexico public education include Common Core. New Mexico, 45 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for public schooling. Common Core establishes new education guidelines and a different approach to learning, teaching and testing. The curriculum and the teaching and testing methods have resulted in much controversy, and the various aspects of Common Core are being debated across the country.

    Skandera served as Deputy Commissioner of Education under former Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush. She has also served as a senior policy advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education. During former President George W. Bush’s administration, she assisted Secretary Margaret Spellings with policy development and implementation, strategy and communication. She also served as former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Undersecretary for Education.

    The dinner is sponsored by the Los Alamos Republican Party. Everyone is welcome, and it is hoped that there will be attendees of all political perspectives.