• Middle school nears finish

    If all goes well, it seems students and staff will just have one more month at Los Alamos Middle School’s temporary campus before moving into the new school.

    According to school and construction officials familiar with the project, moving day could take place as early as Labor Day weekend.

    Though Aug. 8 was mentioned as a possible opening date, the contractor, McCarthy Construction experienced unforeseen obstacles early in the project, and so was unable to make that date. Crews encountered more rock than usual under the foundation of the building, and that triggered other delays in various facets of the project, which forced them to fall back to Labor Day weekend. The absolute deadline is actually later in the fall, where, if they don’t make that deadline, then financial penalties will start to kick in for the contractor.

    “The actual contract date is not until October,” said David Wharram, the construction liaison the school district hired to keep them updated on McCarthy’s progress. “That’s when penalties actually kick in.”

    He added that they are currently working on getting the heating and ventilation systems squared away and some other items.

    The school apparently received its first test last week when students and parents showed up for registration.

  • Mountain gardens survive mischief

    It’s been an up-and-down kind of summer for Mountain Elementary School. School officials learned the student gardens were the target of mischief-makers while at the same time, the school was awarded a grant to help enhance its playground.
    The gardens are the source for a number of agricultural projects for the students, while at the same time teaching them responsibility and plant care. The gardens are located between the lower playground and a row of classrooms to the right of the main entrance.
    They also used to be decorated with signs from their respective classrooms, birdfeeders and birdbaths. However, while summer brings out the warm breezes and pleasant sunshine, it also has been known to bring out the vandals. Parents walking their children to camp found that out the hard way one day when they discovered that someone had destroyed all of the decorations last month.
    Karen Henderson, who has two sons that go to the school, had a large part in creating the gardens. As a member of the Mountain Elementary Parent Teacher Association, she wrote the grants that helped to make the garden possible. When school was in session, she also helped water and weed them as well.

  • UNM-LA states case to council

    After the defeat of its last attempt in 2010, the University of New Mexico–Los Alamos and its advocates are making a concerted effort to solidify public support for a 2-mil bond levy that comes before voters in September.

    UNM-LA’s current 1-mil levy (initiated 33 years ago) is the second lowest of all 17 two-year institutions in the state. UNM-Gallop has the highest combined operational and debt service mil levy at 5.33.

    UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page, the UNM-LA Advisory Board and the Los Alamos Committee for Higher Education (LACHE) have been on the stump to groups throughout Los Alamos.

    Page and advisory board Chair Stephen Boerigter addressed the Los Alamos County Council last week, winning a 5–0 vote in favor of a resolution supporting the effort. The two absent councilors, David Izraelevitz and Rick Reiss, have publicly supported the tax hike.

    Boerigter made the pitch to council, stressing how the university is meeting its mission to provide two-year degrees that transfer to bachelor programs, two-year workforce-focused degrees, workforce certificate programs, and lifelong learning opportunities for personal enrichment or career change.

    “We have great opportunities and results at UNM-LA,” Boerigter said.

  • Proud of what LAHS has to offer

    Los Alamos High School is no stranger to positive attributes, and Principal Sandy Warnock couldn’t be more proud of both students and staff.
    “Receiving national recognition from U.S. News, Newsweek, and the Washington Post demonstrating that what we are doing is making a difference, is certainly a highlight of the 2012-2013 school year,” Warnock said. “Earning an A on our report card from the state was another celebratory moment at LAHS.”
    Warnock beams when it comes to the success of the students, and goals have been accomplished across the board. The LAHS Freshman Academy has completed its second year incorporating new strategies to improve student achievement. Saturday school and academic time saw an increase of freshmen attendance allowing the new ’Topper additions to be successful.
    “Credit recovery served more students during the school day, helping students to complete graduation requirements,” said Warnock. “Saturday school and academic time saw an increase of ninth graders attending.”
    The 2013-2014 school year will bring changes in the core curriculum as they move to Common Core State Standards. The high school staff continues to look for ways to improve student achievement, through curriculum, clubs and activities.

  • Achievements shining bright at Piñon Elementary

    There are many wonderful things at Piñon Elementary and Principal Jill Gonzales couldn’t be more proud to highlight a few of them.
    The Panthers started the 2012-2013 school year by earning an “A” grade from the state and receiving their AdvancEd national school accreditation.
    “To me, both of these achievements reflect the high level of commitment demonstrated by students and staff in their pursuit of academic excellence in teaching and learning,” Gonzales said.
    They participated in the Laser i3 hands-on/inquiry-based science research project, conducted in partnership with the Smithsonian Institute.
    Her students will tell you that having a dedicated lab to collaborate with classmates and conduct real experiments and observations made science one of their favorite subjects.
    Gonzales believes that Piñon’s continued efforts to reach and teach children in a positive and supportive manner by implementing PBS (Positive Behavior Support) has been a benefit to the school community.
    The work included presenting weekly High Four Awards, given by staff to students for demonstrating Safe-Responsible-Respectful behavior, and equipping students with strategies to advocate for themselves in dealing with bullying behaviors, such as the “Stop-Walk-Talk” method.

  • Parker takes the helm at Barranca

    The Barranca Elementary Bobcats will start the year with a new leader at the helm: Bradley Parker.
    Parker has been in education since 1990, working as a teacher at Santa Fe High School and Los Alamos Middle School. He holds degrees from West Virginia University and the University of New Mexico.
    Parker has been an administrator since 1996, serving in school administration at the Pre-K to 12 levels in Santa Fe, Rio Rancho and Jemez Valley. He also served his administrative internship at Mountain Elementary.
    “For three years I was at the Public Education Department in the Priority Schools Bureau and the Career Technical Workforce Education Bureau,” Parker said. “I have been lucky to work for some great folks!”
    Prior to entering the world of education, he was a professional Naval Officer finishing his career as a Reserve Officer and retiring at the rank of Commander (O-5). He was stationed mostly in the United States, but his favorite duty station was Pearl Harbor, where both of his children were born.
    Parker and wife Cindy have been married for 30 years. They have two sons, Ben and Adam, both Eagle Scouts and college graduates.
    This summer you may have found him fishing, camping and canoeing. When time doesn’t permit for those things he likes to play the guitar.

  • New pay option for student fees implemented

    Forget the lines and checks getting lost in the mail ­— earlier this summer, the Los Alamos Board of Education cleared the way for high school students and their parents to pay lab and other student fees like they probably do with many other things these days, online.

    Principal Sandra Warnock said the old way meant parents would have to pay all those fees during registration.

    “This way, they can pay before beforehand, so registration will be a little bit more streamlined for them,” she said.

    By Thursday, students should have already received their registration packets and fee information through the mail, according to Warnock. Once they get their total, they just simply have to go online to powerschool.laschools.net/public/home.html and follow PayPal’s gold and blue buttons. Students who do pay prior to registration will need to bring the receipt.

    “Paying ahead of registration day will be a huge timesaver for parents and their students. The most important thing to remember, however, is for the student or parent to bring the payment receipt with them to registration,” a statement in a school announcement about the new pay option said.

    Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt said implementing the new option was all about convenience for students and parents.

  • NM providing back-to-school clothing assistance

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Susana Martinez's administration plans to distribute about $1 million in assistance to help children in low-income families and foster children prepare to return to school.

    The Human Services Department will provide $50 for each eligible low-income child for back-to-school clothes. Federal money will cover the estimated $755,000 cost.

    The aid will help about 15,100 children and will be distributed through electronic benefit cards to qualifying families.

    The Children, Youth and Families Department will provide foster families $100 to buy back-to-school supplies and clothing for each foster child who is age three and older.

    About 1,500 to 1,600 children could qualify for the assistance, which will cost up to about $160,000 and is financed with state money in the agency's budget.

  • School board approves contractor for parking lot renovation

    The Los Alamos Board of Education recently approved a contractor to renovate the parking lot for the school administration headquarters at 2075 Trinity Drive.

    The winning and lowest bid was awarded to ESA Construction with a base bid of $253,800.

    The bid also included alternatives, one for landscaping, another was for a wall and the last was for additional paving near the headquarters’ additional suites located adjacent to it. The school district currently rents those suites to other businesses.

    ESA’s bid for the landscaping was $32,200, the wall was $18,700 and the paving was $21,100.

    The board then had a discussion on whether or not to approve some or all of the alternatives.

    Board approval of all alternatives would put the total cost of the project coming in at $306,800. That number may go down in the future however, since the district has also put a capital request of $64,000 in to the county. As of press time, the current status of that request is not known.

  • Schmidt, board narrow goals

    For the past two months, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt and the Los Alamos Board of Education have been talking about goals for the coming school year.

    Recently, the board gave the superintendent five major goals: 1. Prioritize the superintendent’s Strategic Plan. 2. Increase his personal presence throughout the school district, 3. and 4. Initiate a thorough review of the Central Office and Classified Office and 5. Improve the school district’s long term financial stability.

    In his most recent report to the board, Schmidt included a list of 49 smaller goals relating to the five major ones. They included goals such as improving the evaluation process for teachers and administrators, reassessment of the effectiveness of Saturday School and Academic Achievement time, researching salaries in other districts, implementing Master’s degree programs with area colleges and LANL, and developing a cash reserve system that protects the school system from fluctuations in funding.

    During his presentation to the board, Schmidt said he realized he included a lot of goals, mentioning that the list was the result of ongoing discussions with the School Board President Jim Hall.