• School board to review cyber-bullying policy

    According to the state, the school district has until August to implement a cyber-bullying policy in an effort to tackle what appears to be a growing problem. To that end, school board and district officials started on the long process of defining just what cyber-bullying is.

    The board was notified by Assistant Superintendent Gerry Washburn that they had until August to implement a policy, as instructed by the state. The N.M. Legislature passed a bullying law that called for every school board to have a bullying prevention policy by 2011, a bullying prevention program by 2012 and a cyber-bullying policy by 2013. At a meeting in July, Washburn presented a policy to the board for review, one the district had written up by its law firm.

    Board members had many questions, one of them being how is the district governing social media between students and teachers.

    “What’s the thinking in regards to that whole area,” Board member David Foster asked. “....maybe we’re opening up two communities of communication that are better to be kept separate.”

    Washburn admitted that that area has been a little hard to define.

  • Auditor orders special review of special education

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State Auditor Hector Balderas has ordered a special audit of potential funding problems for special education programs that could cause New Mexico to lose millions of dollars in federal money.

    Balderas told the Public Education Department on Monday in a letter that he hopes a report will be done before the Legislature meets in January.

    At issue are federal requirements for states not to cut their support for services for special education students.

    New Mexico potentially ran afoul of those requirements when lawmakers cut state aid to public schools to help balance the budget several years ago after the economy weakened.

    The federal government has agreed to waive its funding requirements for 2010, but questions remain about other budget years.

  • Board decides best way to refund state

    Pay it all off at once, or do it one payment at a time. That was the choice given to the Los Alamos Board of Education this week in reference to a miscalculation made by New Mexico’s Public Education Department.

    Earlier this year, the PED inadvertently paid LAPS $218,000 more than it should have for its at-risk student program. At first, the PED said districts that it overpaid could keep the money, but after some lengthy consultations with its legal experts, the district is going to have to pay the money back.

    “I’m looking for direction as to how we do that,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt said to the board. “One possibility that Dr. Honnell brought up was to pay it all back at once, and we could do that.”

    Schmidt said the other option would be to pay it out in $18,000-a-month payments over the next year.

  • School board business
  • Los Alamos schools earn top ranking in accreditation

    The Los Alamos Public School District recently learned that its achieved a rare milestone as far as school systems are concerned. “AdvancED,” an accreditation service that grants district-wide accreditation status to school districts, recently told the district that it has received the highest level of accreditation, which, officials say, is very rare.

    It was in November of last year the district learned it received accreditation from AdvancED after a lengthy review and evaluation process, but until recently district officials didn’t know what grade or level of accreditation.

    “I am proud to say that Los Alamos Public Schools did receive the highest status possible,” New Mexico’s AdvancED director, Priscilla Fernandez said in a statement. “Fewer districts throughout the nation received fully-accredited status compared to years past, due to the rigor involved in the accreditation process.”

    According to the same press release, there will be immediate benefits for high school students because of the accreditation and grade of accreditation.

  • Union term questioned

    At some point in the coming school year, the Los Alamos Board of Education, the Los Alamos Public School District and the Los Alamos Federation of School Employees will be sitting down to hammer out some key terms in the most recent Memorandum of Understanding between the district and the union.

    Some of the terms came to light during a May school board meeting, where board member Dr. Kevin Honnell asked his fellow board members to table proposed changes to the MOU due mainly to the fact he thought they shouldn’t accept the way the changes were presented to them. That issue was covered in an article in Tuesday’s Los Alamos Monitor.

    However, there were specific reasons the board tabled the proposal, primarily because those reasons had to do with certain terms the union wanted to substitute when it came to referring to specific employees. 

  • School board to meet with union


    Before the new school year resumes, officials from the Los Alamos Public School District, the Los Alamos Federation of School Employees and the Los Alamos Board of Education will be meeting to clear up some communication issues in the most recent Memorandum of understanding between the school district and the labor union.

    During a meeting in May, school board member Dr. Kevin Honnell brought those issues to light during a session concerning proposed language changes in the MOU. In that meeting, Honnell urged his fellow board members to table the series of MOU proposals for a later date, until they can arrive at some fundamental understanding as far as communication protocol is concerned.

  • College Student Loan Rates Set to Double
  • Board set to decide payback timing

    During its meeting in July, the Los Alamos Board of Education will unveil a plan to pay back the $218,000 it owes New Mexico’s Public Education Department.

    In May, the PED notified all of the school districts throughout the state that it may have paid them too much or too little in funding to help with at-risk students due to an alphabetization error.

    As it turned out, Los Alamos was paid too much, to the tune of $218,000.

    At that meeting, the board will then make a recommendation to the district as to what options it should pursue.

    “We would like your guidance,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt said to the board. “That guidance could be to pay it all back in one lump sum, it could be to pay it back 1/12th the amount monthly over the course of a year, or we could delay it for five years.”

  • LAPS officials mull refund

    It looks like the Los Alamos Public School District will have to give back the money after all.

    A few weeks ago, the New Mexico Public Education Department announced that it had made an accounting error when it came to distributing funds meant to compensate school systems for the number of “at-risk” students they are educating. At-risk students are considered to be students who don’t attend school regularly, cannot speak English, or are considered living below the poverty level.

    The amount LAPS is going to have to refund the state amounts to $218,076.73.

    On Tuesday, LAPS school officials, including Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe and Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt, met with officials from the PED over the issue.

    At first, the PED said they were going to let the school districts that were affected keep the money, but then they decided not to.

    “They received some feedback from various folks, and they found they had to take it back because of the legal issues involved,” Wolfe said.

    Though the school board has not been consulted yet, they are meeting with the board this Thursday to discuss the issue, Schmidt and Wolfe both said the most likely option they will settle on is paying it back through the next school year.