• School Board Takes on Redistricting

    Don’t worry Barranca Elementary School parents, Los Alamos Board of Education President Kevin Honnell is still in your corner.

    However, due to redistricting, Honnell has been moved from 4 into the same district as Board member David Foster, according to the new plan.

    “What we wanted in this is that we wanted every district to have an elementary school,” LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt said, adding that one of the outcomes of the one elementary school, one district plan is that Honnell will now be sharing space with District 4 representative David Foster.

    “One of the things that happens in this new model is that Dave and Kevin’s house placements are now in District 5, but Kevin will still continue to represent his District 4,” Schmidt said.

    Honnell wasn’t at the meeting to comment on the changes, but Foster was. He said the change was fine with him.

    “I don’t see this as a problem, it’s two years out and I think everything has worked out just fine,” Foster said. “When we get elected, we basically focus on the entire school district.”

    When Honnell was contacted later, he said essentially the same thing.

  • LAPS seeks district-wide accreditation

    By next Wednesday afternoon, the Los Alamos Public School District should exactly know where it stands with “AdvancED,” an organization that accredits schools.

    According to Assistant Superintendent Paula Dean, AdvancED officials won’t just be involved in accrediting Los Alamos High School, but the entire school district.

    “For decades, only high schools have been accredited,” Dean said. “However, over the last couple of years, there’s been the possibility of having an entire district accredited and the agency that does the accrediting is called AdvancED.”

    Dean added that there’s a possibility that LAPS could possibly be the first or the second public school district in New Mexico to achieve district-wide accreditation. District-wide accreditation is becoming more important to school districts as today’s students face stiffer academic competition not only nationally, but globally as well.

    “District-wide accreditation would assure that the things that we do, such as professional development, instructional strategies and our curriculum are coordinated throughout the whole district,” Dean said. “It would also help us be recognized as a high quality district, because we are willing to apply for this higher level of scrutiny.”

  • Los Alamos High School goes green

    Workers try to beat the weather, making LAHS a little greener, in the process. Temperatures began to drop Friday.

  • Two on board won't run

    School board members Melanie McKinley and Dawn Venhaus recently announced they will not be seeking re-election this year.

    Both members cited professional and personal reasons for why they won’t be seeking another term on the board.

    “Trying to balance teaching with raising four kids and serving on the school board, something had to give,” McKinley said. “It’s time for me to just step down for a while.”

    When McKinley’s term is up in February, she will have completed one four-year stint.  According to McKinley, she came on to the board during a very tough time, just when the school system was heading into some rough financial times.

    One of her proudest accomplishments she said was helping to guide the school system through that period.

    “I’m really proud of the fact that we weathered the storm and that we made it through without our education system suffering,” she said, adding that she and her fellow board members created a real legacy of sound fiscal management.

  • LA schools receive $138K

    The Los Alamos Public Schools got a nice surprise recently when it learned the state has awarded four of its schools $138,000. The schools are Los Alamos High School, Piñon Elementary, Barranca Elementary and Mountain Elementary.

    LAHS received $65,958.03; Mountain received $26,700.90; Barranca received $23,448.38 and Piñon received $22,283.53.

    According to New Mexico’s Public Education Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera, the funds were part of Gov. Susana Martinez’s “Real Accountability, Real Results” legislation to improve the state of New Mexico’s public school system. The law, passed in 2011, is designed to help schools that need improvement as well as reward those that are doing well. One of the key components of the law was assigning each school in New Mexico an easily identifiable letter grade.

    “The bottom line we said that since the school grades law was passed we want to champion success, and this is our opportunity,” Skandera said.

    The funds will be used to invest directly in the students through either the purchase of educational software, books or other teaching aids that would directly benefit the students.

  • Scholastic Book Fair

    Chamisa Elementary kicks off their book fair Friday. It will continue through Oct. 30 and is open to the community. The funds will benefit several learning programs at Chamisa. Items at the book fair include those for children, teens and adults and range from pencils, posters and books to items for the computer. Fair hours are 7:30-8:30 a.m., 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 3-6 p.m

  • UNM-LA tables tax hike

    A sluggish economy, the uncertainty of the budget situation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a similar proposal from the Los Alamos Public Schools all played a part in the University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents decision to squelch a proposal to the taxpayers of Los Alamos.

    This coming January, UNM-LA was planning to send out a ballot to Los Alamos residents proposing to raise the tax rate by two mils in an effort to bolster UNM-Los Alamos’ core academic programs.

    The UNM-LA Advisory Board earlier cited declining financial support from the state as the main impetus behind the need for a tax hike. If the proposal was approved by voters, then UNM-LA could have received approximately $1.4 million in additional annual revenue. Two mil points would equate to $66.67 for every $200,000 in property value.

    But, according to UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page, the board has decided to hold off on the proposal.

    “The regents thought it best to wait until later in the year to see how things pan out with the economy, the general election in November and this fiscal cliff we’re supposed to go off at the first of the year,” Page said.

  • LAMS Field Officially Opens

    It doesn’t have a name yet, but that didn’t stop Los Alamos Middle School from having a small dedication ceremony for its new football field Thursday, just before the Hawks played their game against the McCurdy Bobcats.

    According to LAMS Football coach Darren Jones, the field’s been open since fall sports began, and that now would be a great time for the ceremony.

    “Since this was going to be our last game here for the season, we decided now would be a good time,” Jones said.

    According to Jones, the turf features the same type of artificial turf that’s on Sullivan Field, and ever since his kids have been using it, he can see a marked difference between the artificial turf and the natural grass field they’ve had since the early 60s.

    “It’s really awesome,” he said. “We’ve had a soccer tournament here earlier and we’ve got a lot of good feedback about the new field.

    “The best part about it is that there are no bumps,” Jones said. “It’s a nice, level playing field, easy to run and maneuver on.”

    LAMS’ Assistant Principal Anna Vargas-Gutierrez characterized the field as a real accomplishment for the middle school.

  • Properties Generate Revenue for District

    Entrepreneurs looking for the ideal place to locate their business, need to look no further than the Los Alamos Public Schools. Some might not know the LAPS has a number of properties around town that are suitable for residents who might be looking to open a business.

    Currently the Los Alamos Public School District has at least two properties for lease, The “L” section of a building at 3540 Orange St. and two suites, “S” and “T” at 2101 Trinity Dr. And though they aren’t giving the properties away for free, the leases can be pretty reasonable. According to the district’s assets manager, Joan Ahlers, the process is pretty straightforward.

    “If somebody wants to lease from the school district, whether it’s vacant land or actual office space, they come through my office,” she said. “We then do a needs analysis and find out what may work for them.”

    After a price is negotiated, a three-step approval process then begins. First, the lease has to be approved by either the Public Education Department or the State Board of Finance. From there, the school board then approves the lease, before it moves on to planning and zoning at the county.

  • LAHS football player reinstated

    The Speech Theatre at Los Alamos High was the backdrop to a different kind of drama Tuesday night as friends, family and well-wishers showed up at the scheduled school board meeting to show their support for high school senior Grant Washburn.

    Among the crowd of supporters was Washburn’s dad, Gerry, a former school principal who now heads the school district’s human resources department.

    Part of the board’s agenda concerned the fate of the younger Washburn’s football career. Washburn was suspended from all extracurricular activities, including football, after a voluntary search of his vehicle Aug. 30 produced an empty baggie that subsequently tested for a substance consistent with marijuana.

    During the hearing, Washburn told the board that indeed, he left campus without permission to drop a friend off in another part of town. It was implied that it was this friend who left the rolling papers, two cigarette lighters and the empty baggie behind.

    The board patiently heard two hours of testimony over whether to reinstate the star football player and then took another hour to make its decision.