Local News

  • State denies Polaris Charter School bid

    The New Mexico Public Education Commission voted to deny the Polaris Charter School application Thursday.

    In light of the PEC decision, leadership at Los Alamos Public Schools plans to schedule a meeting with the charter school planning team to discuss how to best work together to pool local resources and help all students in Los Alamos succeed, according to a release sent out Thursday by the district.

    “We appreciate the team’s creative thinking and dedication to designing options for our middle school students in Los Alamos,” Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus said.

    The Polaris Charter School proposal included many positive educational approaches like engaging the whole child, recognizing the importance of social emotional learning, building community through advisory groups, and offering personalized and project-based learning opportunities. A commitment to further developing and implementing many of these innovative ideas is shared by staff and leadership at LAPS. 

    “We look forward to continuing to collaborate in order to provide the best options for all students in Los Alamos,” Steinhaus said.

    Check back with the Monitor next week for more details on this story.

  • N.M. 502 road issue expected Saturday

    On Saturday, N3B will transport a large excavator from TA-21 at the end of DP Road to Trinity Drive, crossing Marimac Plaza’s parking lot to Central Avenue, then east down NM 502 to the Truck Route, beginning at 6 a.m. They will stop at the Truck Route Inspection Station for inspection, then resume transport after 8 a.m, traveling into White Rock on NM 4 to Pajarito Road.

    LAPD officers will close NM502 at the bottom of the Main Hill Road during these hours to allow the excavator to move down the Main Hill Road to NM4 and the Truck Route Inspection Station.

    Early morning traffic should avoid Main Hill Road and the Truck Route near the inspection station from 6-8 a.m. Saturday. The move through White Rock should end at about 9 a.m. Use caution and allow extra time if traveling in any of these areas on Saturday morning.

    A second move of two excavators is expected to occur in a similar traffic pattern on Sept. 7.

  • Allerpops gets hearing at prestigious conference

    Retired Los Alamos National Laboratory Biologist and allergy medicine entrepreneur Cliff Han has long believed that too much oral hygiene and antibiotics may be what’s behind a national rise in allergy cases across the country.

    In July, Han presented his findings at the annual Microbiome Conference at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.

    Last year, the Los Alamos-based scientist and inventor, created a special type of lollipop for allergy sufferers based on his theories.

    At the conference, he shared the results of his study, called “Oral Probiotic Deficiency May Cause Common Allergies - Theory of Negative Trigger Marks the Interaction between Microbiota and Host Immune System.”

    “My goal is to show scientists that the theory derived from my study might be applicable to their studies, especially in host-microbe interactions,” Han said.

    Though it’s a mouthful, Han said his findings show that he’s right, and that his study got some positive support at the conference.

    “It was quite a good interaction, many people talked with me about my theory. They were very interested,” Han said.

    One of the scientists he spoke with, George Weinstock, spoke with Han about his theories for over an hour, according to Han.

  • Court: Electoral College members not bound by popular vote

    DENVER — A U.S. appeals court in Denver said Electoral College members can vote for the presidential candidate of their choice and aren’t bound by the popular vote in their states.

    The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the Colorado secretary of state violated the Constitution in 2016 when he removed an elector and nullified his vote because the elector refused to cast his ballot for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote.

    The ruling applies only to Colorado and five other states in the 10th Circuit: Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

    It could influence future cases nationwide in the unlikely event that enough Electoral College members strayed from their states’ popular vote to affect the outcome of a presidential election, constitutional scholars said.

    The Electoral College system is established in the Constitution. When voters cast a ballot for president, they are actually choosing members of the Electoral College, called electors, who are pledged to that presidential candidate. The electors then choose the president.

    Electors almost always vote for the popular vote winner, and some states have laws requiring them to do so.

  • Top DC group tours LANL’s pit program

    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium pit production center received a boost of confidence recently after a visit by top brass from Washington, D.C., the National Nuclear Security Administration announced Wednesday.

    The Department of Energy’s NNSA hosted members of the Nuclear Weapons Council at Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina and Los Alamos National Laboratory Aug. 14-15.

    Among the guests touring NNSA facilities and receiving briefings were Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and NWC Chair Ellen Lord and Commander of U.S. Strategic Command General John E. Hyten.

    SRS and LANL are pivotal to the revitalization of the United States’ plutonium pit production capability and the fulfillment of the Department of Defense requirement to produce no fewer than 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030, as outlined in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review and certified by the NWC in May 2018.

    “Our two-pronged approach at Savannah River and Los Alamos will ensure a more responsive and flexible infrastructure to maintain the nuclear deterrent for future threats,” said Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, DOE under secretary for nuclear security and NNSA administrator.

  • Fired state education secretary to lead Las Cruces schools

    LAS CRUCES (AP) — Karen Trujillo, the former New Mexico public education secretary who was fired just six months into her job, was chosen Tuesday to lead Las Cruces Public Schools.

    In a 5-0 vote, the Las Cruces Public School board named Trujillo as the district's interim superintendent after Superintendent Greg Ewing resigned last week, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.

    The appointment comes a month after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham abruptly fired Trujillo as leader of state's Public Education Department, raising eyebrows from some state lawmakers and criticism for some in southern New Mexico.

    Lujan Grisham said the firing came after some of her "expectations were not met."

    Days later, the state released results that showed around 80% of students weren't proficient in math and 67% weren't proficient in reading. The results, from a "transition test" administered in the spring, came weeks into Trujillo's job.

    Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said Trujillo's firing was not related to the results from test scores.

    Las Cruces Public School board members said the district was lucky to find Trujillo amid the disarray as the school year starts.

  • Regional Briefs 8-21-19

    Former city manager gambled Colorado money

    ESPANOLA — Former City Manager David Valdez used over $4,000 of his previous employer’s funds at casinos in 2015, according to credit card statements from the Colorado City Metropolitan District.

    Former District finance director Donna Pickman said the money was eventually reimbursed. Records show that Valdez, who worked as Colorado City’s district manager for over a decade until his 2018 resignation, reimbursed the first and last of six instances of spending at casinos. The rest are not specified.

    Valdez’s financial practices in the district are the subject of a Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office investigation, which was recently forwarded to the Pueblo County District Attorney’s Office.

    Over $18,000 went missing from the Española Utilities Department less than two weeks after Valdez began as city manager April 1 and he was fired in July amid an investigation into the alleged theft by the New Mexico Attorney General.

    Valdez said on the night of his termination that after the City Council’s hearing he would go to the Buffalo Thunder Resort Casino to play blackjack.

  • 'Hot, hot, hot'
  • Valles Caldera to manage 200-acre Redondo Fire

    Last week, lightning ignited a single tree near Redondo Meadow within Valles Caldera National Preserve. Fire crews monitored the Redondo Fire over the weekend.

    Given favorable conditions, including monsoonal rains, high humidity and the availability of fire crews, National Park Service officials intend to manage the fire within a 200-acre area to reduce undesired fire behavior in the future. 

    “Wildfire is a natural component of our forest and grassland ecosystems, and when conditions permit, we strive to safely manage these naturally-caused fires,” said Valles Caldera Superintendent Jorge Silva-Bañuelos. “The goal of the managed fire is to bring positive benefits to the landscape by removing the dead and downed fuels that have accumulated since the 2013 Thompson Ridge Fire.”

    For the duration of the Redondo Fire, the superintendent has issued a closure order for the area and the road into Redondo Meadow.

    Smoke is expected to be visible during fire operations through the week and possibly into the weekend. Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory or heart disease are encouraged to take precautionary measures.

  • Highlands paleomagnetic lab expands


    LAS VEGAS — New Mexico Highlands University has a teaching and research facility unmatched in New Mexico and surrounding states, thanks to more than $1.1 million in instrument grants since 2008 from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

    The latest $153,915 NSF grant adds a vibrating sample magnetometer to Highlands University’s state-of-the-art paleomagnetic-rock magnetic laboratory.

    “This exciting new equipment provides an innovative tool to conduct sensitive experiments in geology, chemistry, physics, biology, archaeology, material science and art,” said Highlands geology professor and laboratory director Michael Petronis. “Collectively, the paleomagnetic-rock magnetic laboratory offers facilities that give our students the opportunity to conduct transformative research across many science disciplines, and even the arts.”

    Petronis wrote a number of the National Science Foundation grants to fund the lab equipment alone and co-authored others with fellow Highlands geology professor Jennifer Lindline.

    Petronis said paleomagnetism studies the history of the earth’s magnetic fields recorded in rocks, but another important application concerns pressing environmental issues like climate change.