Advancing Lives: Our Journey to Excellence

Los Alamos Board of Education President Kevin Honnell welcomes staff back to school Monday. Courtesy/LAPS

LAPS News:

Los Alamos School Board President Kevin Honnell welcomed the staff back to school Monday morning, Aug. 13. The annual event includes a “Back to School” breakfast for staff and opening remarks from Superintendent Gene Schmidt.

In his remarks, Honnell praised staff for the high quality and important work that they do.

“Los Alamos is a recognized leader in education,” he said.

“What makes a school excellent?” Honnell asked before answering his own question, “iPads, Smartboards, Bus Loops, and even shiny new buildings are wonderful, but they don’t make LAPS great. You do. What makes a school excellent are excellent teachers and staff. Without you, none of the other stuff matters. So thank you for choosing public education as your vocation, and thank you for investing your talent and career in the children of Los Alamos.”

Schmidt shared this year’s “Back to School” theme originated from compliments received when asked the question, “What does Los Alamos do well?” 

One responder stated, “Los Alamos advances lives.” Another noted, “Los Alamos was on an excellence journey.”

The excellence journey that Los Alamos has undertaken is certainly off to a nice start. Los Alamos schools were evaluated by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

School Report Cards showed Aspen Elementary (B), Barranca Mesa Elementary (A), Chamisa Elementary (B), Los Alamos High School (A), Los Alamos Middle School (B), Mountain Elementary (A), and Pinon Elementary (A).

Superintendent Gene Schmidt delivers opening remarks at Monday’s “Back to School” breakfast for LAPS staff. Courtesy/LAPS

To move forward on Los Alamos’ excellence journey, three thrusts (1) academic achievement for all students; (2) developing quality teachers/leaders; and (3) expanding our community partnerships will be the focus.

During the upcoming year, the district will analyze the school report cards and learn from their data. 

The district will also roll out the new state common core standards for grades K-3. 

In addition, the district received a Reads to Lead grant for K-3 that adds a second elementary reaching coach and helps the district develop and implement learning support strategies. 

And finally in the area of academic achievement, Schmidt explained that Los Alamos would participate in AdvancEd Accreditation to internationally benchmark the quality of schools.

Superintendent Gene Schmidt encouraged teachers and staff at Monday’s meeting to continue their journey to excellence. Courtesy/LAPS

In the area of quality teachers and leaders, the district will continue to train leaders to understand characteristics of high performing teachers.

In addition, teachers are creating a National Board Certification cohort to increase their strategies. Teachers were invited to champion excellence by participating in the New Mexico “Effective Teacher/Leader” pilot.

Finally, Schmidt shared that the district will conduct a staff salary study and look for ways to improve new and experienced staff orientations.

Expanding community partners will also be a strong focus for the upcoming year.

Credit was given to Los Alamos County for funding a Prevention Specialist at LAHS. “There are many opportunities to partner with the community,” Schmidt said. “We need to seek out ways to draw more volunteers into our schools and encourage more business partners to help us create learning opportunities beyond the school day.”

Schmidt closed by thanking staff for their great work and challenging them to keep working together to advance lives and continue the district’s journey to excellence.

“To do this, we must continue to build on our strengths and to develop and implement new instructional strategies,” he said. 




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