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Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus Briefs School Board On Impact Of Decisions At Legislature

on March 14, 2019 - 10:54am
LAPS Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus updates school board members Tuesday evening on developments at the New Mexico Legislature. Photo by Bonnie Gordon/
Los Alamos Daily Post

During Tuesday’s meeting, Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus updated school board members on developments at the New Mexico Legislature and what they mean for LAPS.

Steinhaus first outlined what he finds encouraging:

  • Although there is a 20 percent reduction in the special funding for small-sized schools, the reduction is phased in over five years, meaning that funding for the LAPS Freshman Academy will be phased out slowly rather than all at once.
  • LAPS is entitled to apply for “school growth” funding because of an increase in the student body in recent years.
  • The “unit value,” which is a measure used to determine cost per student with indexes that include various categories of at risk students will be released March 28. The good news is that an increase in unit value will be backed up by a $25 million increase in funds to cover the increase, should it be enacted.
  • In other good news, although an income of $10 per hour or more is mandated by the legislature, the only employees earning less than this amount in the District are student interns.
  • Another bright spot is good communication between the District and the Public Education Dept. and State Legislature, Steinhaus said.

Moving on to the challenges created by new legislation, Steinhaus pointed to:

  • The State Legislature has called for a 6 percent raise for school personnel. Depending on how state allocations to the District shake out, the District could be facing a $500,000 shortfall because of the salary increases, Steinhaus said.
  • The Reads to Lead program has not been funded for next year. The program provides software, materials and reading coaches for students who need help with reading at the elementary schools. Several teachers and administrators noted that the program has been very successful in Los Alamos, although not statewide. They voiced concerns about losing reading coaches at the elementary schools.
  • The court ruling on the Yazzie and Martinez case acknowledged that increased funding for K-3 Plus, an extended school year program which extends the school year by 25 instructional days for those grades, is necessary.  Since funds are limited and the District has fewer at risk students, Los Alamos might not receive as much funding as other districts to implement the program, Steinhaus said. However, some level of funding may be available, Steinhaus said.
  • Board Member Bill Hargraves voiced concerns about how “at risk student” is defined. He noted that “at risk” may mean something different for Los Alamos students than for those in other parts of the state. On the positive side, Steinhaus said that funding may be available for a second pre-K program in the district, probably at Aspen School. The current program is housed at Pinon School and is open to the entire district via a lottery system.
  • Other concerns remain up in the air as well. Testing, evaluations for staff and schools and the future of testing remain to be decided. Also, the District is not sure what sorts of oversite PED will implement.
  • New instructional materials will be required for the arts and for the science curriculum in the upcoming year.

Following this presentation, the Board took up the matter of the superintendent’s contract, which has been under review by the Board, based on input from staff and the public as well as their own evaluation.

Steinhaus received glowing reviews at Tuesday’s meeting from the School Board on his performance. In a unanimous vote of those present (Cunningham was absent) the Board voted to extend the superintendent’s contract by one year, which guarantees his appointment for the next three years and called for him to receive the same raise the rest of the school staff receives.

“It is an honor and a privilege to continue as superintendent,” Steinhaus said. “I’m fired up, I’ve got lots of ideas. There’s lots of work to do!”