Hall: LAPS School Board – Looking Ahead

LAPS Board: Why I Am Running For Re-election – Looking Ahead

 

By JIM HALL
LAPS Board President
 

Editor’s note: this is the final column in a three-part series.

This is the final articleon why I am running for re-election to the LAPS Board. My first article provided basic information about LAPS as an institution, the Board, and some major accomplishments of the Board and administration (http://www.ladailypost.com/content/laps-board-why-i-am-running-re-election). The second article focused on current issues facing LAPS(http://www.ladailypost.com/content/hall-why-i-am-running-re-election).This article focuses on my compelling vision: the staff, programs, parents, and community working together to enable ALL students to love learning, have great skills, and know basic facts.

LAPS hasthree major challenges that have to be addressed in progressing toward this vison: funding, the technology revolution’s impact on learning, and student and staff well-being. Each is discussed below.

Funding first: Over 90 percent of school operational funds are allocated to school districts based on a complex State formula. Local communities cannot vote for additional operating funds, and our state budget, heavily dependent on oil and gas production and federal funds, may be constrained for years to come. Yet LAPS must increase compensation for all employees, grow program diversity, and maintain our commitment to long term fiscal stability and educational excellence.

Second, education, as is every institution, is dramatically affected by the digital revolution. What was a balance between memorizing facts and acquiring skills is tilting toskills. Facts used to be difficult to find and expensive (Did anyone else’s parents buy an Encyclopedia Britannica?), so learning facts was a major goal of curricula.  Now facts are fast to find and generally free. Of course, students must still acquire foundational facts for their repertoire of skills.However, emphasis is shifting to broad and deep skill acquisition–one important skill being identifying and using relevant, accurate facts.

Third, teacher morale and student health are suffering. At both the Federal and State level, education departmentshaveinstituted “one size fits all” policies that are often, at best, paperwork burdens, and, at worst, detrimental to LAPS. The combination of funding doldrums, regulatory bloat, and inflexible, even punitivepolicies has resulted in the lowest teacher and staff morale in my memory, and I am committed to doing all I can to reverse this trend.

Student well-being is also under pressure. In addition to all “normal” growing up issues, many students are increasingly pressured by scholastic competition, changing job and skills markets, and technology-intensified peer pressure.This pressure starts early. One of my most poignant memories is of a parent telling me that her third grader came home and asked, “Mommy, am I dumb because I can’t go with the ‘gifted’ kids?” My heart breaks.

How can LAPS achieve the vision? Build on strengths. LAPS has great students, excellent, highly educated teachers and administrators, a strong support staff, active parents, a VERY supportive community, and a local government that supports many school programs and youth facilities.A strong Board balances long-term fiscal stability and exigent needs,focuses on strategic goals, and is committed to success for all students.

Near term actions underway:

  • Sheltering staff from unproductive policies and a counterproductive evaluation system;
  • Working with the American Federation of Teachers bargaining unit to increase compensation;
  • Addressing student and parent concerns about homework and high school start times; and
  • Broadening program offerings through UNM/LA partnerships and increased project-based learning opportunities.

Longer term, the Board is implementing policies that will maximize our State funding andevaluating strategies that will better address the elementary to mid-school and mid-school to high school transitions, improve youth resiliency, and maximize student opportunities for success. 

I look forward to continuing to be a part of the effort.

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