Highlights From First School Board Meeting Of 2021

Newly elected School Board President Melanie Colgan

LAPS News:

The Los Alamos School Board gathered virtually Tuesday evening for its first meeting of the new year Tuesday.

The first order of business at the meeting was to elect board members into officer positions.

After reviewing roles and responsibilities and considering those interested in serving as an officer the board casts its votes.

The following positions were filled:

  • Board President Melanie Colgan;
  • Board Vice President Ellen Ben-Naim; and
  • Board Secretary, Dawn Jalbert.

“I am honored and humbled to have been elected president of the Los Alamos Public School Board,” Colgan said. “I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead. I would also like to thank Ellen Ben-Naim for her service as board president for the past two years. Her strong dedication to the betterment and continued success of LAPS should be applauded.”

The newly elected board president then moved on to recognize the Winter Writing Contest student winners and teachers. Their work in teen fiction, nonfiction and poetry was published in the Dec. 25 issue of Pasatiempo. In addition, the board also recognized LAPS art teachers and watched a video celebrating their hard work, creativity and dedication to students.

Student Council representative William McTeigue then gave an overview of student activities last fall and the “stay at homecoming” celebrations.

“We are looking forward to hosting another semester of fun for students,” McTeigue said.

Last semester the Student Council organized events such as the Giving Tree, a food drive, Halloween decorating contest and winter spirit week.

The Board unanimously approved the proposal to develop educational specifications for Chamisa and Piñon elementary schools submitted by Architectural Research Consultants, Inc.

Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus shared four major steps in the school remodeling process:

  • Bond election, which voters approved by record rate in fall 2019;
  • Educational Specifications;
  • Design Architecture; and
  • Construction.

“This is the process required by the Public Schools Facility Authority for all major projects,” Dr. Steinhaus said. “During the process, LAPS will hire an architect to help us analyze our facilities in relation to the way a facility meets the needs of teaching and learning processes and the educational mission it serves.”

The architect helps the schools identify their educational model and how the building complements that mission by conducting site visits with educators, performing a usage analysis of each space and discovering desired adjacencies for each space. In the end, the district will have a plan that the architect can use to prepare for design work. The school board and district staff help set priorities within the budget to give restraint to the process. The district should see cost savings by conducting concurrent planning activities for two schools.

Board members were enthusiastic to see that the process is moving forward for the White Rock schools.

“We thank the residents for supporting our students and passing the bond by unprecedented numbers,”  Ben-Naim said .

Next, Strategic Assets Coordinator Susan Fellows presented a lease agreement for Sheldon Simpson, School Resource Officer at Piñon Elementary School. This agreement states the officer may live on the premises, which provides security surveillance for the school site.

“I wholeheartedly support these leases. It’s an excellent example of community collaboration with the schools and the Los Alamos Police Department,” Ben-Naim said.

The motion passed unanimously.

Board members then discussed the superintendent evaluation survey questions as part of the superintendent’s annual performance evaluation. A survey will be sent out to community members and school personnel who will evaluate the superintendent.

The survey is distributed by a third party to all stakeholders. At the February work session, the School Board will hold an executive session to meet with the superintendent and deliver the performance evaluation. In March, the School Board will publicize and formally approve any action on the superintendent’s contract renewal.

Colgan requested that board members submit suggested changes as soon as possible. Final approval on the survey questions will be made at the work session Jan. 28.

Lastly, President Colgan asked the board to vote on a team of district representatives for Union Negotiations.

The proposed team includes:

  • Human Resources Manager Joe Palmer as lead;
  • Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Guy;
  • LAHS Principal Carter Payne;
  • Facilities Manager Tommy Castillo;
  • Barranca Principal Gina Terrazas; and
  • Karla Schultz from Walsh Gallegos to serve as the legal consultant.

The board voted unanimously on this team.

The next School Board Work Session is 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28. The next regular School Board meeting is 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9. Both meetings will be held virtually.