LAPS: School Board Update From March 9 Meeting

A drawing/digital art piece by LAHS student Kari Mason, which garnered a Gold Key award. Courtesy/LAHS 

LAPS News:

The Los Alamos School Board met for a regular meeting Tuesday, March 9. President Melanie Colgan opened the meeting with a moment of silence in memory of Las Cruces School Superintendent Karen Trujillo.

“She touched many lives as an educator and is going to be sorely missed,” Colgan said. 

The board also celebrated several recognitions. Art teachers from around the district were honored as part of Youth Art Month. Britt Williams, Aspen’s art teacher, spoke for the elementary art teachers in saying that they are thankful to work in a district that supports the arts.

Los Alamos High School art teacher Mary Grace shared a slide show of the works of several students who won 22 awards in the Southwest Regional Scholastic Art and Writing  Contest. Next, the board acknowledged March as Music in Our Schools month. Orchestra teacher Michelle Rosette and music teacher Ryan Finn showed a video of the LAHS Symphonic Strings performance as the State Honor Ensemble. 

The LAHS Hilltalkers were recognized as the 2021 State Champions.

“For the sixth year in a row, LAHS has earned the New Mexico Speech and Debate School of Excellence Award for outstanding performance in speech and debate events,” Colgan said.

The LAMS Hawktalkers, competing at the high school level at the state competition, also received accolades for earning a Debate School of Honor award. Uxue Sansinena was named state champion in Novice Lincoln-Douglas debate. 

The Board unanimously approved the nominees for the New Mexico School Boards Association  Excellence and Student Achievement Award selected by committee members President Colgan and Ellen Specter. The names of the nominees will be announced by the NMSBA at a later date. This year the  committee reviewed 19 applications, the most ever received.

“This was really hard,” Colgan said. “There were so many good nominees. It is more evidence of what great teachers and community members we have as far as supporting students.” 

The board next heard an audit report from Robert Cordova of Cordova CPAs, LLC. He reported that the  audit was conducted in accordance with GAAS and GAGAS requirements and that the auditors’ report on  the financial statements rendered an unmodified opinion.

“The results are a clean audit opinion which is a good thing,” Cordova noted. In addition to the financial audit, the firm conducted a single audit of  federal expenditures. 

Board members thanked Cordova, as well as Comptroller Teresa Gatewood and her team for their hard  work.

Next on the agenda the board participated in training about the Superintendent Evaluation Process and  Superintendent Search Process hosted by Dr. Hugh Prather. He pointed out that a good evaluation policy  is based on best practices, reviewed annually and modified based on experience.

He suggested that the board review its policy and consider incorporating quarterly formative sessions in the policy. Another suggestion was to utilize a more effective 360 degree instrument for better stakeholder feedback.

“Both could be accomplished by a board committee to bring recommended enhancements to the board for approval,” Prather said. 

Dr. Prather then outlined several possible scenarios for conducting a superintendent search, including  board conducted, board directed, or externally facilitated such as using a headhunter. He noted that  there are pros and cons to each route, and that every search is unique to its own community.

He also pointed out that it is important to plan a timetable, desired characteristics, advertising parameters, compensation package, etc. “Frontend planning is critical,” Prather added. The board will hold a Special School Board Meeting 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 16 to determine the search process for the next superintendent. 

The board next approved the creation of a hardship account at Los Alamos Schools Credit Union.  Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus cited the recent collection of funds for a scholarship in memory of Karen  Trujillo as an example for establishing this account. “Every time something happens where we need to  collect funds, we would have that in place,” he said. 

And finally, Superintendent Steinhaus updated the board on the legislative session and what bills will  impact the district and the budget for the upcoming school year.

These include Impact Aid, a proposed  1.5 percent average raise for school employees and insurance costs. He also touched on additional days for K5+  and ELTP (Extended Learning Time Program), expanding funding for the Grow Your Own Teachers and  the idea of local control for individual school districts. 

The next School Board Work Session will be Thursday, March 25.