Letter to the Editor: Having Trouble Understanding School Board’s Decision

By SUE and RUDY HENNINGER
Los Alamos

To Dr. Kevin Honnell
March 13, 2014

Dear Kevin,

This letter has taken so long to compose because I was so angry about our school board’s treatment of Dr. Schmidt that I have needed time to be more civil. You are our representative, and having worked with you on the Barranca Mesa Pool Board I have seen that you have the capacity to consider things carefully. I am therefore hoping that you will take our comments to heart and consider what we have to say.

When we look at the last five years we see so many positive things that have happened in the schools due to Dr. Schmidt’s leadership. We have gone from crumbling buildings to having a beautiful new high school, new middle school, and Aspen school is in the process of rebuilding. Not only the buildings have been improved, but the school grounds and curb appeal are hugely improved.

Dr. Schmidt has connected our school system to the community in ways that haven’t been done since Superintendent Duane Smith, who served our schools in 1972-1979. Dr. Schmidt has taken a leadership role in raising the image of Los Alamos Public Schools, not only in the physical sense. He has worked tirelessly and creatively to bring the face of LAPS to so many community events by participating in events such as performances of the “Nutcracker,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” hosting an exchange student in his own home, physically marching with his wife in parades, even as she was dealing with pain before and after knee replacements. He even appeared in ads in the movie theater. He has participated in all kinds of activities in the schools such as classes, school performances and tours of school buildings.

Both he and his wife Wendy co-chaired the United Way of Northern New Mexico fund raising campaign in fall, 2012, and have participated in many fund raising events. We have personally seen Dr. Schmidt clean up after public events by doing dishes, taking down tables, etc. He truly has given 110 percent of himself as you stated. Through all of these activities, Dr. Schmidt has broadened community support, which translates into votes FOR school referenda. Media coverage has shown that good things are happening in our schools. Students are performing well at both state and national levels. We were even awarded national accreditation during Dr. Schmidt’s tenure.

We have noted the positive comments that you yourself and the other board members have made – that he cares deeply for all of the students, staff and families, that many new programs were started under his leadership. You are quoted as saying, “Dr. Schmidt is a dedicated and hardworking educator who, over the past 5 years has given 110 percent to our community. He is a kind, considerate gentleman who cares about the success of every single student.”

Since the board publicly recognizes Dr. Schmidt’s work ethic and dedication, as well as his kindness and how decent he is, we believe that you have the duty to give Dr. Schmidt the same graciousness and decency that he has shown to our community, and that you treat him with the kindness, dedication and decency as the example he has set for you. We urge you to reconsider your inaction and rehire Dr. Schmidt for one more year.

We are having trouble making sense of the board’s willingness to spring for a new or interim superintendent by July 1, if indeed the goal is to find someone with the qualities and qualifications that you apparently believe supersede those of Dr. Schmidt. By reinstating him for a last year you would be giving yourselves a much needed window of time to search for a new superintendent with those qualities and qualifications, which are so important to you and to us as a community, as well as demonstrating a more ethical way of handling things. This is not a process to be rushed if you are really dedicated to finding a truly suitable replacement for Dr. Schmidt.

I’m sure we speak for many in our community who will be watching with great interest to see how ethically you handle the forthcoming decisions.

We will also be sending copies of this letter to the LA Daily Post and the LA Monitor.

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