Letter To The Editor: Supporting Polaris Charter School

By CHRISTINE BERSTEIN
Candidate
Los Alamos School Board

Prior to announcing my run for LAPS School Board, I had been involved interested in the initial planning of the proposed charter school Polaris.

Because I cannot serve on both the Polaris governing board and the LAPS School Board, I have made the choice to step away from any work with Polaris, but I would like to explain why I find value in the proposed school and share with this community a conversation I recently had with Los Alamos School Board President Ellen Ben-Naim.

Last week, Ellen and I had a great conversation about the school and how LAPS could better serve all students in the district. I mentioned that I feel it is vital that we as community leaders keep in mind that our students are the top priority in our community.

We need to be asking: Why have members of our community, including educators, parents and school board members, felt this need to create a Charter School? It is so important that we look at why Polaris is being created and that as a school board it is our responsibility to collaborate and work with one another to make sure the students have a seamless transition from Polaris back to LAPS, should the school come to be.

The Los Alamos community senses that there is a gap in our public education and that our schools are not providing enough unique opportunities for various types of learners. It is the job of the school board to take a long, hard look at how they can bridge this gap and work with the community to make changes in the district.

I mentioned to Ellen that it is in the interest of our students to collaborate and work with the Polaris Board. More than that, I asked why not adopt the school and make it a school within a school in our district? We are all here to educate our kids and ensure that students in the district are given the opportunity to obtain an education that allows them to become prepared for career or college.

After this conversation, I attended the School Board meeting on July 17 where Polaris was discussed. I was pleased to hear the ideas I had expressed to Ellen are also LAPS Board positions. It surprised me to hear that many of the ideas I had presented to Ellen were also ideas the board was contemplating: Los Alamos schools want to support teachers doing innovative project based learning and the LAPS school board is considering the possibility of creating a school within a school to serve a variety of students.  They spoke of how they want to take the concept of School of Choice and expand it outward, possibly to the middle school.  They emphasized that the educational interests of all students in our community is a top priority.  They even spoke of how collaboration with Polaris would be in the best interest of our students.

As I sat there in the school board room hearing these statements, I felt a sense of excitement for our students and the district. To know that I am not alone in my ideas and thinking with regard to Polaris was enlightening.

I applaud the school board for thinking in new and innovative ways and for wanting to work with Polaris if needed to best serve our students and I am so glad Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus has extended an olive branch to the Polaris Board.

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