Morrie Pongratz to School Board: ‘Voters of Los Alamos Deserve an Explanation’

Los Alamos School Board changed seats Tuesday following election of new officers from left, Judy Bjarke-McKenzie is now president, Kevin Honnell vice president and Matt Williams re-elected secretary. Photo by Bonnie J Gordon/
Los Alamos Daily Post

Aside from a few remarks about negativity in the media, the Los Alamos School Board presented a “business as usual” face at Tuesday’s School Board meeting, following Monday’s sudden resignation of Superintendent Gene Schmidt. Three out of the five members of the school board are opposed to extending Schmidt’s contract.

Former School Board Member Morrie Pongratz urges Board to provide explanations regarding the resignation of Superintendent Gene Schmidt. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/

During the Public Comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, former School Board Member Morrie Pongratz urged the Board to give its reasons for opposing an extention of Schmidt’s contract.

“Enumeration of your expectations of a superintendent would not, in general, be covered by the personnel exemption for actions taken in a closed meeting,” Pongratz said. “I think the voters of Los Alamos deserve an explanation and a listing of the non-personnel related expectations you have for a superintendent.”

Schmidt’s resignation followed a fourth and final closed Special Meeting to evaluate his performance. Schmidt gave no reason for his sudden resignation in a letter to the community, but later stated he felt he had lost the full support of the School Board. Schmidt would have been eligible for retirement in 2015.

New School Board officers were nominated and unanimously elected at Tuesday’s meeting within a 10-minute period with no discussion. Judy Bjarke-McKenzie was elected president, Kevin Honnell vice president and Matt Williams was again elected secretary. Bjarke-McKenzie, Honnell and Williams do not want to extend Schmidt’s contract.

When asked Monday why they don’t support Schmidt, Bjarke-McKenzie told the Los Alamos Daily Post, “Dr. Schmidt is really good at public relations but there were some things from previous evaluations that he has not done.”

She did not go into specifics because “it is a personnel matter,” she said.

Before stepping down as president, Jim Hall released a statement to the press addressing recent accounts in the media about Schmidt’s resignation. 

“Board members are prohibited from commenting on private personnel issues making it difficult to clarify or correct speculative reports in the media,” Hall wrote. “…Second, it is my belief that all Board members recognize the significant contributions made by Dr. Schmidt to LAPS and wish him well.”