School Board Accepts Letter to Skandara With Minor Changes

Los Alamos School Board from left, Vice President Judy Bjarke-McKenzie, President Jim Hall, Matt Williams, Kevin Honnell and David Foster. Courtesy/LAPS

Staff Report

During Tuesday’s Special Board meeting of the Los Alamos School Board, members discussed the recommendation of the Study Group for Teacher Concerns for a letter to Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera.

The letter explains Los Alamos teacher concerns for the rapid implementation of several initiatives by the New Mexico Public Education Department, including a new teacher observation protocol.

The School Board accepted the letter with minor changes and directed administration to bring the letter back to staff in its amended form for an up or down vote as to whether the letter should be presented to Skandera. Should teachers approve the letter in its new form, Board President Jim Hall, Vice President Judy Bjarke-McKenzie, and Superintendent Gene Schmidt will present the letter to Skandera. Before then, however, the letter will be presented at school sites by members of the Study Group for Teacher Concerns during the first week of December. The results of the teacher vote will be presented at the Dec. 10 School Board.

The School Board also went into Executive Session to discuss limited personnel matters, specifically the evaluation of the superintendent. When the School Board returned from the Executive Session, Hall stated that the purpose for the discussion in closed session was limited to the discussion stated on the agenda and that no action was taken.

Following the close of the Special Board Meeting, Hall convened a School Board Work Session during which the Board reviewed graduation requirements, the transportation policy and the procurement policy.

The Board also heard reports on the following:

LAPS’s Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe and Transportation Coordinator Keith Rosenbaum presented a report on bus ridership and the transportation budget. They noted that ridership is declining, which impacts transportation funding. Member of the School Board inquired about strategies the District could introduce to increase ridership and/or reduce expenses for future transportation budgets.

Lorraine Whalen and Ivanna Austel, Los Alamos teachers and PowerSchool Grade Book trainers, presented a report on what has been done to train teachers in the use of PowerSchool, how it links assignments to learning standards, and how it calculates grades and allows K-12 parents to monitor their student(s) academic progress. Calling PowerSchool and Planbook,com “diamonds in the rough,” one teacher noted the PowerSchool online parent portal for accessing student grades was ahead of other district’s across the state. 

Aspen Elementary Principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom presented a short report about the challenges of running school during a major construction project. She also spoke about the extraordinary commitment by staff and parents to make this year special for students. She closed by celebrating the “A” New Mexico School Report Card grade for Aspen. In doing so, she thanked teachers, parents and students for their commitment to excellence.

Chief Operation Officer Joan Ahlers presented an update to the Board about the District’s intent to remodel two rooms in the district office complex into a School Board meeting room/staff training room.