School Board Adopts $5 Million Bond

LAHS student Holly Erickson, right, Northern New Mexico International Science and Engineering Fair Qualifier with alternate LAHS Freshman David Murphy, won an all expense paid trip for herself and her sponsor to the International Fair May 13-18 in Pittsburgh, PA. Erickson will compete against 1,500 students from across the globe for $2.5 million in prizes and awards. Photo by Art Brown

By Kirsten Laskey

The Los Alamos Public Schools Board of Education adopted a $5 million bond, the final installment of the school district’s $40 million designated bank qualified bonds for construction projects, during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

Not only did the board unanimously approve the final piece of financing for the districts’ construction projects, but they secured a great deal.

Bond Councilor Duane Brown explained the district maintains an underlying double A 2 credit rating, which is “a very strong rating.”

In fact, looking at the data, Brown said the double A rating is selling better than the triple A rating, which is the highest credit rating.

“That’s a nice trend to have,” Brown said. “It’s nice to borrow money for the school district at that low cost.”

School Board President Kevin Honnell was pleased with the news. “It’s certainly fantastic news,” he said, adding that it was not just good news for the district but for taxpayers and landowners, too.

Brown said ten bids were received for the bond, including one local bid from Kious and Company and Los Alamos National Bank.

FTN Financial Capital Markets from Memphis, Tenn., had the winning bid.

With the final piece of financing in place, the board received an update on the construction projects.

Herb McLean, construction coordinator for the district, reported that the first architectural kick off meeting for Aspen Elementary School was very well attended – 30 people participated. A lot of good ideas were presented, he said.

He added that phasing is being considered for the project in order to reduce the number of portables at the school.

Honnell asked about the community garden, which is being developed by the Los Alamos Family YMCA at Los Alamos Middle School. He wanted assurance that between the portables and KRSN 1490 AM radio antenna, there would be enough room for the garden.

McLean said there is enough room but the project can not afford to bring water to the garden. However, there is a plan to install a water tee, not only for the garden but to supply water to the area below the school parking lot.

In an unrelated issue, the school board approved to budget $4,370 for the summer school in order to provide an additional teacher for the program.

Assistant Superintendent Paula Dean said currently there is one teacher and two high school assistants. The additional money will bring in another teacher. The second high school assistant position will be removed.

While Dean recommended not approving the $4,370 for the program, she saw the benefits in both decisions.

She explained she felt that the money might be better spent elsewhere.

“There are so many needs in professional development that I would think it will have a far greater effect on student achievement (elsewhere),” she said.

However, Dean said students in the summer school program are by far the neediest students in the district. A richer program for these kids could be a benefit.

Board member David Foster wondered if rather than adding a teacher, if the program should maximize its use of the Odyssey software. He said the schools are having success with it and summer school might be an opportunity to test it out.

Board Secretary Melanie McKinley disagreed. She said it’s amazing what can be done when an instructor sits down and works with struggling students. McKinley added perhaps students could experiment with the software program at home but “don’t test on the most vulnerable kids, in my mind.”

Honnell agreed. “If we save one student out of 50 that could be the deepest and best achievement we ever made.”

Summer school begins June 18 and ends July 13.

 

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