Morrie Pongratz/Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MORRIE PONGRATZ
Candidate For Los Alamos School Board
Education has taken me from a one-room schoolhouse to a job at the greatest scientific laboratory in the world. I’m now fully retired from the lab, and, like many recent retirees, I am here to stay. I have had a lifelong commitment to giving back to our community, and a number of educators including my wife Cheryl (a former principal at Aspen, the middle school and the high school) and several former school board members have urged me to run and represent the Aspen district on the school board. I’ve spent decades helping our young folks to thrive, so why stop now?
I have experience serving on the school board and the county council. During my last term on the school board, we founded both the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB) and the LAPS Foundation. The former organized to provide assistance to troubled students and families, and the latter organized to raise money to support our public schools. With 3 of 5 board positions being decided in this election, I think it is important to have previous school board experience.
Volunteering has given me a wide perspective on the schools in Los Alamos. I’ve volunteered with the schools for everything from Spelling Bees to the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation to the Kiwanis-sponsored Key Club to tutoring elementary students to serving as the “Voice of the Toppers”. I used project-based learning to teach leadership skills to our youth in Youth Working for Youth, the United Way Youth Team, the Key Club and Los Alamos Youth Leadership (LAYL).
Our school system did not get to be the finest in the state by standing still. I was impressed by some of the proposals of the charter school group. Very good ideas were generated by some concerned and capable people; I hope they can accept the olive branch offered by Dr. Steinhaus.
Our school district has become the best in the state by changing to meet needs, such as the School of Choice, which recognized different learning styles, and Saturday School, to provide extra academic help. We recognized the need to shelter entering ninth graders, and LAPS started the Topper Freshman Academy, and soon we’ll see enhancements at the middle school. LAPS has also added elementary reading coaches. Anyone who attended the LAPS budget hearings would know that the system is directed by an administrative team, led by Dr. Steinhaus, that is anything but status quo.
Andy Trottier, former middle school principal, has agreed to be my campaign treasurer and former LAHS physics teacher, Julie Wangler, is heading an “Educators for Morrie” support and advisement group.
I look forward to meeting parents, students and staff, listening to their ideas and sharing them with the next school board.