Different times demand different leaders for an organization, and this is a time when the Los Alamos Public Schools will be facing a series of challenges and demands that require an experienced and thoughtful leader such as Morris Pongratz.
No one can take issue with his background and experience: long-time student mentor and advisor of the Key Club, our high school student service organization, several terms on the County Council, prior experience on our School Board when he led the fight to maintain federal support for our schools, even his long tenure as the “Voice of the Toppers” for football and other sports game broadcasts. I can personally attest to his thoughtfulness, listening skills and respectful dialogue during our shared service on community and county committees and on the County Council.
But why is now a time when Morrie’s experience, knowledge and personal contacts within Los Alamos and across the state of special value? Our community is going through a demographic transformation not experienced in a generation. We can all see the many, many younger families across our community due to the replacement of retirees at LANL and LANL’s and other contractors’ accelerated hiring. We have multiple housing projects going up and planned in White Rock and the townsite, yet we cannot keep up with the housing demand.
This situation brings unprecedented pressure on our schools and will force the School Board to make difficult decisions based on a range of operational and financial considerations, such as whether to build a sixth-grade “academy” at our Middle School, or how to scope and manage the refurbishment of our elementary schools in White Rock (please vote for the school bond!). These are just a few of the key, strategic decisions that demand the experience and thoughtful analysis that Morrie will bring to the School Board.
I was impressed by the slate of School Board candidates during the recent League of Women Voters forum. Among the candidates, Morrie is the only one without professional experience as an educator, so I feel that the new School Board, regardless of the vote outcome, will have educational perspectives well-represented. But we also need on our board someone experienced in “talking budgets”, who can bring a systematic and broad view to a problem with a historical perspective, who understands the needs and motivations of our new partners “across the bridge,” and who can talk their language as well.
Please join me in voting for Morrie Pongratz, and while you are at the voting booth, please also vote to renew our school bonds. Among other improvements, it will pay to refurbish Chamisa and Pinon schools. White Rock kids deserve modern schools just as the townsite kids do, all without a tax rate increase.
Los Alamos County Councilor