BY DR. KURT STEINHAUS
Los Alamos Public Schools
Here are five timely topics facing students and staff in the Los Alamos Public Schools for 2020. With this message, I am reaching out to seek your ideas about how to plan for the future and ensure that every student has the opportunity to thrive.
Your comments about these pressing issues will be used in updating our LAPS strategic plan and school-level DASH Plans. In addition, your thoughts will help with the ongoing process of making adjustments in our schools, because when you’re in the people business, re-thinking and making modifications is essential. Click here to submit comments or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
As we move into 2020, let’s build upon what we know about success in the classroom. Here are some operating assumptions: a) we identify clear learning goals, meet students where they are, diagnose their strengths and challenges, and then encourage them to progress at a pace right for them; b) we support and continue to learn from the core triangle of learning in our schools – students, teachers, and parents; c) teachers are unwavering champions of the learning process; and d) student success involves cognitive, physical, and emotional intelligence.
In public education, it makes sense to focus on the future for our students. Here’s a brief rundown of five education issues in 2020 well worth careful consideration in Los Alamos.
- Keeping students and staff safe
From school-specific safety plans and training to using the Say Something Anonymous Reporting App, how can we better focus on prevention? By building capacity in every school, we are working to reach students and families who need assistance.
Student support teams and wellness checks are proving to be critical in addressing individual needs and in meeting an emerging health crisis in schools: vaping. Parents are an important part of working with principals and teachers to keep an open line of communication focused on what is best for students.
- Addressing the growing number of students in Los Alamos
With eight housing developments in town, how can we plan for an increase in the student population? Decisions about school size are complex and involve a variety of factors such as student learning strategies, costs and community norms. Even though there is a lack of definitive research about school size and student performance, we need to ask questions about neighborhood schools, grade-level configurations, transportation, and school attendance zones.
- Supporting healthy students, healthy staff, and healthy schools
How can we help students self-regulate, make better decisions, and become more resilient? A related topic is helping students, staff and parents learn how to show empathy and compassion for others. One of our new strategies for consistency is to implement the Safe and Civil Schools framework in every classroom. We provide timely professional development for all staff and are creatively looking for ways to manage workloads so that staff can focus on what really matters for students. In addition, we are looking for better ways to support working parents.
Maximizing opportunities from the State of New Mexico
How can LAPS students and teachers benefit from new opportunities offered by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Legislature? This 30-day Legislative session is likely to cover topics such as providing culturally and linguistically responsive curricula, addressing the teacher shortage, Extended Learning, K-5+, Pre-Kindergarten, and actions to address the Yazzi/Martinez ruling. With PED’s decision to make the SAT our high school exit exam, curriculum mapping by grade is increasingly important.
The LAPS School Board legislative priorities include: a) implementing a 4-year plan to provide competitive raises for all school employees, b) increasing an understanding of the importance of student and staff well-being, c) allocating resources through the state funding formula to maximize local decision making, d) supporting local school boards, e) allocating funds for safe schools plans, f) providing funds and expertise for cyber security, g) allowing the use of short-cycle assessments to demonstrate student growth, h) passing a paperwork reduction act for school districts, and i) expanding gym space in Los Alamos.
- Appropriate use of educational technology
With the likely increase in the use of artificial intelligence and augmented reality, how can technology best be used to improve the learning process? There is potential for LAPS teaching approaches to become more individualized and classroom designs to be more flexible and allow for increased project-based collaborative learning. Knowing when and how to use social media is an important part of a student’s skill set. It is also important to help students and staff learn strategies for identifying what information sources provide reliable and fact-based information.
Since LAPS is a continuous improvement school district, we identify opportunities and consider potential challenges. By nature, we are planners. We set goals and then plan lessons and targeted activities. We plan for the day, semester, year, and beyond. We evaluate progress and seek feedback.