BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Erin Green has been sworn in as the Los Alamos Public Schools board member for District 5 after being unanimously chosen by board members Chair Melanie Colgan, Ellen Specter, Steve Boerigter and Christine Bernstein to fill the position until Dec. 31.
After being sworn in by Municipal Judge Elizabeth Allen, Green said she is grateful to the board for selecting her and to the community for supporting her.
“I am very excited to work with all of you as we support our schools,” Green said.
When the meeting started, Chair Colgan said she wanted to remind everybody that the school board is a non-partisan group.
“We are not here due to any sort of political affiliation. We’re not here for any sort of personal agenda. That’s not part of a board member’s job. A board member’s job is to put education, safety and the well-being of our students, our teachers and our staff first,” she said. “So as we look for candidates tonight, I hope we keep that all in the front of our minds that that is what we are here for and those are the qualities I’m looking for when I’m looking at a candidate – who is going to put the children of our district first.”
Board member Specter said she was delighted at the level of engagement the board had and “how much Los Alamosans care about this”
“Many people outside the Mountain district commented saying that this is the representative of the Mountain district, but the board represents the whole community and that’s actually a really important point,” she said.
Specter said the public comments were important and that she read each one very carefully but purposefully didn’t count who was in favor of which candidate or against which candidate.
“This isn’t an election, it’s an appointment. There will be an election in November. School board members have been elected or appointed to use our knowledge to make decisions. We go to a lot of meetings, read a lot of packets, read a lot of articles, know things that go on in the district that it wouldn’t be appropriate for it to be out there in the public – all of those details. And so we’re using that knowledge to make our decision tonight rather than a popularity contest, and so while the public comments are invaluable, they’re not a vote. That will happen in November,” Specter said.
She noted that when she was thinking about which candidate would make the best school board member, she was “looking for a good listener, someone who’s empathetic and focused on our #1 Strategic Plan Goal of student wellness.”
“I was looking for someone who was articulate, concise and thoughtful. Analytical thinking is important as is decision-making based on fact, data and science,” Specter said.
Board member Boerigter said as always, he appreciated going after Specter because he appreciates her comments and her thoughtfulness. He said he read all the materials from the candidates and had gone through all the emails.
“I concur that this is an appointment process, not an election process, so that is intentional. I believe it is in our best interest to utilize that fact as an appointment process not an election process. And we understand there will be an election in the not too distant future. I feel reasonably well informed about the candidates for this position and I think it’s important for us as members of the board to utilize the full scope of input and understand which candidate we think will work well with us to move the strategic plan forward and to produce the best outcome for the students in our schools,” Boerigter said.
Board member Bernstein said she also agreed with Specter.
“I appreciate how the public has stepped up and voiced and given us a lot to think about. I read all the comments and emails and listened to people. I’m always grateful we have such an active community that is willing to come forth and use their voice. That is one of the things that I hope we teach our youth as well, to use their voice, to be proactive in our community. It’s part of civics,” she said,
Bernstein added that she definitely is listening to everyone and to her constituents and appreciated hearing what they had to say.
“What I am looking for is kind of similar to – the strategic plan is something we are looking at tonight – so somebody that has some knowledge of that, is able to speak to it and has a grasp – is what I was thinking about. The qualities of a school board member that are necessary at this time – somebody that can offer a wide range of diversity and bring some fresh perspective to our district as well,: she said.
Chair Colgan asked for public comment but there was none. She noted that she had read through public comments and e-mail, had seen the newspapers and talked to a lot of people.
“I’ve talked to teachers, parents, and even people outside of our district to get an unbiased view. I thought for a long time about this decision. It came down again to when choosing a school board member we should select a candidate that puts education, safety and wellbeing of our teachers, students and staff first,” she said. “After Monday’s forum, I believe that Erin Green is the candidate that is best able to do just that. Her comments led me to believe that she would take the time to really listen and will hear and understand members of the Los Alamos Public Schools community. She will consider facts and different points of view before making a decision. She also has a very long track record of community involvement, especially involvement in the education of children.”
Colgan noted that Green is working towards her graduate degree in counseling.
“I feel a budding mental health professional will help to round out the board. I feel she has a unique perspective that is missing from the board currently that she could offer that the other candidates could not, and for that reason my support goes to Ms Erin Green,” she said.
Specter said she agreed with everything Colgan just said.
“I do want to make the point that our school board is not limited to just parents of kids in the schools and in fact that I think would narrow our scope way too much and our breadth of experience. As schools are one of the pillars of any community and well-educated is essential, the welfare of our children should be the concern of every citizen not just the parent of a child at a school,” Specter said. “I feel we should welcome any person who wants to serve and meets the basic qualifications to be involved in decision-making and that includes for the board. That being said, after Monday’s forum, after reading the applications really carefully, the characteristics I listed under general comments. I feel Erin Green best meets the qualifications and that’s who I will be supporting.”
Boerigter said he was very encouraged, even excited, when he read Green’s application letter.
“I think the idea of having a home school parent be a member of the Los Alamos Public School board is actually really exciting. I think they can bring a perspective that is a maybe a little different and engaging to the educational process, so for that reason and for many others not worth repeating at this moment, I believe Erin Green is the appropriate candidate,” he said.
Bernstein said she also would like to select Erin Green.
“She spoke very eloquently, I felt. She had a great knowledge base about education in general and she just had a really good grasp over the strategic plan and other things that we talked about, especially the social-emotional well-being of our youth,” she said.
The board also elected Bernstein as the new board secretary, replacing previous secretary Dawn Jalbert whose resignation caused the vacancy on the board filled tonight by Green. Other candidates for the board position were Nickole Aguilar Garcia and Pierce Jones.