LAPS NEWS RELEASE
The Los Alamos School Board met last Thursday, August 26 in the School Board Room. The meeting was also broadcast via Zoom. President Melanie Colgan started the evening by recognizing the hard work of Facilities and Custodial staff who completed many projects over the summer in preparation for the start of the new school year.
Healthy Schools Director Kristine Coblentz presented an overview of a staff training on improving outcomes for all students and staff. She reviewed the LAPS non-discrimination policy and the New Mexico Safe Schools for All Students Act. Coblentz emphasized that by creating physically, emotionally, and academically safe learning environments for our most vulnerable students, outcomes improve for all students. Results from the 2019 New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey of High School Students identified five vulnerable populations of students: those identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual; transgender, genderqueer or genderfluid; foreign born; homeless; and those with disabilities or long-term health problems. The Yazzie Martinez lawsuit determined that four groups of New Mexican students have historically received inadequate academic resources: economically disadvantaged students, Native American students, English learners, and students with disabilities.
Earlier this year, the New Mexico Legislature passed the Black Education Act which requires all districts to implement a culturally inclusive curriculum, anti-racism training for teachers, and a hotline for reporting incidents of racial bias at any public school. Ms. Coblentz pointed out situations where actions inadvertently create opportunities for discrimination including being unaware of student backgrounds and experiences and unintentionally reinforcing stereotypes.
Coblentz presented a summary of Dena Simmons’ video Six Ways to be an Anti-Racist Educator which include starting with self, learning with your crew, holding each other accountable, affirming your students, thinking about the larger context and asking students what they need. She concluded, “At LAPS, we will continue to focus on proven strategies and instructional best practices to improve school environments and outcomes for all students, especially our students who experience disparities in learning outcomes.”
School board vice president Ellen Specter noted that this is a requirement from PED that needs to happen this year. She supports the “commitment to this multi-year process of improvement” and the chance to move the needle on student outcomes.
Interim Superintendent Jennifer Guy then updated board members on COVID-safe practices being implemented across the district. Masks are required to be worn indoors at all school facilities, but are not required outdoors. There have been four positive cases among students since the start of school on August 12th, but none resulted in case spread at any school site. “No staff have tested positive,” she said, and added that 96% of staff have been vaccinated. “All staff that have not been vaccinated are participating in weekly testing.”
President Colgan reported on the Superintendent Search, noting that school board members met with Dr. Steven Joel and Dr. Judy Sclair-Stein of McPherson & Johnson LLC on August 14 to discuss a timeline and the process for gathering feedback. “This is a very important process,” she said. Meetings with different stakeholders are planned for early October. The board plans to hear from teachers, staff, support staff, parents, students and community members.
The Board then approved the Employee Leave Policy (4035) with the addition of paid sick leave and expanded FMLA for COVID-19 through June 30, 2022. The Nondiscrimination Policy (5130) was presented for a first read and will be presented again at the next meeting.
The next School Board meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 5:30 pm in the School Board Room, and Thursday, Sept. 23 at Chamisa Elementary School.