LAPS: School Board Sept. 23 Meeting Update

Chamisa Elementary School Principal Craig Washnok at the Los Alamos Public Schools September 23 School Board meeting. Courtesy photo


The Los Alamos School Board met Thursday (September 23) at Chamisa Elementary School. It was the first meeting held at a school site in almost two years. The meeting started with a presentation by Chamisa Elementary School Principal Craig Washnok. He started by pointing out that Chamisa is 54 years old and is unique in that the building is a pod concept based upon a dissertation. The theme for the year is building and rebuilding. “We are taking what we learned from the pandemic and building from there,” he explained. “What are the positives that we can take from the pandemic?”

He pointed out that the staff is focused on positive interactions with students, citing the 3 to 1 ratio of interactions. Chamisa also implements the CHAMPS model for classroom expectations. CHAMPS stands for conversation, help, activity, movement, participation and success. Washnok wore his CHAMPS tie during the meeting to reinforce the message.

In addition, Chamisa is embracing the message of Cornelius Minor, author of We Got This. Equity, Access, and the Quest to be Who Our Students Need Us to Be.   His message is to make curriculum work for students and encourages teachers to be a good teacher vs. being a good employee.

Principal Washnok also addressed math scores and pointed out the resources in place to address math gaps, including tutoring, curriculum changes, math-based projects, and online programs such as Imagine Math and Reflex.

Board members applauded Principal Washnok’s energy and passion for the school. “Teachers and students are lucky to have you,” said School Board President Melanie Colgan. When asked by School Board Secretary Christine Bernstein what he was looking for in a new school building, referencing the upcoming construction at Chamisa, Washnok said, “That Chamisa stays Chamisa.”

Board members next heard from School Board Vice President Ellen Specter on the importance of the Public School Buildings Act (HB33) which is on the ballot of the upcoming election in November. Funds generated from this tax remains in Los Alamos and are distributed to all school sites for such items as Chromebooks, furniture, technology, and playground equipment. “It is an important funding stream for our schools,” she said. “It raises money in Los Alamos that stays in Los Alamos.” Early voting begins on October 5th, and election day is November 2nd.

Next, Ailene O”Byrne, a representative from Architectural Research Consultants, Inc. (ARC) gave a report on the educational specifications for the Chamisa and Piñon Elementary Schools. Both schools are slated for reconstruction within the next few years. Information in the report will be used by architects to design the new school buildings. The RFP (request for proposal) for the architectural designs is slated to be released soon.

The School Board then approved the Facilities Preventative Maintenance Plan submitted by Los Alamos Public Schools Facilities Manager Tom Castillo. The plan ensures that the district “properly maintains its facilities, mechanical systems and equipment so they are efficiently operational providing a comfortable and safe environment for its students, staff, visitors and guests by performing frequency scheduled routine maintenance.” LAPS is required to approve a plan every year which outlines maintenance for the entire year including work orders and capital projects and construction. 

The next School Board meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 12 in the School Board Room starting at 5:30 p.m.