Rick Mooday: Academic Success Indeed


I wanted to acknowledge and comment on School Board Member Erin Green’s recently published letter on Academic Success. Sincere discussions and opinions such as these offered by Board  Member Green deserve serious consideration and response. I want to thank her for this honest assessment of her perspective. Her letter illustrates intense care and compassion for Los Alamos students and that is highly laudable.

I have significant disagreement with her positions and what seems to be  LAPS board perspectives. I’m curious where candidates who face opposition stand on this issue. Unlike Board Member Green, their opinions are unclear. I’d emphasize that these are criticisms of my views on inadequate LAPS leadership and policy and not personal attacks on LAPS Superintendent(s), teachers, counselors, staff, the Board at large or Board Member Green herself. The School Board is a policy setting organization and faulty policy can be an impossible obstacle to overcome, even if truly outstanding people are doing their utmost to succeed.

First, I am glad that her letter acknowledges inadequate academic performance exists within LAPS. This should end personal attacks and insults related to the subject. She discourages “examining our school’s academic performance from a place of deficit…” as it may be harmful to our students, teachers and staff. I totally disagree. There is nothing more harmful to an organization, school system or even an individual than failing to recognize and correct deficits. Outstanding academic performance for all students, regardless of track, should be the primary goal of the school system. Mental health and socio-emotional safety are primarily the realm of parents who are working to raise their children. The school system has responsibilities to partner effectively with parents here. I know that our truly outstanding LAPS teachers and staff are capable of successfully executing their teaching mission and interfacing with each student for maximum success. Students, teachers and staff are not failing, Board policy that demotes academic excellence is.

It is important to understand the interesting use of the words “safe” and “safety” by local and state-wide school administration organizations. As you can see from Board Member Green’s use of those words that she is not referring to physical security. She may be referring to physical security in part, but physical security is not the subject here. To her and other honestly compassionate people who hold this mindset, “safe” means safe spaces or environments without adversity. To her, adversity and challenges are threats to mental health, socio-emotional safety and connected-ness. To me, this is a horrific blow to student growth and possibly a foundational cause of poor performance. I agree challenges create tension for students, but all students require age-appropriate challenges to grow and succeed, same as adults. Challenges at the HS level are especially necessary for development in today’s complex world, unless you want your children to live in your basement for the rest of their lives. Parents know all these things. The School Board should enact policy to increase partnership with parents to a much greater extent. If elected, I will ensure policy reflects that intent.

Her statement that “Mental wellness, safety, inclusivity, and equity will pave the way…” for all  students to thrive is well meant but woefully incorrect. School systems should not be subjected to a clinician perspective, as if mental health issues and lack of safe spaces are a primary threat to all students’ success. I am not a professional teacher but my own experience in teaching undergraduate chemical engineering courses/laboratories, in leading technical teams in complex endeavors as well as in coaching, is that the achievement we all desire is not possible without appropriately challenging environments. No player learns to catch or hit if you always throw softly. While a charming thought, stating a child will excel when simply “safe” and wanted is also sadly not true. It takes empowered and engaged parents, sound school board policy, vision, well-supported and empowered teachers, counselors, staff and a healthy portion of hard work by everyone (including the student) for them to achieve.

One area where I fully agree with Board Member Green concerns the Public Schools Building Act Bond. This bond is vital for our schools to sustain and improve and it will not increase your taxes.

Early voting in Los Alamos starts tomorrow, October 5th. As your District 4 School Board candidate, I’m ready to get to work and move LAPS in the right direction. Other Districts have candidates that will partner with me on these issues and they need your support. I’d re-emphasize that these are criticisms of what I consider inadequate LAPS leadership and policy and not personal attacks of LAPS Superintendent(s), teachers, counselors, staff, the Board at large or Board Member Green herself. These honestly held perspectives best illustrate the important and distinct differences that are on the ballot this year. Your vote matters.

Rick Mooday,
District 4 Candidate for LA Public School Board