To David Reagor, Paul Jaramillo, Nickole Aguilar Garcia And Rick Mooday, I feel I must respond to your attacks on our school district, our teachers, our students, and our parents in your support for candidates and/or run for our local school board.
You all have been loudly supportive of the king of “Alternative Facts” and have presented that warped view of the world in your discourse. It seems during these past six years, everyone has become a Google “expert”, becoming Dr. Google, Educator Google, and now Google Statistics Expert.
The latest from Mr. Reagor (https://losalamosreporter.com/2021/10/23/the-decline-of-los-alamos-public-schools/) includes cherry picked statistics Googled from school rankings in U.S. News and World Report.
So here are some pieces of information you either purposely left out or didn’t know. First, the U.S. News national and state school ranking report includes Charter, STEM and Magnet schools. “Charter schools operate under a charter, have limited enrollment and accept students by application only. Magnet schools attract the most talented student in a region via an application process, often involving test scores and Grade Point Average (GPA)”. These schools are most often very small, have a high teacher to student ratio, and since they are exclusive, they are not mandated to accept all students in a district.
Yes, Los Alamos High School is ranked #4 in the state. However, the top three schools are Charter/Magnet/STEM schools. The number one school is listed in the article as having 160 students in grades 6-12, with 17 teachers. That is 1 teacher for every 9 students!! The second and third schools named have similar numbers. Again, going by the information provided by U.S. News, that would give an average of 26 students PER GRADE!
On the other hand, our district has approximately 1,734 students in grades 7-12 (per Google) with an average of 346 students PER GRADE. Mr. Reagor has done the same statistics cherry picking with other test scores, leading one to believe that a standardized test score is the be all, end all of student success, and the only thing that matters.
However, even when only looking at test scores, our school, which must accept all students in this district, must provide programs to teach students of all abilities, and must provide accommodations as needed for all special education and physical disabilities, is truly the number one actual public school in the state.
Secondly, instead of quoting Google some more, I will share my experiences as a past LAPS Board member and the LA Public Health nurse. I had the privilege to be elected to the LAPS board (February 2015-December 2019) at a time when there was a significant concern for the mental health and welfare of our students. The Mental Health Design Team and the Healthy Schools Initiative was created in response to mental health concerns, past youth suicides, an increase in teen suicidal ideation and attempts, and concerning indicators from the Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey given by the NM Department of Health (NMDOH).
Of note, Los Alamos had a higher rate of attempts and suicidal ideation than the New Mexico rate and the rate of completed suicides in New Mexico was 72 percent higher than the national rate. A comprehensive final report including 43 appendices, together with a Los Alamos specific report done by the CDC assigned epidemiologist to the NMDOH, contained hundreds of pages assessing the well-being of our youth. And the picture these pages painted was one of a youth in need, with primary stressors including academic pressure, course load and bullying.
As this concerning information was coming forward, the goal of the board was to use this data to create a better learning environment, one which supports and educates the whole child. While we made strides, there is always more that can be accomplished and the current board has done an amazing job, especially considering the constant changes due to the pandemic. LAPS is and has always been an organization that strives for continuous improvement, and improvement means more than just test scores.
The red herrings thrown by the candidates and Mr. Reagor, focused purely on hot-button sound bites, test scores and “traditional” education (of which all the subjects are still covered in detail, have you seen the course guide?????), disregard critical information available on how children learn and grow. They disregard the input by our incredibly talented and wonderful teachers. They disregard the stress that the pandemic has thrust upon teachers and students. They disregard the need for ALL students to feel accepted and safe in their environment. And they disregard kindness, compassion, care for one’s fellow human, and sometimes even basic civility.
To the rest of the community of Los Alamos, I plead with you to go and vote. Vote Yes for the Bond to support our schools, vote for our phenomenal Melanie Colgan (who is a medical professional and so important to keep on our board), for Erin Green, and for Antonio Jaurigue.
“Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” –William Butler Yeats
Andrea Cunningham, RN, BSN
LAPS Board Feb. 2015-Dec. 2019