Leadership Los Alamos Class Of 2022 Holds Session On Education

Public Education Department Sec. Dr. Kurt Steinhaus and Higher Education Department Sec. Stephanie Rodriguez hold a discussion with Leadership Los Alamos students on various issues and opportunities in the State.  Photo by Kateri Morris

Los Alamos Online Academy Principal Kati Steinberg tells the LLA class about the wide range of innovative collaborative activities LAOLA offers their students. Photo by Kateri Morris

LAFD Battalion Chief and UNM-LA instructor, Benjamin Stone shows the students the EMS facility at UNMLA and describes the program offered at the local campus. Photo by Kateri Morris

LLA students participate in the card sorts self-assessment on motivated skills. Photo by Kateri Morris


This month, the Leadership Los Alamos Class of 2022 met for a session on Education. UNM-Los Alamos Chancellor, Dr. Cindy Rooney and Los Alamos Public Schools Interim Superintendent, Jennifer Guy, led and coordinated the session. Together, they discussed various issues and opportunities related to communication and collaboration at the local, regional and state levels, and explored the widespread changes in the education system. 

The class received a special presentation by the NM Higher Education Department Cabinet Secretary, Stephanie Rodriguez and NM Public Education Department Cabinet Secretary, Kurt Steinhaus. The NM Higher Education Department’s mission is to provide financial, academic, and policy oversight and support universities, colleges and state-sponsored adult education programs across the state, as well as striving to promote efficiency, accountability, and student success. Secretary Rodriguez discussed the workforce job needs in the state and the types of initiatives currently underway to meet those needs. As a partnership with the NM Department of Workforce Solutions, HED has awarded funding to colleges and universities to create fast-track job and career training programs designed to prepare students for immediate and direct employment in in-demand jobs. They partnered with 150 businesses to offer bootcamp/training courses in a variety of subjects like 3D printing, fiber optic certification, healthcare administrative support, prep cooking, and retail food service training. Secretary Rodriguez also stated that nurses are very short-staffed in NM.  The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will be allocating a little over 2 billion to the state of New Mexico in emergency funding for local, state, and tribal governments to keep frontline public workers on the job, give stipends to those doing clinicals in rural settings, and offer training, tutoring, and advising for the workforce. As NM industries seek skilled worders to meet the needs of the economy such as in film, healthcare, education, and green energy, Secretary Rodriguez has made an executive request to expand free college for students wishing to pursue their degrees during the setbacks of covid. Executive requests have also been made for enhancing Adult Education and Literacy, and Dual Credit programs in the state. 

Dr. Kurt Steinhaus, in his new role as NMPED Cabinet Secretary has hit the ground running addressing the top three challenges the state is currently facing in public education. He shared with the Leadership class that he is exploring ways to meet the shortage in licensed teachers in the public schools; address social and emotional needs due to the effects of the pandemic; and effectively implement the Martinez and Yazzie lawsuit ruling that “no education system can be sufficient of the education of all children unless it is founded on the sound principle that every child can learn and succeed, “in which efforts have been made to attract and retain quality, diverse teachers to reflect the multicultural student population and increase accountability.

The Leadership class gained insight on the mission and structure of the Los Alamos Online Academy from Principal, Kati Steinberg, which takes pride in fostering student curiosity and passion so they may take ownership of their learning. Apart from the regular course curriculum, students are exposed to a wide range of innovative collaborative activities such as Roadrunner Rallies, Monday morning assemblies, student showcases, and physical activities like sports, music, yearbook club, community service, cooking club, and the Junior Docent program with the Bradbury Museum. The Los Alamos Online Academy encourages their students to achieve independence, build confidence, and gain academic knowledge.

Dr. Paul Allen, Dean of Instruction at UNM-Los Alamos shared about current academic and program initiatives taking place at the college. In partnership with N3B, UNM-LA offers a Certification in Radiation Control Technology and Nuclear Enterprise Science and Technology with the opportunity to work toward a bachelor’s degree or move up the career ladder in their profession. UNM-LA was recently awarded a Title V grant, designed to build strong academic and career pathways for students, improve student success, and prepare students for financial stability and workforce needs in the region. Possible strategies, Dr. Allen expressed, may be to design a clear guided pathways model while offering cleaner education choices toward a degree and how to stay on-course; focusing on academic advisement; allowing for the pathways to be flexible for students to ‘step out’ and ‘step back’ if the situation arises; and to offer workforce pathways, such as the LAECCA dual credit program with LAHS or a pre-professional degree. He also recognizes the importance improving and enhancing online education.

LAPS Healthy Schools Director, Kristine Coblentz, presented an interesting discussion on improving student outcomes through diversity, equity, and inclusion. LAPS Healthy Schools strives to promote student and staff well-being by helping facilitate healthy discussion and understanding of topics related to today’s youth and to promote positive school culture, break down barriers, and build resiliency and connectedness. Ms. Coblentz described the particular impact upon sensitive and vulnerable students and how some students are impacted by disproportionally low educational outcomes, particularly with Native American students, English language learners, students with disabilities and those who have an economic disadvantage. 

After lunch, the Leadership class went on a tour of the UNM-LA campus. LAFD Battalion Chief and UNM-LA instructor, Benjamin Stone, showed the students the EMS facility on campus and informed them about the specialized EMS degree program designed to meet the EMT National Standard Curriculum requirements. Later, the class engaged in a “Principal Discussion Panel” with LAMS Assistant Principal, Andy Ainsworth; Chamisa Elementary School Principal, Craig Washnock; and LAPS Preschool Director, Gina Terrazas. Together, they discussed the challenges and innovations in public education today. Kathryn Vigil, UNMLA Director of Student Services and a few colleagues provided an informative discussion on student success initiatives and career development on campus. LLA students took a short self-assessment on motivated skills using Knowdell card sorts, facilitated by UNMLA Sr. Student Success Specialist, Grace Willerton. The students could rank their skills, identify transferable skills, identify which skills cause ‘job burnout,’ and what skills to highlight on a resume.

Cindy Rooney and Jennifer Guy wrapped up the Education Session by encouraging the leaders to look for opportunities in the community, to find ways to collaborate and to continue to communicate with educators and give feedback. Dr. Rooney concluded with her words of wisdom: “Be kind to yourself and others, and find way to help those around you.”

Leadership Los Alamos is a non-profit organization whose mission is to identify current and emerging leaders in Los Alamos and surrounding communities, to enhance their leadership skills and deepen their knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing the community. Each class learns about a variety of topics like community organizations, cultural and history, youth, education, local government, economic development, and environmental issues. For more information or sign up for the next class (Sept 2022- May 2023), go to: Leadership Los Alamos – An educational organization dedicated to the future of Los Alamos