LAPS Acting Supt. Jennifer Guy Tells Rotarians About District Goals, Balanced Calendar Option Being Considered

Los Alamos Public Schools Acting Supt. Jennifer Guy/Photo by Maire O’Neill/


Jennifer Guy may be the first person ever to serve as assistant superintendent, interim superintendent acting superintendent all in the same school district. She is expected to be appointed as LAPS Superintendent in June, when the last LAPS superintendent, Dr. Jose Delfin’s contract officially ends under an agreement reached with the school board prior to his departure. Guy currently serves as acting superintendent and was the guest speaker Tuesday at the Rotary Club of Los Alamos meeting at Cottonwood on the Greens.

Guy noted that during recent conversations with Rotarians she was very excited to find out just how much her vision for Los Alamos Public Schools aligns with what Rotary is doing and how the two entities can leverage their resources with each other to benefit kids.

“We have talked for a lot of years about making sure that all of our students in our community thrive and one of the things we’ve had a lot of internal conversations about is how do we know our students are thriving. We talk about it but do we understand really what that means,” she said, adding that it is important not only that students thrive by that district parents and the community know that LAPS is committed to 100 percent of the students and making sure we address the whole child,” she said.

Some of the areas around civic responsibility are areas that LAPS can work more with community partners and groups to leverage resources and work together to give our students experiences outside of the schools and beyond their current experiences, Guy said.

She hopes the community will see the shift to where LAPS really meets 100 percent of our students’ needs.

“One hundred percent means every child and we’re really using that as a filter to drive our conversations about how we make experiences meaningful and engaging and we make sure that every kid that walks through our doors is successful and is connected,” Guy said.

One of the things district staff has been talking about is what makes kids connect with schools, what helps kids engage and what helps kids be successful. They have found that connection to the community, connection to their world, connection to the people around them and things happening in the schools around them are a big part of what kids need.

“So we’re really trying to adopt this idea of every child being engaged at school and at least one additional activity where they have one additional adult that they are connected to,” Guy said.

She showed Rotarians an extensive course selection list for Los Alamos High School noting that many people in the community don’t realize how many different electives and opportunities there are for students.

“We want to make sure we’re exposing kids to lots of different experiences. I believe we can shore this list up with the help of our community partners,” Guy said.

She said one of the things the district is asking is how to support the community and be part of the local and national community.

“How do we leverage the work that our community partners are doing, how do we participate and involve our kids not only to better serve our students but the community,” Guy said.

The Los Alamos Reporter asked Guy if she could address legislation proposed by the Public Education Department to increase the time a student spends in school and how that would affect LAPS if passed.

“If you haven’t heard the state is looking at increasing the amount of time that students are in school. Right now the requirement is 1,080 hours and the state is looking at increasing that to 1,140 hours. We do expect that to pass. One of the things that’s important to me is that we use the extra time we’re adding in a purposeful, meaningful way,” she said. “I know it won’t be effective if we just add a few minutes a day to the calendar but can we use that time to bring some of the activities kids are participating in in the community into the schools. We have the academic piece, but how are we allowing kids to explore their interests?”

Guy said LAPS wants to see if the extra time can be used to give kids more opportunity to collaborate with community partners such as Rotary to rebuild leadership opportunities and build on some of those great things that are going on the community that a lot of students may not have the opportunity to engage in.

“I think that extra time gives us the chance to potentially make opportunities more equitable and more accessible,” she said.

Guy said some people may find the idea to be a very fraught, stressful thing.

“If we talk about it in the right way, with some things that are already going on in the community and some things we already want to do with kids we can use that time well,” she said.

Guy noted that the district established a committee made up of teachers, staff, students and community members and stared small.

“I made them erase all of their pre-conceived ideas about the calendar – of course that’s easier said than done – because everybody came into the room with a copy of the calendar that they want. We want to talk about what we would do differently. What can we do if we let go of our traditional thinking a little. Of course we can have a normal structured school day but are there opportunities to use that time differently,” she said.

One of the things Guy had discussed with Rotary President Alison Pannell was leadership building and the idea that programs outside normal school time would give opportunities to kids to experience different thing such as volunteering in the community.

“Are we giving kids enough opportunity to be of service to our community because as you all know that is such a critical skill and such a critical part of civic responsibility that I think we could do a better job with it,” Guy said.

She said right now the district in the beginning stages of just looking a little bit differently at learning time, talking about it in a different way and looking at enlarging some of the things already being done.

“We’re also looking outside of our traditional mindset at what kids need to engage and make them be successful. We all know that we certainly see those trajectories.  More and more of our kids are going directly into career tech pathways so how do we build and foster that. We still have kids that are going off to college. We have a lot of opportunities in our community to find internship opportunities and real world experiences whether they’re through volunteer opportunities or work experiences,” Guy said. “We have a chance to make sure all kids have access to that by structuring it as part of our instructional time. I know that’s a lot. We’re going to have the time. How do we do it well? We kind of got this one shot at it. You know how it is – once you get something in motion, it’s really hard to change. So how can we use this opportunity to change things for the better? I’m not sure but we’re going to try.”

She said the district is seeking input from students and that LAPS is planning to have some community information sessions and focus groups on the issue. She will have special sessions for high school students to drop by and would love to see 1,000 students there! She indicated that there has been a lot of talk about all the clubs at LAMS and LAHS, and that it is hard for some students to participate in clubs outside school hours if they ride the bus home.

“The million dollar question is how do we manage all the kids in all the different activities, and honestly it’s a little mind-boggling,” Guy said.

One of the calendar options going forward that has actually gotten some support is a balanced school year.

“It creates a situation where we have two weeks off a quarter, three weeks off in the winter months and we still had five weeks off in the summer, so it kind of spreads things out. At first, I think a lot of people were saying, ‘No way’, but now that people have been talking about it, it’s kind of interesting. For me the most imperative thing around a calendar such as that is the ability to partner with community partners such as YMCA, PEEC, the Los Alamos STEAM Lab – whatever groups are out there and make sure that we are able to provide options and activities for every elementary school,” Guy said.  “So if we did go to a calendar such as that, we could run STEAM camps and art camps and robotics – much like we do in summer programs – so the parents wouldn’t have to worry about childcare. Childcare would be the piece that makes that hard and we don’t want to create a hardship for families.”

She said it would be a huge lift just getting all the community partners out there mobilized and organized and making sure.

“I think if any community can do it, Los Alamos can. We have so many community organizations that are structured to provide activities to support kids. I think if we could communicate well enough, and get people to shift their thinking a little bit to those breaks during the year and a chunk of summer, again it’s a mind-shift. I did a straw poll yesterday and it’s about 50/50 in favor of the balanced calendar. There’s no decision point right now. We’ll hash it our more and then take it to the school board,” Guy said.