Enthusiastic Recommendation To Vote For Lauren Coupland For School Board

Los Alamos

I write to enthusiastically and without reservation recommend Lauren Coupland for LAPS school board District 3.

Regarding the other two candidates, Sean Stanfield’s campaign gives the impression of being only moderately serious. He has no campaign website I could find, and his campaign Facebook page is pretty sparse (and has a whopping 14 likes). His October 10 letter is the first written public statement I could find about why he’s running and what he plans, and it’s quite vague. More concerning, he is enthusiastically supported by the local Republican Party. Given their extremism, in my view that is disqualifying.

Chris Bernstein is kind and caring, but given her record of board service, in my view not suited for re-election. I have three main concerns.

First, she seems to approach the job quite passively; for example, see her letter of September 23, where she stated three different times that various issues “the board has no purview over” or similar. This is consistent with her other public statements and my own discussions with her. She’ll listen patiently, take notes, express concern, and then do nothing meaningful. While Chris is right that the board has a specific scope, she sure seems to go out of her way to make the board and herself helpless. In my view, by contrast, an effective leader is always looking for ways to use the power they do have for good.

Another concern I have with Chris’ record is mismanagement of an important conflict of interest. Soon after Covid hit, Chris started a tutoring business that had extensive and obvious conflicts of interest with her school board role. This led her to recuse from multiple key votes; that is, she left her constituents without representation during a critical time.

Finally, the civil rights complaint that recently came to light is very concerning to me. Based on the timeline in Antonio Jaurigue’s October 10 letter, school board members would have known about the complaint since late 2021, including Chris. That is, her statement at the LWV forum that she was not aware of the complaint appears to be false (or worse, she forgot about it). While Antonio is right the report contained sensitive information, the choice was not, as he implies, between publication in full and total secrecy. As those of us with clearances know, handling sensitive information for the public trust requires care and nuance. LAPS absolutely could and should have disclosed much of the complaint without harming stakeholders. Citizens are rightfully upset that the complaint was concealed. This isn’t the first time there have been concerns about LAPS’ lack of transparency, and the present board appears to condone this institutional culture.

Fortunately, the final candidate, Lauren Coupland, of the ubiquitous green campaign signs, is an excellent choice. Like many others, I’ve found her incredibly knowledgable about LAPS. She attends nearly every board meeting already, is highly prepared, listens actively, and speaks intelligently. LAPS is often opaque to me, and Lauren is my go-to for the information I need as an LAPS parent.

This district is good at growing nerds like myself, but often not those who need something different. Lauren will help change that. On equity, she walks the walk, for example by serving thoughtfully on the LAPS Equity Council despite its apparent low priority by LAPS, and by persistently working to reduce conflicts between the LAPS calendar and religious holidays. This matters a lot to me as a neurospicy person. In particular, her knowledge of disability from both the human and bureaucratic/IEP perspectives is second to none.

Lauren is an experienced teacher from challenging contexts. She understands that every student is an individual and must be treated as an individual.

One sentence in particular from Lauren’s October 9 letter (regarding the civil rights complaint) struck me: “We must allow for growth, while holding ourselves accountable.” This encapsulates two critical things about Lauren’s approach to leadership: (1) Lauren wants success for LAPS students and will be a team player to get it, and (2) Lauren is interested in an actual oversight role for the board that requires best practices and accountability from the superintendent and the rest of LAPS administration.

Lauren will do the right thing, regardless of whether it’s the expedient thing, the convenient thing, or PR-optimized. That’s who I want on the school board.

Disclosure: In addition to Lauren being a friend, my spouse is treasurer of the Coupland campaign. The campaign had no input on the content of this letter.