I would like to make several points to the community as a School Board member, though these views do not represent the School Board as an entity. I know I owe the community several communiques, in particular a “thank you” for your support of Ride the Bus day, and another is further communication on the substance abuse awareness. I promise you these communications are forthcoming, but I’d like to take a moment to tell you about two candidates that are running for office that have been exceptionally visible during my time on the School Board. They have both been incredibly proactive in the education of our children at a District and State level. These candidates are Stephanie Garcia-Richard and Susan O’Leary.
Both of these candidates have been to multiple School Board meetings since I have been on the Board. They have attended these meetings both in a capacity to give presentations and other times simply to be in the audience and observe and learn. They also both have children in our School District so the concern for our educational system in Los Alamos is quite genuine.
I’ll start in detail with our current State Representative Stephanie Garcia-Richard. I remember when teachers organized to appear in force at one of our School Board meetings to line up at the microphone during our public comment section and let the School Board know how incredible the stress was from the demands being placed on them and the confusion that surrounded the requirements of their job that the State Public Education Department (PED) was trying to impose on them. I’m not surprised that Stephanie caught wind of this and was there to listen to their concerns. As our State Representative, Stephanie quickly became a nonvoting member of the State Legislative Educational Study Committee (LESC), probably one of the most influential bodies on education in this State. I’m certainly hoping that Stephanie will ascend to a voting position in this committee after her reelection. It is a huge benefit to our community to have direct representation on this committee. I’ve had the pleasure to watch Stephanie in action on this committee, and she is awesome. On another note, when Carolyn Torres won the New Mexico Teacher of the Year, Stephanie was quick to arrange for a State Proclamation honoring her in the Roundhouse. These efforts quickly snowballed with more help from Carolyn’s fellow teachers and community members and Carolyn is now driving a car sponsored by Beaver Toyota (oh yes, and a generous contribution was made by Abe Dispenette). I just want to tell the community that Stephanie Garcia-Richard is engaged in this community at all levels. She is not just a politician, she is a genuine person who very much cares about our community… and happens to be an incredibly effective politician.
Now on to Susan O’Leary. I first met Susan O’Leary not long after I joined Board because of her concern for the School District’s ability to afford enough teachers to keep class sizes down. The School District was (and still is) trying to rebound from the very difficult budget cuts that were made several years ago. Susan worked with us and understood that the School Board was really doing the best we could under our financial constraints – but that wasn’t enough, there was more to be done. Susan, along with her husband and other community members started Save Our Schools Los Alamos (http://soslosalamos.com) where they came up with some very bold and innovative ideas to help the funding of education in our County. They have met several times with staff from the State Public Education Department, and also met with Deputy Secretary of Finance & Operations, Paul Aguilar. This is an ongoing initiative that would be great for our County. Having a County Council member (and maybe one day Council Chair?) would give the initiative the boost that it needs. Susan has also led a group formed by the League of Women Voters to advise the School District on how to be more transparent to the community about their finances. I know this has had an effect and the Superintendent is working to implement some of the suggestions from this committee and we are continuing to work with Susan on this issue. Let me put my endorsement for Susan O’Leary in very simple terms – I don’t know how many Council positions are up for election, and I don’t care. I will cast one vote for County Council and one vote only – it will be for Susan O’Leary.