Nickole Aguilar Garcia addresses the public Friday morning at the Los Alamos Republican Party Candidates Forum. Photo by Mayor O’Neill / losalamosreporter.com
BY MAYOR O’NEILL
Nickole Aguilar Garcia, candidate for Los Alamos Public School Board, District 5 – Mountain Elementary, told Friday morning’s candidate forum hosted by the Los Alamos Republican Party that she was concerned about the quality of education that children receive in Los Alamos County.
“I researched the internet based on some numbers I can find on LAPS and at the start of the 2004-2006 range our reading and math proficiency rates were in the mid-70s. The latest data that I could find, in 2018, show that proficiency rates had fallen to 58% for reading and 48% for math. This is extremely worrying for me, said Aguilar Garcia. “This is concerning because it shows that there is a decrease in the quality of the education our children receive and that our children are not prepared as they should be to go out into the world and to make it worse. , the most recent information I can find on learning loss due to COVID disruption is six months to two years. ”
She said it was a significant learning loss and that she was particularly concerned about academically vulnerable children.
“How are we going to invent this? What are we going to do to make sure we can get them to where they need to be so that they can be successful through the school programs through each grade, starting with the youngest? In addition, for our older students to successfully enter university, I am concerned about significant learning losses, ”said Aguilar Garcia.
Aguilar Garcia is originally from Los Alamos and “a product of Los Alamos public schools”. She graduated from Los Alamos High School in 1997 and is very proud of it. She said she was also very proud to have her children in the schools where she was raised. She has three children who attend Mountain Elementary School and one who is in her final year at LAHs.
“So I have a very deep investment in what is happening in our schools and our children are products of the school system,” she said.
Aguilar Garcia indicated that she holds undergraduate degrees from the University of New Mexico in Psychology, Human Resources, and Leadership and Organizational Development, as well as an MBA from State University. from New Mexico.
“I was born and raised in New Mexico. I also work for (Los Alamos National Laboratory). I am the Operations Manager / Chief of Staff of the Software Application Engineering division and love my job. I wanted to run to the District 5 School Board – for Mountain Elementary and partially represent the high school – to get more involved in what’s going on in our schools and give back to the community that has given me so much, ”he said. she declared.
Aguilar Garcia said his support goes beyond prioritizing students, which is number one, but also staff, administration and teachers “and being a responsible representative if I am elected.”
“My number one goal, to have lived here what I call the COVID disruption because our lives have been completely disrupted…. In my home, the number one disruption was education. My husband and I were sent home to work from home, which we were able to do seamlessly. My kids were sent home for distance learning which was a disaster in my house, unfortunately, to be honest, ”she said. “Some students did really well, but having four kids and two parents online all day was a bit of a challenge. So my number one goal is to make sure that whatever happens, that we can keep our students in school safe, keep our teachers in school safe, to make sure they don’t have no other disturbances ”.
Aguilar Garcia also addressed the issue of educational diversity. She said she was really excited to see the school district maintaining the Los Alamos Online Learning Academy.
“Los Alamos is very fortunate to have so many resources that few school districts in the state of New Mexico have and we should be investing resources in various models of education delivery because we know our children learn differently. So I would like some effort to be put in this area and I think the e-learning academy is a good initiative for that, because even though I would like to see my kids in school, face to face, there are children who are learning differently, who have succeeded in a distance learning model, and I don’t think they should be forced to come back to class if this is not how they are going to learn the better, ”she said.
Another thing Aguilar Garcia said she would like to see is an expansion of work-study programs, especially in high school.
“I was a big beneficiary of it when I graduated. It doesn’t appear to be something that is advocated and as available as it was and I think it is a disservice to students who are not eligible or who do not want to work in the lab because of their interests or surrogacy requirements, and I don’t think our community is able to complete work experiences for students who are not eligible to work at the Lab, ”she said. “I would love to see life skills that are not only optional because we send kids out into the world, but they don’t have the basic skills they need when it comes to financial literacy and other things. things like that to be able to make them successful.
Aguilar Garcia said that a particular interest in her was special education.
“I have two children who are receiving special education services and their special education teachers are amazing, however, they are grossly overworked and not getting the support they need. So it is very important to me that our schools try to retain all special education teachers to bring them into the classroom, to provide our academically vulnerable students with the services they need, ”she said. . “It also plays into the disruption of COVID as we are going to see a lot more students who are going to become more academically vulnerable due to their learning gaps.”
She noted that she is a big supporter of extracurricular activities and athletics as they complement children’s education.
“It gives them an investment in initiative not only in something they are proud of, but also in their investment in the education they receive. There are standards required for children to participate in extracurricular activities and sports and I think that gives students a reason to work, especially if they are struggling in other areas, ”she said. declared.
Aguilar Garcia said that what she would like to see in a new LAPS superintendent is someone who has strong leadership abilities, “particularly demonstrated experience working as a senior manager in a school district. medium to large size so they can show the kind of leadership they have.
“Engagement is really important, not just at the administrative level, but down to the level of school staff, students, parents and the community. Because we are a one-district community, the leader of our schools must be very engaged in the community. Fiscal responsibility is also very important to me for someone who enters our schools, ”she said. “We have a lot of initiatives going on right now, running different programs and we have infrastructure projects going on, so it’s very important to make sure that the person we welcome as the new superintendent has a very good financial accountability to ensure that these projects are funded and administered properly.
She said recruiting and retention is another thing she would like to see the Superintendent engage in to ensure the district can recruit and retain all quality educators.
“I would love to see what kind of goals they have that align with improvements in education, especially those that align with improving learning gaps caused by the disruption of COVID,” a- she declared.
When asked if students should be vaccinated, Aguilar Garcia said she does not support her and believes a child’s medical health is between the parent and their medical provider.
“There should be absolutely no policy of 100% tolerance for bullying, discrimination or any kind of pressure from students, teachers or administration in our schools for children who are not vaccinated or who have a health problem of some kind. It is absolutely not appropriate for the school system, ”said Aguilar Garcia. “I do not support any type of vaccination mandate for teachers, administration, students. It is a medical problem; it should not be a political problem imposed on our students, our staff or anyone else.
She made it clear that she supported religious or medical exemptions already in place for standard childhood immunizations and did not think this should be removed at all. She said that regardless of the type of medical treatment, parents should have the freedom to choose their children and their health care provider.
When asked about the proposed North Mesa housing project, Aguilar Garcia said she would support an initiative that supports affordable housing, especially because one of the things she would like to see is the retention of quality educators. She said that the pay levels of many LAPS teachers are not sufficient for the type of housing that exists in Los Alamos.
“I am worried because construction rates have skyrocketed over the past year due to COVID. I would like to see a really well thought out building plan, an analysis of how much these houses will cost, what they will look like and that we can provide housing to a population that desperately needs it, ”she said.