Lori Smith brings her compassionate leadership style
to Alamosa Alternative High and Alamosa Online School

LORI Smith understands that education doesn’t always follow a straight line. She’s experienced the jags and twists in her own personal journey – going from being a student in cosmetology school out of high school, to being a parent, to opening a beauty shop, and then going back to school and earning a master’s degree, and then serving for two decades in elementary education.

Now the native of Alamosa and former elementary school principal will lean on her experiences as the principal for the new Alamosa Alternative High School, bringing a compassionate leadership style to assist students who for some reason or another have fallen off their educational track.

Coming into the 2022-23 school year, the Alamosa School District has created a new structure that has Smith as principal of Alamosa Alternative High as well as the head of the Alamosa Online School. In her new role, Smith will oversee two distinctly different and separate programs for two entirely different populations of students.

“​​I’ve interviewed literally every kid coming into the school and their family,” she said of getting the Alamosa Alternative High off the ground. “So we’ve done 45 interviews with parents. And then now I’m interviewing all the online students because everybody can’t go online either.”

It’s a model coming out of the COVID-19 period that Alamosa Schools and Smith believe will prove to be effective, if not efficient. Not only is she working with two different sets of students, so are the teachers and staff who are headquartered at the school building on Victoria Avenue near Ortega Middle School. It’s where the superintendent and district staff used to reside.

“​​I’ve interviewed literally every kid coming into the school and their family.”

– Lori Smith

SUPERINTENDENT Diana Jones, Assistant Superintendent Luis Murillo and the district staff have moved to a location on the east end of Alamosa, and Smith and her team have re-imagined and redesigned the old administrative office into classrooms, a student break room, and a chill area, among other features intended to settle in the students and help them catch up on their studies.

The students enrolled in Alamosa Online School, who are in either middle school or high school, will access the school building whenever they need help from a teacher and can come in to get face-to-face guidance. Or, if they need administrative help, as Emiliano Montoya did when he recently visited the Alamosa Online School administrative offices ahead of the start of this week’s classes.

Emiliano is the type of student perfectly suited for Alamosa Online – highly motivated by academics, a self-starter, independent who also has the support and guidance of his parents. There are others who fit here well, too, like the students who compete in rodeo and need the flexibility of the online school to compete and are strong enough academically to succeed.

“There’s one kid that I’m going to interview, I think that the pace for high school is so slow for him that he wants a faster pace,” she said. “I’ve looked at his transcript. I think he took 14 classes one semester and 14 the next. So he’s leaning a lot to CTE (Career Technical Ed) classes, college courses. So the difference is the motivation.”

woman standing in small room with tables and chairs, motioning toward the right

Jamie Madigan, who specializes in the school district’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTTS), gives a tour of the schools’ new building.

She has support through staff like Jamie Madigan, who specializes in the school district’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTTS), which functions as an umbrella of support for families. MTTS staff in each of the district’s school buildings help with individualized education plans, special education support, or event support for gifted and talented students who are at-risk in their personal lives.

The Alamosa Alternative High School will have 45 students, including five middle schoolers who were expelled a year ago and now are transitioning back. The population also includes what Madigan terms “students in transition, which in old-school terms is our homeless students or our students that are what we call couch-surfing that might be living on an aunt’s couch this week and grandma’s couch next week and their friend’s the next week.”

It’s this array of students that Smith now finds herself helping and supporting and leading. It’s an opportunity that seems to fit her background and her compassionate leadership style well.

Listen to our podcast episode with Lori Smith and hear more about her plans for Alamosa Alternative High and Alamosa Online School.

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