Newly-appointed state Secretary of Public Education Dr. Kurt Steinhaus days prior to his retirement as superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools at the end of May. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Former Los Alamos Public Schools superintendent Dr. Kurt Steinhaus has been appointed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to serve as Secretary of Public Education. Steinhaus, 67, retired at the end of May after spending 45 years in education. See: https://losalamosreporter.com/2021/05/13/los-alamos-public-schools-supt-kurt-steinhaus-retires-following-a-45-year-career-in-education/
“The public education system in New Mexico is worth us putting it all in, so I’m all in,” Steinhaus said during a press conference at noon Thursday with the governor.
He noted that he has worked with the governor in the past and that he’s looking forward to it. He thanked outgoing Sec. Ryan Stewart for steadfast leadership, his dedication to New Mexico, saying he has learned a lot from Stewart. Stewart will continue to serve the state as a policy advisor, Steinhaus said.
“This morning, I’m happy to answer questions about myself, but we’re not here to talk about me. The reason we are here is the triangle. The triangle is the student, the parent and family, and the teacher. In fact everybody in this room is here to support that triangle,” he said.
Steinhaus outlined his goals for “getting things going right away” for education in New Mexico.
“The short-range goal is to jump on the energy of the first day of school. You all can remember that. There’s nothing stronger than the energy you get when school starts and I would like, not only on the first day of school but this whole year to be a year of literacy for New Mexico Public Education. When I talk about literacy, I’m talking about culturally relevant, that respects history, that respects the traditions of our schools,” he said.
Steinhaus noted that he is going to invite every single school, every single principal in New Mexico, to create a theme of literacy for this year. He said it could be as easy as “Read Every Day” and sending a book home with students the first day of school because “literacy is what we’re all about”.
“My middle-range goal is about the federal money that’s been approved in the third round of COVID relief money that’s about $1 billion for New Mexico. I want that money, and I’m going to encourage our school districts, to spend that money on teaching and learning and supporting the triangle. Before school programs, I want to see strong tutoring. In early childhood, we do home visits; but what about home visits with older kids? I want to see that money spent in a way that it creates a system of long-term improvement in New Mexico,” he said.
“In my long-range goal, I would like New Mexico in the next three years to become #1 in the country in three areas and I can measure all three of the areas. The first one is student and staff well-being, behavioral health, mental health; that’s the first area. The second area, I’d like us to become #1 in the country in is academic achievement. Mathematics and English and writing – yes – but I’m talking about all the subjects, including music. You’ll see in my background, I’m a musician,” Steinhaus said. “The third area that I think is so important is our staff. I want us to be #1 in the country with developing teachers, school leaders, working with our universities and making New Mexico the place to come. If you want to be an educator, New Mexico is the place to come.”
Departing Sec. Ryan Stewart said he is sad to be leaving but incredibly encouraged to know that such a “dedicated and strong and visionary person” will be picking up the mantle and making sure that the students of New Mexico have everything they need at their hands to thrive and succeed in the future. Sec. Stewart is leaving the position due to a serious illness in his family.
Los Alamos County Council Chair Randy Ryti told the Los Alamos Reporter he was excited to hear the news that Dr. Steinhaus will be the new State Public Education Secretary.
“I am confident he will work hard for children and educators around New Mexico as he has done for Los Alamos,” he said.
LAPS Interim Supt. Jennifer Guy said in an email that Dr. Steinhaus is exactly the leader that needed in education at the state level.
“He is dedicated to the children, families, and teachers of New Mexico. He will bring our schools together and support learning throughout our state. I am honored to work under his leadership,” she said.
In an email to staff, Guy said, “I am thrilled to announce that Dr. Steinhaus was just appointed the New Mexico Secretary of Education. Kurt is exactly the leader that we need at the state level. He will continue to use his passion for teaching to support all of the students, teachers, and families in our state. I know you all join me in wishing him well. I am looking forward to working under his leadership. Congratulations Secretary Steinhaus!”
LAPS Board President Melanie Colgan was also happy to hear of the appointment.
“On behalf of LAPS, I would like to congratulate Secretary Steinhaus on his new position. This is a very proud moment for Los Alamos and the state,” she said. Dr. Steinhaus has a proven successful record in education and this appointment can only benefit education throughout New Mexico.”