Transforming New Mexico’s Public Schools: Kurt Steinhaus Becomes Education Leader


New Mexico Department of Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus outside the Jerry Apodaca Education Building in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore / Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

A native of New Mexico and a proud product of the state’s public education system, Kurt Steinhaus has spent his entire career in education-related fields in the Land of Enchantment.

From years in the classroom to his integration into the state education ministry, working at the Los Alamos National Laboratories and overseeing Los Alamos public schools, he has seen every aspect of education. .

But he says it’s his wife and “life partner” Jo Beth who keeps him down when it comes to running the state’s public education department.

“She’s a retired teacher and it’s my reality check. So when I come home with a great idea about education, she says, ‘Wait a minute. Let me tell you what it is like in the classroom.

As PED’s newly appointed designated secretary, Steinhaus faces several major challenges – helping students catch up after a year of distance learning, keeping schools in person despite the COVID-19 outbreak, fulfilling mandates legal to create a more equitable distribution of financial resources. and material support to districts, improving graduation rates and reducing dropout rates, and, of course, trying to increase low literacy levels among the student body.

But Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is convinced he’s the right fit for the job.

“The state of New Mexico is extremely fortunate to have Dr. Steinhaus as the head of public education,” she said. “His deep and varied experience, his relationships across the state, his commitment to the growth and well-being of the human beings who populate our schools are all part of what will make him successful as a leader and administrator in this role, as he did. succeeded in his previous leadership roles.

Lujan Grisham added that Steinhaus has “all the tools to keep pushing the ball forward” as he leads the effort to transform New Mexico’s public school system.

“I look forward to a successful literacy year,” she said.

Steinhaus replaced Ryan Stewart of Philadelphia, who held the job for two years and resigned to return home as his father grapples with increasingly serious illness.

The new PED leader is no stranger to Santa Fe. He previously worked in the PED building where he was deputy secretary of the department as well as the preschool czar and educational policy adviser to Governor Bill Richardson. Prior to that, he was an advisor to Governor Garrey Carruthers.

It was under Richardson that Steinhaus did research on improving and improving kindergarten services and funding. He drafted a bill that went to the state legislature. It was ultimately passed by vote and provided $ 3 million to kick off pre-K in New Mexico.

Left to right, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham alongside Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales holds a press conference to announce that former Los Alamos Schools Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus will replace Ryan Stewart as Education Secretary public. (Eddie Moore / Albuquerque Journal)

Family, early spark

Steinhaus, 67, was born in Los Alamos and attended Los Alamos High School.

“My parents are from the back east of Maryland. My father was a physicist and my mother was a social worker, ”said Steinhaus. “My dad got a job in Los Alamos and they said, ‘We will stay for a few years. They never left. They just loved this place.

While at Los Alamos High, he participated in speeches and debates and was a member of the Olions Drama Club. He also took up the French horn and performed in the All-State competition – and continues to perform today.

“I think I started my teaching career when I was still in high school and was offered a job as a YMCA camp counselor,” he said. “So during the summers, I was working with groups of kids and I was like, ‘Hey, that’s pretty cool stuff. And I loved working with children.

Steinhaus turned his interest in music into a music scholarship at Eastern New Mexico University, where he also earned a master’s degree in music. He received a second master’s degree in educational technology from the University of Oregon.

Steinhaus taught at Los Alamos High School and later accepted a position as a music teacher at Alamogordo High School in the morning and Holloman Middle School in the afternoon.

It was at ENMU that he met Jo Beth Glascock. She graduated in music and was also hired to teach music at Alamogordo High School.

During their 11 years in Alamogordo, they married and remained so for 44 years. Their daughter Valerie is a software engineer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and their son Kent is a hydrological engineer in Colorado.

“And then I got a job offer to be part of the research and evaluation unit here in this building (PED). We had two children and I thought it would be a great opportunity, ”said Steinhaus. “Every time there was a promotion, I applied. I have been promoted eight times in 11 years.

Technology for education

Steinhaus seized the opportunity to develop a statewide technology plan, “which included building an infrastructure for distance learning,” and in 1994, he said, “we passed the first law on technology for education ”.

While at PED, Steinhaus applied for and received a grant from UNM to earn his doctorate in education. His work in developing the statewide technology plan allowed him to interact with people from the Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. Among these contacts, he later found a job at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“I ran their education programs and their student recruitment programs, which gave me an understanding of what the private sector needs from us in public education,” said Steinhaus. And that was “very valuable” later in his roles as Superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools and now Cabinet Secretary for the PED.

Steinhaus retired as Principal of Los Alamos Public Schools after six years. “I went to graduation on May 30, spoke at graduation, got in my car, and went camping with my wife on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.”

The retreat, however, did not last long. He quickly received a phone call asking him to come back and lead the DEP.

Steinhaus, who has played the French horn with various groups and brass quintets, hasn’t had much time lately to pursue this quest. He remains an avid runner however, having competed in 21 marathons in 19 states. His goal: to run a marathon in each state.

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