Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, center, today announcing two appointments to her state cabinet, Education Secretary Dr. Kurt Steinhaus, right, and DPS Secretary Jason Bowie. Screenshot from Facebook
By BONNIE GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post
Santa Fe – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham at a press conference today from the Roundhouse in Santa Fe announced two new secretaries to fill vacancies in her state cabinet:
- Dr. Kurt A. Steinhaus, educator, education administrator and recently retired superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools, as secretary of the Public Education Department; and
- Jason Bowie, deputy chief of the Rio Rancho Police Department, as secretary of the Department of Public Safety.
“New Mexicans are fortunate to have deeply qualified women and men who are willing to step up and serve our state in leadership roles all across state government,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “These are not easy jobs. A pandemic doesn’t make them any easier. New Mexicans expect a lot from their leaders. I do, too. I’m grateful to Jason and Kurt for their willingness to serve, I’m excited about their passion for solving problems and thinking outside the box, and I am very much looking forward to working with them on the issues that matter to New Mexicans.”
Steinhaus, who retired from Los Alamos Public Schools in June, will take over from Secretary Ryan Stewart, who has led the public education agency since August 2019. Stewart will step down from his position at the end of August to address family health issues.
“It came as a complete surprise when the governor called,” Steinhaus said during an interview today with the Los Alamos Daily Post. “I was all ready to be retired. I talked it over with my wife and I said if I can do something for education in New Mexico, I’m in. This is a great opportunity. I know a lot of the PED staff and I’m looking forward to working with this great group of people. I’m going to hit the ground running.”
Steinhaus, 67, has led a lengthy and distinguished career in New Mexico public education. He began as a classroom educator, teaching at Alamogordo Public Schools 1976 through 1988, where he also served as a department chair. Subsequently, in addition to teaching courses at Santa Fe Community College and the University of New Mexico, he was hired at what was then known as the state Department of Education as an educational consultant in the assessment and evaluation unit.
From 1988 through 1999, he was promoted at the agency into leadership roles, including stints as state director of educational technology, director of the state data management unit, chief information officer and assistant superintendent for accountability and information services, in that time facilitating strategic planning about public education in New Mexico and managing budgets and staffing for program development, educational technology and interventions and incentive for school improvement.
From 1999 through 2008, he worked as both director of student and education programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and deputy cabinet secretary of the state Public Education Department, in the latter role managing the multibillion-dollar agency budget and contributing to a new state pre-k initiative.
As director of community programs at LANL in 2008 through 2016, Steinhaus worked with Northern New Mexico school districts to advance the quality of classroom teaching and improve student achievement in math and science education. From 2016 through the end of the spring semester this year, he was superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools, leading the high-performing district to some of the state’s best graduation rates.
Steinhaus holds master’s degrees from the University of Oregon, in science, and Eastern New Mexico University, in music, as well as a doctorate of education from the University of New Mexico, where he produced a dissertation on studying statewide intervention strategies for educational technology in New Mexico schools.
“It’s a distinct and deeply humbling privilege to have this opportunity to work hand-in-hand with so many incredible educators, superintendents and families to make a difference for our students,” Steinhaus said in a prepared statement. “I’ve spent most of my adult life building strong teams that can inspire and support real progress in New Mexico classrooms. I believe this administration has made some real progress – and more importantly put our state in a position to sustain and build upon the record strategic investments in students and educators and improved outcomes. There is no doubt in my mind that we have the tools we need to be successful, no matter the challenges. I can’t wait to get the school year started, with students safely back in classrooms full-time all across our state, and I greatly look forward to serving the students and school communities of New Mexico every single day.”
American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Whitney Holland said in a prepared statement, “I can personally attest that, Dr. Kurt Steinhaus, the newly named NMPED Secretary, shares many of our values, and has demonstrated his commitment to open collaboration with educators during his time as superintendent of the Los Alamos Public Schools. We are heartened that he has committed to the same level of openness and partnership of his predecessor. We are thankful Gov. Lujan Grisham has consistently chosen leaders who share the priorities of our union, namely keeping students the focus of our work, while lifting up our profession as educators. We trust she will continue to include and partner with our union and members across New Mexico as we work to ensure a smooth and successful transition of NMPED leadership.”