Superintendent Finalist Dr. Kurt Steinhaus Shares Local And State Level Education Experience With Community

Superintendent finalist Kurt Steinhaus, left, discusses his background and educational philosophy with the community at Wednesday’s forum in the LAHS Speech Theater as Forum moderator Dan Castille listens at right. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Superintendent finalist Kurt Steinhaus. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

By BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post

The two candidates for superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools could not be more different. The community heard from the highly energized Dr. Chris Marczak Monday, and Wednesday from the calm, cool and collected Dr. Kurt Steinhaus.

Steinhaus grew up in Los Alamos and was educated, kindergarten through master’s degree in New Mexico. He received his doctorate in computer science in education in Oregon, taking classes during the summers.

“My entire career has led to being superintendent in Los Alamos,” Steinhaus said. “I want to make a commitment to be there for a long time.

Steinhaus relied on hand-outs to express his educational values and philosophy, dedicating his time him to allowing the audience to get to know his background.

His experience as a YMCA camp counselor as a teen led to a career as a teacher. Steinhaus plays the French horn and completed a degree in music education at Eastern New Mexico University.

He student taught in Los Alamos, where he met his wife to be, Jo Beth, also a teacher. The two ended up teaching in Alamogordo, where Steinhaus was a classroom music teacher. Jo Beth was an elementary school teacher specializing in sixth grade. She is now retired.

“Jo Beth is my sounding board and my biggest influence. She keeps me grounded in the real world when I get high flown ideas,” Steinhaus said.

After 11 years in the classroom, Steinhaus wanted to spend more time with his kids and moved into a position with the New Mexico Public Education Department, where he would spend the next 11 years in a variety of positions, doing everything from developing the accounting system for public schools to evaluating school districts and superintendents around the state.

His next move was to Los Alamos National Laboratory where he has spent the last 15 years. Currently, Steinhaus is the director of the Community Programs Office where he is involved with educational institutions around the state as well as with businesses in New Mexico who do business with the Lab or are involved in technology, among other things.

Steinhaus shared his years of experience dealing with legislators, both while at the PED and LANL.

Steinhaus said the biggest challenge facing the District is adequate funding. The uncertainty of state funding and the possible loss of the $8 million the schools receive from the Dept. of Energy through a renegotiation of the Lab’s contract could be catastrophic unless careful planning begins at once.

“We need to start taking more control over how students spend their time,” Steinhaus said. “Time is the most valuable resource in a school. Teachers need to spend their time teaching and be focused on students.”

One of his goals is a redesign of the teacher evaluation system that includes feedback from teachers and parents. “The goal should be, not to punish teachers, but to incentivize and help them grow professionally, he said.

Improved communication is another goal. He promises to send out weekly newsletters and to communicate with the School Board and the public in an organized way.

Steinhaus has spent years as a policy analyst and he believes in examining the data carefully before making decisions, however he stressed that it must be the right data needed for evaluation.

Steinhaus stressed his experience at LANL and his understanding of and connections with the Laboratory.

“I have spent years analyzing the employment needs of businesses in New Mexico and at the Lab and I think that is very important when looking at the future goals of our schools,” he said.

One of his first acts as superintendent would be to create “a not to do list” of things teachers and administrators are doing that may be unnecessary and burdensome. He wants to make sure the Central Office is supporting the rest of the school system as much as it can.

In his first 60 days, he plans to have a retreat with the School Board to get to know each other and develop strategy. He also wants to “ask the community to launch the biggest thank you and appreciation of teachers ever.”

Steinhaus said he also wants to focus on making sure every student has at least one adult who is “paying attention to that kid.”

Part of his plan to reduce student stress and end bullying is to “train kids to look out for each other … schools should be a community and support each student,” Steinhaus said.

The School Board meets at 5 p.m. tonight to decide which of the two candidates will be the new superintendent.

Kurt Steinhaus’ wife Jo Beth with the couple’s daughter Valerie. Their son Kent was unable to attend the event. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Superintendent finalist Kurt Steinhaus answers questions from the audience. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Community members take turns speaking with superintendent finalist Kurt Steinhaus following his presentation. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com  

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