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SANTA FE – Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus is giving up some of his day-to-day job duties as he handles a personal health issue, state officials say.
Steinhaus, who’s 68, said he expects to pull back from travel around the state as he transitions to a less-intensive role leading the department.
In an interview Monday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steinhaus said they had talked earlier that day about a personal health matter involving the secretary.
In response, the governor said, her administration will make changes to the leadership structure of the department to ensure Steinhaus and his family are accommodated.
“These jobs take an incredible toll,” Lujan Grisham said.
The changes might involve hiring a chief deputy secretary to focus on day-to-day operations and allowing Steinhaus to work less than full time. But the governor said they hadn’t settled on a specific structure yet.
“We’re going to figure it out,” Lujan Grisham said. “I don’t know quite what it looks like yet.”
The changes come after two of PED’s top three deputies, Gwen Perea Warniment and Katarina Sandoval, took jobs at other agencies in the last month.
Perea Warniment is now director of the Legislative Education Study Committee, and Sandoval joined Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s administration as chief operations officer.
Steinhaus has deep roots in New Mexico. He was appointed to lead the Public Education Department last summer after having retired as superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools.
He is also a former deputy public education secretary under then-Gov. Bill Richardson and was a teacher in Alamogordo.
Steinhaus said the changes at PED mean he won’t be as “visible in communities across New Mexico” but will continue working as a Cabinet secretary.
He is the third public education secretary hired by Lujan Grisham since she took office in 2019.
She fired her first education chief, Karen Trujillo, six months into the job, and her second pick, Ryan Stewart, served about two years before stepping down to care for a sick family member.
The Public Education Department is one of New Mexico’s most high-profile agencies.
It has led efforts to craft a strategy to improve academic outcomes amid legal pressure.
In 2018, a state district judge ruled the state was violating the rights of some students by failing to provide an adequate public education. The decision focused on English language learners, Native American students and children from low-income households.
As litigation continued, the department just last month released a draft plan intended to address the judge’s findings.