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SANTA FE — Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus is giving up some of his daily duties as he deals with a personal health issue, state officials said.
Steinhaus, who is 68, said he expects to stop traveling in the state as he transitions to a less intensive role as head of the department.
In an interview Monday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steinhaus said they spoke earlier in the day about a personal health issue involving the secretary.
In response, the governor said, his administration will make changes to the department’s leadership structure to ensure Steinhaus and his family are accommodated.
“These jobs come at an incredible cost,” Lujan Grisham said.
The changes could involve hiring a chief assistant secretary to focus on day-to-day operations and allowing Steinhaus to work less than full time. But the governor said they have not yet defined a specific structure.
“We’re going to find out,” Lujan Grisham said. “I don’t know what it looks like yet.”
The changes come after two of the PED’s top three deputies, Gwen Perea Warniment and Katarina Sandoval, took jobs at other agencies last month.
Perea Warniment is now director of the Legislative Education Study Committee, and Sandoval has joined the administration of Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller as director of operations.
Steinhaus has deep roots in New Mexico. He was named head of the public education department last summer after retiring as superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools.
He is also a former assistant secretary for public education under the then government. Bill Richardson and was a teacher at Alamogordo.
Steinhaus said the changes to the PED mean he won’t be as “visible in New Mexico communities,” but will continue to work as cabinet secretary.
He is the third public education secretary hired by Lujan Grisham since taking office in 2019.
She fired her first education chief, Karen Trujillo, six months after taking office, and her second choice, Ryan Stewart, served around two years before stepping down to care for an ailing family member. .
The Department of Public Education is one of New Mexico’s most prominent agencies.
He led efforts to develop a strategy to improve educational outcomes despite legal pressure.
In 2018, a state district judge ruled that the state violated the rights of certain students by failing to provide adequate public education. The decision focused on English language learners, Native American students and children from low-income households.
As the litigation continued, the department released a draft plan last month intended to respond to the judge’s findings.