New Mexico Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus issued an e-mail to workers early Tuesday saying he deliberate to “re-retire because of well being causes.”
The e-mail talked about a “future consulting position.”
The missive, despatched a day after the Governor’s Office mentioned Steinhaus could be slicing again on his duties however would stay within the Cabinet secretary place, triggered concern and confusion this week amongst some workers members, lawmakers and education advocates.
One high-level worker within the department, who agreed to talk about Steinhaus on the situation of anonymity, mentioned he reaffirmed his choice to go away in a workers Zoom assembly Tuesday — and indicated he would step down by Friday.
“He simply mentioned goodbye to everybody. And that was it,” the worker mentioned in an interview Wednesday. “We continued to be very confused as a result of we have now our directive that he will be gone. We’re awaiting one other substitute.”
While a spokeswoman with the Public Education Department declined to offer an interview with Steinhaus, the department and the Governor’s Office reiterated Wednesday he’ll stay in his place in a diminished capability due to well being points.
Maddy Hayden, a spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, wrote in a textual content message Steinhaus’ e-mail to workers was “unclearly worded.” She added, “I apologize for any confusion triggered.”
The lack of certainty about Steinhaus’ position on the Public Education Department comes as at the least three different prime officers, together with two deputy secretaries, have left the company. That would imply only one deputy secretary would stay on the department, which oversees the state’s 89 public college districts and dozens of constitution faculties and receives the most important particular person share of the state’s annual finances.
Former Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment left final week to take the director place on the Legislative Education Study Committee. Policy Director John Sena and analyst Tim Bedeaux are becoming a member of her. Former Deputy Secretary Katarina Sandoval left this month to work as chief operations officer for town of Albuquerque.
In addition, Assistant Secretary of Indian Education Lashawna Tso, who took the position in late 2020, left her job in May to function the brand new government director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office, in accordance with Indian Country Today. The Public Education Department web site reveals Deputy Director Rebecca Reyes is serving within the job within the interim.
Deputy Secretary Vickie Bannerman stays with the department.
Steinhaus, formally confirmed to the place by the state Senate in February, began in August 2021. He is the third education secretary to serve underneath Lujan Grisham.
Carolyn Graham, a spokeswoman for Public Education Department, confirmed in an e-mail Wednesday Steinhaus is taking up a diminished however continued position “in creating coverage,” however mentioned the small print on what duties he’ll forgo haven’t been determined.
“The specifics of how his duties might be divided, in addition to wage concerns, are nonetheless being decided,” Graham wrote. “He stays devoted to supporting college students and has the utmost religion that nobody on the PED will miss a beat.”
Graham added Steinhaus “isn’t discussing the character of his well being points and isn’t out there for interview right now.”
On Monday, Hayden mentioned Lujan Grisham will appoint a brand new deputy secretary to supervise a few of Steinhaus’ duties.
Senate President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, a member of Legislative Education Study Committee, downplayed the state of affairs involving Steinhaus.
“It’s not a giant change; it is a reorganization,” she mentioned. “It’s a traditional incidence.”
She spoke with Steinhaus on Monday, Stewart mentioned, including the department has plans to “elevate” present workers to assist tackle each day duties.
She was just a little involved about high-level workers leaving the Public Education Department, Stewart mentioned, however she sees Warniment’s transfer to Legislative Education Study Committee as a boon for the manager and legislative branches of state authorities.
The Senate Rules Committee, which is tasked with confirming Cabinet secretaries, has obtained no official discover from the Governor’s Office about a brand new appointee for the place, mentioned the committee chairman, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque.
It would not be the primary time a state department has altered its management design, he mentioned, noting Dr. David Scrase oversees the Department of Health and the Human Services Department.
“We’ve had through the years completely different governors with completely different fashions about how they do issues,” Ivey-Soto mentioned.
Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, voiced concerns, nevertheless, about the dearth of readability relating to Steinhaus.
“We are involved about the current experiences relating to Dr. Steinhaus’ well being and the conflicting statements involving his continued service at PED,” Baca mentioned in an announcement. “Dr. Steinhaus apparently knowledgeable his workers that he was retiring on the finish of this week, however the Governor is now disputing that.”
Baca added: “Given the dire state of our education system and the truth that college is about to renew in simply two months, our educators and households have to know the standing and situation of PED and its management.”
Amanda Aragon, government director of the education advocacy group New Mexico Kids CAN, referred to as the state of Steinhaus’ employment “unclear” and regarding, notably as faculties proceed to get better from the results of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We discover probably the most useful work the education department does is the work that occurs over the summer time,” she mentioned.
The state is dealing with federal reporting necessities and should compile standardized check outcomes — a matter Aragon worries is additional difficult by a brand new standardized check carried out this yr.
“To know that we’re going into that lack of readability round who’s in cost on the department, and a scarcity of government staff workers remaining in place, I’m nervous about the department’s skill to execute that basically necessary work,” she mentioned.
Aragon mentioned Steinhaus has introduced stability to the department, which hasn’t seen anybody keep within the prime job for longer than two years since Hanna Skandera was within the place underneath Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.
Skandera was appointed to the spot in 2010 and remained by way of 2017. Through her tenure, a gaggle of New Mexico dad and mom and advocates filed the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit in opposition to the state, alleging it had failed to offer an satisfactory education to the vast majority of its college students. In 2018, a district choose in Santa Fe dominated in favor of the plaintiffs.
Christopher Ruszkowski served within the place from 2017 to 2019, earlier than Lt. Gov. Howie Morales briefly took cost when Lujan Grisham stepped into workplace.
The late Karen Trujillo held the job for about six months earlier than Lujan Grisham fired her and appointed Ryan Stewart, who resigned in August 2021 to look after his father.
Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez mentioned he had obtained no notification about Steinhaus’ standing from the state however had heard about the secretary’s diminished position.
Chavez mentioned it is all the time a troublesome transition for districts when a Cabinet secretary or deputy secretary leaves. He reached out to Steinhaus this week, he added.
“I needed him the perfect of luck with his well being. That must be everybody’s prime precedence,” Chavez mentioned. “[This] does present … it doesn’t matter what place you are in, it takes a toll in your physique. We have to ensure we’re wholesome and sound.”
Reporter Daniel Chacon contributed to this report.