LAPS superintendent’s contract extended another 3 years

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By Tris DeRoma

The Los Alamos School Board agreed to extend Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus’ contract another three years Tuesday. The contract now ends in 2020.
The three-year extension is the maximum number of years allowed by state law. The approval was made during an executive session of the board.
“That is the strongest possible statement that the board could make about our confidence in our superintendent,” said school board member Matt Williams.
Steinhaus’ annual salary will remain at $160,000.
Steinhaus noted during contract negotiations that the board would consider giving him a raise when the time came to consider raises for staff.
“I would politely decline a raise, because I want the money to go to our teachers,” Steinhaus said.
The board was impressed by Steinhaus’s performance since the board picked him two years ago to replace Superintendent Gene Schmidt.
“From the discussions I’ve had with him and conversations with individual board members, I think the board is quite pleased with Kurt,” said LASB President Jim Hall.
The board thought the three-year extension was a good number for other reasons. A one-year extension might have sent a message that the superintendent should start looking for another job. The three-year extension bridges the next round of school board elections, when three seats will become available in 2019. This will give the 2019 school board one year to assess Steinhaus before deciding on another contract.
“We thought it would be best for that board and the superintendent for the superintendent to have at least another year on his contract, so that board could fully evaluate his performance,” Hall said.
The board was specifically impressed with three key areas, which included school and school event attendance, fiscal responsibility and community approval.
“We just passed a (school construction) bond with the greatest margin we ever had, that’s one example. The other example is the school district got the best audit it’s ever had,” Hall said.
The school’s fiscal management strategy meant they were able to avert
 “The other half of that is, we were able to absorb a million-dollar loss without laying off anybody,” Hall said.
The board is confident that Steinhaus will be able to face the challenges of the next three years. “The challenge will be maintaining our excellence in the face of the budget challenges the state has,” Hall said. “We still have a certain percentage of students who we feel are not being served well enough by the current set of programs. So, how do we broaden our programs to serve that set of students.
The other challenge is maintaining the mental and physical health of the student population.
“We’ve already started on those, but there is a lot more work to do,” Hall said. “The board has confidence in Kurt, and we want him to be the leader when these things happen.”
“I’m honored and pleased to be able to serve the students and staff of Los Alamos Public Schools,” Steinhaus said.
In the next three years, Steinhaus said he plans to focus on three priorities.
Those priorities are student wellbeing, student achievement and staff excellence and wellbeing, he said.