Board extends school chief’s contract

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By Bennett Horne

The Los Alamos School Board voted Tuesday night to extend the contract of Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus and approved a raise for him that hinges on final figures from the 2018-19 budget that are under review.

“It is an honor and a privilege serving as superintendent of the Los Alamos Public Schools,” Steinhaus said following the vote near the close of the board’s monthly meeting. “Along with incredible students and parents, we have outstanding teachers, school leaders and staff supporting the learning process. I enjoy working with the whole team.”

Steinhaus said he would accept a raise only if the money was first available for other staff raises.

“I accept the school board’s contract extension and salary raise proposal only after we identify funds to provide a much-needed raise for all LAPS staff,” he said.

The one-year extension means Steinhaus, who started with LAPS in May 2015, is now under contract through the end of the ’20-21 school year and puts him at the three-year extension limit allowed by New Mexico state law.

While the vote for the raise was unanimous, the vote for the one-year extension wasn’t, with the lone dissenting vote coming from Bill Hargraves, who said it wasn’t a reflection on the superintendent.

“I agree with the salary increase,” he said. “However, just out of principle I have to disagree with the extension simply because, as I’ve stated for three years now, I dislike three-year contracts for superintendents. It has nothing to do with Dr. Steinhaus in particular. I’ve just come to the conclusion from the trainings for school board members that one- or two-year contracts are better from a business sense.

“That’s my only comment,” he added. “But it’s not a negative comment on performance at this point.”

Board President Jennifer McCumber, who proposed the extension and raise, said the district is fortunate to have a superintendent who is “dedicated to our students, staff and community” and one “who works tirelessly to continuously improve our school district.”

She added, “I am very pleased to have Dr. Steinhaus as LAPS superintendent. He continues to do an outstanding job leading our school district.”

The board conducted its annual review of the superintendent’s performance at its February work session held at Chamisa Elementary School.

Board member Ellen Ben-Naim said that review, among other factors, made the extension an easy decision.

“I think given the excellent evaluation and the consensus on the board and community’s support for Dr. Steinhaus that of course the one-year extension should happen,” she said. “I also want to make note that, if I remember correctly, there was no raise last year for Dr. Steinhaus and that we should definitely grant the same raise that everyone else gets.”

Board member Andrea Cunningham said, “I agree with the raise and extension and want to congratulate and thank Dr. Steinhaus on everything he’s done for the district.”

And board member Stephen Boerigter added, “I’m in complete agreement. I believe Dr. Steinhaus is an asset to our community and we are fortunate to have him as our superintendent.”

Steinhaus told the board he would continue to remain focused on the work of the current school year; especially the year-end discussions that help formulate plans and ideas for the future.

“My leadership priorities for the remainder of this school year include exceeding expectations in the LAPS Strategic Plan, developing a fiscally-responsible budget proposal for the 2018-19 school year and ‘finishing strong’ with success for every single student,” he said. “As part of continuous improvement for LAPS, I will provide meaningful end-of-year feedback for our school leaders.”

As for the next school year, he said, “I will work with the school board to update the Strategic Plan, serve as instructional leader for the Los Alamos Public Schools, direct prudent fiscal management, support student and staff well-being and help take LAPS to the next level of excellence.”

Steinhaus closed his comments to the board by saying he plans to “celebrate and honor diversity” while fully supporting “differentiated student learning, school safety and professional development for all staff members.”

He added, “I will find innovative ways to build community, foster whole-child learning and support students, teachers and staff.”