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New Mexico education secretary replaced, new top cop named

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, center, with Aspen Elementary School Principal Michele Altherr, right, and left, Dr. Kurt Steinhaus, Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent during visit Aspen Elementary School in Los Alamos in April. New Mexico Education Secretary Ryan Stewart is the latest Cabinet secretary to call it quits during the pandemic. The education post will be filled by Steinhaus, 67, starting Aug. 20, Lujan Grisham announced Thursday. (Nora Meyers Sackett/Office of the Governor via AP, file)

SANTA FE – New Mexico Education Secretary Ryan Stewart is the latest Cabinet secretary to call it quits during the pandemic.

The education post will be filled by former Los Alamos Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus starting Aug. 20, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Thursday.

Alongside the governor at a Thursday news conference, Steinhaus said he’ll emphasize overall student well-being, including mental health, as fall classes resume in August in the midst of a surge in coronavirus infections.

He wants New Mexico to surpass all other states when it comes to improvement in academic achievement across diverse subjects including music, and said the state will encourage school districts to spend about $1 billion in new federal relief money on teaching and learning.

“The short-range goal is to jump on the energy of the first day of school,” Steinhaus said. “The middle-range goal is about the federal money that has just been approved.”

There will also be a new top police officer.

Lujan Grisham named Deputy Chief of the Rio Rancho Police Department Jason Bowie as the next secretary of the Public Safety Department, which oversees the New Mexico State Police.

Lujan Grisham has seen a wave of retirements among department heads, with some citing the pressures of the pandemic.

She said that Education Secretary Stewart is stepping down for personal reasons, after serving in the position for two years.

“The simple fact for all of us is that family comes first, and I know he is looking forward to a change of pace that will allow him more time with his family at an important time for them,” she said of Stewart’s departure.

The governor is still looking to fill top positions such as the Department of Workforce Solutions and the Department of Health.

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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.

FILE - In this June 3, 2021, file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declares her intention to seek reelection during a campaign rally in Albuquerque, N.M. Lujan Grisham named Deputy chief of the Rio Rancho Police Department Jason Bowie as the next secretary of the Public Safety Department, which oversees the New Mexico State Police. Lujan Grisham has seen a wave of retirements among department heads, with some citing the pressures of the pandemic. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)