PRESS RELEASE - November 13, 2003
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Public Outreach Director
(505) 476-0393

Gov. Richardson Announces Veronica Garcia as New Mexico's First Secretary of Education
Names Educational Leaders for Public Education Department

(Albuquerque, NM)--Gov. Bill Richardson today announced the appointment of Veronica Garcia of Albuquerque as New Mexico's first secretary of education, saying "she represents the future of our children. She'll be working with me to make sure the future of New Mexico, the future of our children, stays bright," he said. Ms. Garcia will assume her position immediately.

“I’m excited about bringing Veronica Garcia into the Richardson Administration. She has bold ideas for improving our schools. This former teacher, principal and Superintendent of the Year represents the future of our schools. She will provide the leadership needed to implement the ambitious agenda we’ve laid out for New Mexico schools,” said Governor Richardson.

“Under Veronica Garcia’s leadership, I expect to see the Public Education Department transformed from a regulatory bureaucracy to a dynamic agency that will partner with local school districts and communities, as well as with other state agencies, to do what’s best for kids,” he said.

Ms. Garcia said, “We have a champion for education in Governor Bill Richardson.” With a seat at the table with other cabinet secretaries, she said, “we can begin to work together to holistically address the needs of our children so that they can be successful.

“We’re going to actively put the ‘public’ back into public education. It is my intent to conduct community conversations throughout our great state to bring together and engage teachers, school leaders, boards of education, parents, students, business and civic leaders, faith community and others to discuss key issues. To meet this challenge and create a premiere system of public education will take active involvement from all the citizens of our state. A quality system of public education is about social justice and giving all of our young people, regardless of where they live, the language they speak or the color of their skin, an opportunity to become all they choose to be!” she said.

Governor Richardson also announced the following appointments:

· Kurt Steinhaus, of Santa Fe, a Los Alamos native who was Teacher of the Year in Alamogordo, as deputy secretary for Learning and Accountability. Steinhaus, the Governor’s education policy advisor since August, has worked since 1999 as director of Student and Education Programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory;

· Carlotta Penny Bird, of Santo Domingo Pueblo, as the new assistant secretary for Indian Education. Ms. Bird has worked with the Zuni Public Schools since 1993, most recently as director of Instruction; and

· Ellen Bernstein, a veteran teacher and union leader from Albuquerque, to chair the newly created Governor’s Council on Teaching, an advisory group of educators who will assist the secretary in creating policy that sets standards for teachers.

All at one time have been classroom teachers. Two other key appointments, a deputy secretary for Operations and an assistant secretary for Rural Education, will be announced shortly. “I’m committed to elevating the concerns of rural New Mexico. That’s why I think we need a liaison in the Department who will make sure those voices are heard,” said Governor Richardson.

Ms. Garcia brings a diverse background to the position, having served as superintendent of the Santa Fe Public Schools, as a regional superintendent for the Albuquerque Public Schools, as a classroom teacher, school psychologist, coordinator and assistant director for special education, as principal of Albuquerque’s Rio Grande High and New Futures School, an alternative high school for pregnant and parenting teens, and, most recently, as executive director of the New Mexico Coalition of School Administrators.

She is credited with overseeing the financial turnaround of the Santa Fe Public Schools, which was accomplished in less than two years. When she left, the district had a budget surplus and the highest accreditation in its history. As a result, she was honored in 2002 as Superintendent of the Year and nominated for National Superintendent of the Year.

She also implemented a community schools framework while with the district that has been recognized nationally as a model for engaging social services and health agencies and nonprofit and for-profit entities in meeting the needs of children.

“Voters spoke loud and clear when they endorsed the idea of a secretary of education. They want real accountability for our educational system – accountability to make sure money gets into classrooms, accountability for student learning and accountability for the highest standards for our teachers. Veronica Garcia and her team will be charged with making sure the money meant for school reform is used for school reform. They’ll make sure the money is used in the classroom, not for administration,” said Governor Richardson.

Since 1999, Steinhaus has coordinated the science, mathematics, engineering and technology education programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory, directed and led 22 initiatives involving more than 2,000 students and contributed to a systemic change in mathematics and science education.

From 1987 to 1999, Steinhaus served as assistant superintendent and division director for Accountability and Information Services for the New Mexico State Department of Education. While there, he directed and led six major units, including Program Evaluation and Student Assessment, Data Collection and Reporting and School Management Support and Intervention, managed more than $20 million in state and federal funding, facilitated strategic planning about education in New Mexico and led major organizational restructuring efforts.

Ms. Bird’s first job with the Zuni Public Schools was as curriculum resource specialist for two years. After that, she was curriculum coordinator for four years. Since July 1999, she has worked to help students reach their maximum potential and ensured that instruction in the schools aligns with state standards and benchmarks. Throughout her career, Ms. Bird, who is proficient in both Keres and English, has worked with the 19 Pueblos, the Jacarilla Apache, the Mescalero Apache and the Dineh tribes in New Mexico. She has also worked with many schools and organizations as an appointed member of statewide committees and task forces.

Ms. Garcia will serve as secretary-designee until she is confirmed as education secretary by the state Senate. Ms. Bernstein will serve in a voluntary advisory capacity.