Magnet computer science teacher to assume duties until a permanent replacement is found
Magnet Coordinator Eileen Steinkraus has announced plans to retire on Jan. 31 after a 14-year term during which she helped elevate the program to international repute and increased schoolwide access to Magnet electives. Magnet computer science teacher Dennis Heidler will succeed her as acting coordinator for the remainder of the school year.
MCPS will begin the search for a long-term replacement immediately following Steinkraus's retirement, according to Marty Creel, director of the Division of Accelerated and Enriched Education.
Heidler said that acting as coordinator will allow him to take a broader view of Blair's Science, Math and Computer Science Magnet Program. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to contribute to the entire program, not just computer science or 10th grade," he said.
Heidler had expressed interest in the position and has been preparing for several years now, Steinkraus said. He recently took courses at Hood College to earn a Master's degree in educational leadership and passed several comprehensive national exams in order to gain administrative certification. In recent months, Heidler has been acting as a "coordinator-in-training," preparing for this spring by learning about the responsibilities of Steinkraus's position.
When Steinkraus told Principal Phillip Gainous of her decision to resign, the two decided on Heidler as the "logical" choice for acting coordinator. "He was the one who'd expressed an interest and demonstrated leadership qualities that Mr. Gainous and I thought would be central to the program," she said.
Steinkraus hopes that the county will appoint Heidler as her permanent replacement, citing his organizational skills, leadership in school committees and experience in the Magnet. Still, she said, "there's no way to predict anything" about what the county will decide.
The next step
According to Steinkraus, the open position will be advertised beyond the county. Once the pool of respondents is narrowed to "an interviewable number of candidates," she said, an interview panel will be assembled to evaluate applicants.
The panel will consist of professionals and community members, who will conduct interviews and make a recommendation to Superintendent of Schools Jerry Weast. Weast will then recommend a candidate to the Board of Education, which will be responsible for the final decision. "The superintendent makes a recommendation based on what the panel recommends but also based on what other needs the school system has," Creel said.
Heidler expressed an interest in applying for the permanent Magnet coordinator position. "I don't want to go anywhere," he said. "I wouldn't have taken it on if I didn't intend to stay."
Although familiarity with the program will be part of the selection criteria, Creel said, it has not yet been decided whether or not the position will be filled by a member of Blair staff. "I wouldn't know that, and I wouldn't venture to say at this point," Creel said.
According to Creel, a timeframe has yet to be determined for the selection of a permanent replacement. "We're concerned about filling the position as quickly as possible but also about finding the right person," he said.
Leaving a legacy
Creel explained that replacing Steinkraus will not be easy. "There's only one Ms. Steinkraus," he said. However, he hopes that the development of the Magnet program that took place during Steinkraus's lengthy term as administrator will continue to progress. "Whenever you lose somebody of her talent, changes occur, but the good thing has been that she has touched so many people and created such a solid program that I don't think there will be a negative change," he said. "Many of the things that she has set in place will continue and improve."
During her tenure as coordinator, Steinkraus presided over efforts to reach out to a more diverse applicant group and make Magnet electives available to the rest of Blair.
Since Steinkraus took the position of coordinator in 1992, the Magnet has grown into a program that is known around the world. Guests from as far as South Africa, Korea, Japan, Turkey, India and Uzbekistan have visited Blair seeking to learn from the Magnet program's approach to specialized secondary education. The Magnet has consistently been a pacemaker among math, science and technology programs at high schools across the nation. "We have grown in our reputation for providing an excellent education," she said.
But even more than the program's recognition, Steinkraus said she treasures the personal aspects of her job in the Magnet, especially the impact she was able to have on students. "I realized that I could make a difference on a bigger scale," she said. "None of us know what effect we can have on other people."
After she steps down, Steinkraus will consult for other schools working to start programs similar to the Blair Magnet. Her load will be lighter, she said; as coordinator, she often arrived home as late as 10 p.m. Still, she has no real regrets about her time in the Magnet. It has been, she said, a "wonderful experience: wonderful kids, wonderful parents, wonderful teachers."
Steinkraus in retrospect
- Steinkraus joined the Magnet program the year after its inception.
- She was a Magnet teacher from September 1986 until January 1992.
- Her duties included coordinating in-school technology and training.
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