Community to say farewell to Steiner Elementary

By Linda Long: PNT correspondent

For 70 years, Steiner Elementary has been the site of the education of Portales’ future. Next year, the campus will become part of the city’s and school board’s history.

A new school building is under construction and will be ready for fifth- and sixth-graders this fall. Called Lindsey-Steiner, it replaces both the Steiner and Lindsey elementary buildings.

Portales Schools will hold a farewell reception at the school next week.

Sharon Epps has been Steiner’s principal for two years, and tells the students via handwritten statement that, “We enter to learn … we learn to achieve … you miss school … you miss out.” She came out of retirement to be the principal of Steiner, which was once known as East Ward.

“I will miss Steiner, but I am pleased that I will be the principal at Valencia next year,” said Epps, who split 28 years in Clovis as a teacher at James Bickley and a principal at Highland.

With the closing of Steiner, Epps decided to do something special for the school. “I have had T-shirts printed, listing all the Steiner principals,” she said. “It’s been fun.”

Julie Miller works a few blocks away as administrative assistant to Superintendent Randy Fowler and the board of education. She remembers when her daughter Michelle, now 24, attended Steiner as a child.

“Alvonna Arnold was Michelle’s kindergarten teacher,” said Miller. “Celia Burnett was her first-grade teacher … and (Larry) Cantwell was the principal both years. It was a great school. All of Michelle’s teachers did an excellent job throughout the years. It’s because of her teachers that she has done so well.

“I remember the playground equipment … that’s when McDonald’s (donated) the Hamburgler.”

Cantwell, now retired, still lives in Portales.

“I’ve missed going to school every day,” Cantwell said. “It was always a new experience with little kids. They wanted to share, for example, candy. I’d put it in my pocket and share it later.”

Phoebe Gomez has been the secretary of Steiner School for 12 years, and remembers attending herself.

“We are all going to shed tears,” Gomez said. “It’s hard to see the school go, but change is good. We do need a new building.”

Student Taryn Wood, 7, is in Dona Hampton’s class.“I was excited to go to Steiner because my sister used to go here,” Wood said. “Mrs. Hampton is my favorite teacher and I like art class.”

Hampton has taught Wood, her classmates and classes before then for 29 years.

“I love first-graders,” she said, “They have a gleam in their eyes. They are excited. They love learning and they love to work. As long as I love what I’m doing, why stop?”

Both the Lindsey and Steiener buildings were in the top 10 of the state education department’s list of necessary renovations. Fowler said refurbishing both buildings would be a cost of $26 million, but creating one building would be a cost of $12 million.

“Refurbishing would have been much more costly,” Fowler said. “This building will be energy efficient. It is designed to be an energy saver.”