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LAS CRUCES PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The blooming garden of new LCPS Superintendent Karen Trujillo

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Trujillo was appointed in August to replace Greg Ewing, who resigned in August after about 33 months as superintendent.

Trujillo said it has “been really nice to visit schools” and attend staff meetings to help teachers and principals identify both their challenges and “the positive stories we need to be telling.”

Trujillo has a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate (in curriculum and instruction) from New Mexico State University and was director of K-12 outreach at NMSU until her election to the Doña Ana County Commission last November. She resigned in January to accept Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s appointment at secretary of the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED). Trujillo returned to Las Cruces after being fired by the governor in July.

“It was very hard when it happened, but I’m very comfortable with how things moved forward,” she said. “The universe conspired” to offer her first the opportunity at NMPED and now at LCPS, Trujillo said. “I would not be as confident here as I am without that experience.”

Trujillo said she continues to have “very good relations with everyone at NMPED,” whose senior staff includes fellow NMSU grads. She hasn’t yet met new NMPED Sec. Ryan Stewart but is looking forward to it. “The new secretary’s success is our success,” Trujillo said.

Because “there was a visibility issue” with Ewing, Trujillo said a priority as interim superintendent is “re-engaging with the community (and) being available and visible in the schools. All of these things are really, really important.” A Mayfield High School graduate with strong ties to the school district, Trujillo said she has a huge advantage coming in because “there’s no learning curve.” When she visits schools, “I know at least a handful of people in every building.”

Trujillo hopes an anticipated increase in state funding for public education includes more money for early childhood education, pre-K and dual credit. She also wants to see a greater investment in classroom teachers and in the continued recruitment of highly qualified teachers. LCPS is “close to fully staffed,” Trujillo said, but hiring additional special education teachers is “a huge need.”

Trujillo said the three-mill levy question on the Nov. 5 combined election ballot also provides important funding for the school district unavailable from any other source. The $10 million generated annually would help pay for technology, school safety, classroom furniture replacement, middle and high school musical instruments and band uniforms and ADA compliance in school buildings.

There will be no increase in local property taxes if the three-mill levy, also known as HB (for House Bill) 33, is approved by voters living in the school district.

Trujillo said the mill levy’s “huge emphasis” on school safety is especially important.

“We’re taking a hard look at that,” she said, including building security at the elementary, middle and high school levels, as well as ensuring that a reliable communication system is in place districtwide so the superintendent, Safety and Security Coordinator Todd Gregory and other administrators and staff know immediately about any incident at any of the district’s 40 schools in Las Cruces, Mesilla, Doña Ana and on White Sands Missile Range.

“We have everything we need in Las Cruces to make our kids successful,” Trujillo said, including quality teachers and staff and support from the community.

With funding from both the state and the city, LCPS now has four community schools and expects to add two or three more this year. During a three-day accreditation by the international nonprofit Cognia in October, the accreditation team will visit schools, talk to community members, view the LCPS strategic plan and evaluate the district’s leadership and fiscal responsibility.

Trujillo said she hopes to “get rid of the interim” in her title and become the regular superintendent after the November election. There will be at least one and possibly two new members of the five-member LCPS Board of Education sworn in next January, and Trujillo said she is looking forward to “having that conversation with the new school board in the spring.” The current board, she said, has been “very supportive.”

Trujillo said she is “very happy and humbled and exited” to be the new LCPS interim superintendent. “We are put on this earth to bloom where we’re planted,” she said. “This is my garden. Right now, I’ve chosen to bloom here.”

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