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The “caring personality, personal high standards and work ethic, and a collaborative leadership style set the tone and course for our district during times of crises when we needed these most in a leader,” Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Education Secretary Teresa Tenorio said about the late LCPS Superintendent Karen Trujillo, Ph.D.
On March 4, one week after the traffic accident that took Trujillo’s life near her Las Cruces home, Tenorio asked the board and Interim Superintendent Ralph Ramos to consider renaming the LCPS administration building at 505 S. Main St. in Trujillo’s honor.
On March 16, Ramos appointed a committee to consider renaming the administration building as provided for in an LCPS regulation. The committee conducted a survey that ended April 28 to gather public input on the proposal.
If the committee makes the recommendation to the board to rename the building and the board approves it, Tenorio said a “COVID-safe outdoor naming ceremony will be an uplifting and healing event for those who worked closest with Karen, who befriended her and who continued their crucial work for the district through their grief and in challenging times as we fully reopened schools.”
“Dr. Trujillo was one of the best superintendents I have ever known, and it was an honor to work with her,” said LCPS Board member Maria Flores, the longest-serving member of the current board. “She gave her heart and soul to the students of LCPS and she deserves this honor. Her memory is seared in the history of LCPS, and it is only fitting that this building be named after her.”
“I think that’s wonderful,” state Sen. Bill Soules, D-Doña Ana, said about the renaming proposal. Trujillo “brought some stability back to the district,” said Soules, who is chair of the New Mexico Senate Education Committee.
Trujillo, he said, “led us out of some dark times (and) she always did it with a smile and a positive outlook,” Soules said.
Tenorio, who was elected to the board in November 2019, said she “was approached by constituents — and also noticed discussion on social media — about a community desire to honor (Trujillo’s) legacy by naming (an LCPS) building after her. While some people expressed interest in renaming a high school, I thought it should be the administrative building complex aka ‘central office,’” Tenorio said.
The administration building was the best choice, she said, because it is “where LCPS district decisions are made and where our district leaders work. It is my intent that every superintendent and board member going forward will walk under her name and be reminded of whose influence and leadership we hold as the gold standard for the district.”
It will also be “significantly less costly” to rename the administration building than an LCPS high school in honor of Trujillo, as some have suggested, Tenorio said.
She said her “biggest why” in suggesting the building be renamed is that “Dr. Trujillo agreed to lead our district in a time of discord and distrust.”
“In the time we had her, she worked tirelessly to build and maintain team morale from her employees and grow trust from the community,” Tenorio continued. “It took her time, communication, and earnestness. She spent the time and energy needed to build relationships with stakeholders, including myself, because she understood the importance. She handled obstacles with a can-do attitude, with focus, and with grace. At the core of her motivation was service to our children and educators, which came from a source of great love. She never wavered or buckled under pressure, despite the enormity of the ‘unprecedented’ events of a cyberware attack and a deadly pandemic, with which we are still contending.
“Dr. Trujillo was a great and humble leader,” Tenorio added. “It is her humility that assures me that naming the administrative complex after her is the right choice. Perhaps it will be vocalized less often than it would as a school name, but it will also be spared association with rivalries between the schools. It is her greatness that continues to make a lasting impression. She inspired those around her as well as those who only heard of her. As the face of the district, she made herself readily available for interviews from the media and from elementary school children alike. She learned quickly from and took the heat for any missteps or misunderstandings and gave credit for successes to her team, the board, school leaders, students and community partners. My grief has healed with gratitude for what Dr. Trujillo accomplished in her time on this Earth and with us, but it still aches to recall when I envisioned her potential as our superintendent for several years to come. Dr. Trujillo wasn’t perfect but she perfectly exemplified the values she extolled in her Mondays Matter letters to the district. A quote of hers that I keep on my phone: ‘Remember to have grace for yourself and always go above and beyond everyday...for each other. In service to the children and educators of Las Cruces.’”
Trujillo’s family created a scholarship for aspiring teachers at New Mexico State University in Trujillo’s honor. Visit http://support.nmsu.edu/give/memorial/trujillo-memorial/ to make a donation to the scholarship. Call 575-646-1613. As an alternative to online donations, checks made payable to “In Memory of Dr. Karen Trujillo” can be mailed or dropped off at 1151 Heather Ave., Las Cruces, N.M. 88005. For more information, contact Ben Trujillo’s State Farm office at 575-382-3636.
Trujillo received bachelor's and master’s degrees in mathematics education from NMSU, and in 1997 she received her doctorate in secondary education, mathematics, curriculum and instruction, also at NMSU.
Trujillo’s career in education
Trujillo, who was 50 at the time of her death, started her teaching career in Las Cruces in 1993. After teaching math at Las Cruces High School for two years, she taught at Cobre High School in Silver City and worked in New Mexico’s Bootheel with Western New Mexico University. In 2000, she moved with her family to Truth or Consequences to teach math at Hot Springs High School and work with Mathematically Connected Communities (MC2). In 2004, she returned to Las Cruces to serve as an administrator at Las Cruces Catholic School. In addition, she taught at Alma d’Arte Charter High School, and 2010-18, she worked at NMSU in various capacities, teaching classes, writing grants and conducting research. During that time, she started Educators Rising NM and the Southwest Outreach Academic Research Lab and served as the interim dean for research.
Trujillo was appointed LCPS interim superintendent in September 2019. The board of education made the appointment permanent in February 2020.
Before becoming superintendent, Trujillo served as secretary of the New Mexico Public Education Department and briefly represented District 5 on the Doña Ana County Board of County Commissioners.