LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Karen Trujillo, school superintendent for New Mexico’s second largest city of Las Cruces and a former leader of the state Public Education Department, was hit and killed by a minivan while walking her dogs, police said Friday.
The death of the 50-year-old longtime educator was confirmed by Las Cruces police spokesman Danny Trujillo.
The driver of the minivan stopped and was cooperating with police, a police statement said.
Word of Trujillo’s death spread quickly through Las Cruces, prompting tributes on social media.
“RIP Dr. Karen Trujillo, we will always remember you and the great job you did,” Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima said on Twitter.
City Councilor Gabriel Vasquez called Trujillo’s death “a tragic loss for our community, our students, and the state of New Mexico.”
Trujillo led Las Cruces Public Schools during the pandemic and a during a cyber attack that crippled the school system’s computer systems, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.
Trujillo “made a significant impact on the young women and men she taught, counseled and led for decades across different roles,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday in a statement. “She leaves behind an unfinished legacy of credible service in New Mexico public education.”
Trujillo started working as the Las Cruces superintendent in late 2019 after being abruptly removed as state public education secretary by Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, after only six months in that position.
Lujan Grisham at the time cited a lack of progress on sweeping education changes. Trujillo told the Sun-News she “felt like I did everything I could to turn the table about changing the conversation of what education and educators are in our state and how much they deserve to be valued.”
A former classroom teacher, school principal and administrator at New Mexico State University, Trujillo moved back to Las Cruces where the school board selected her to replace the school superintendent who had resigned.
Trujillo had been a newly elected Doña Ana County commissioner for just 27 days before the governor named her to the state post in January 2019.
Trujillo was married and had three children.