He’s trading in his winter boots for cowboy boots.
Tom Trigg, the beloved superintendent of the Blue Valley School District, is officially heading to Texas this summer, where he will take charge of the Highland Park Independent School District in the Dallas area.
On Tuesday afternoon at the Hilltop Conference Center, Blue Valley Schools hosted a farewell open house for Trigg, who served as superintendent since 2004. Dozens of administrators, teachers, parents, school board members and community leaders came out for the event to say goodbye and offer congratulations to Trigg on his new journey.
“As excited as I am about the future, it makes it no easier to leave,” Trigg said in an emotional speech to the crowd. “This place is incredible and it will be burned in my heart forever.”
Trigg started his career with the district in 1996 as assistant superintendent of administrative services. Before that, he had been a math teacher in Shawnee Mission and a principal in Gardner.
One of his proudest moments as Blue Valley superintendent was helping with the creation of the now nationally renowned CAPS program.
During his tenure, the district also achieved the highest ACT and SAT scores in the metro area.
Trigg said he is looking forward to tackling an entirely new set of challenges as superintendent for the Highland Park school district. The district is located in one of the wealthiest sections of Dallas and it is one-third the size of Blue Valley. It has one high school.
“It was a wonderful opportunity that just felt right,” Trigg said. “When I get there, I want to take time getting to know what’s going on and develop relationships with people. I want to help the community come up with a vision and then help them reach those goals.”
He hopes to maintain all the friendships he made in Blue Valley.
His colleagues and admirers feel the same way.
“Tom has been a great leader for our school district,” said Al Hanna, deputy superintendent for administrative services. “He has a great deal of integrity, people trust him. We’re clearly a better district because of him. His new district is fortunate to get him. They won’t be disappointed.”
Hanna will serve as interim superintendent for Blue Valley until a replacement is found.
Ed Eilert, chairman of the Johnson County Commission, agrees Blue Valley has very big shoes to fill.
“Our K-12 schools in Johnson County have always been a hallmark of our community,” he said. “I’ve always viewed Tom as someone who strives to achieve excellence. He’s an innovator and a motivator.”
Eilert, a former mayor of Overland Park, said what impressed him the most about Trigg was his ability to keep Blue Valley one of the top school districts in the country, all while the district was experiencing an incredible amount of growth, with more and more families moving south.
While Trigg was superintendent, Blue Valley opened two new high schools, two middle schools and several elementary schools.
For others, the reason Trigg will be missed is simple: He’s a nice guy.
“Tom has never met a stranger,” said Pam Robinson, the president of the Blue Valley school board. “He will take the first five minutes of every conversation to learn about the person he’s talking to and understand them. That’s an incredibly important quality to have as a leader because it earns respect.”
While she is sad Trigg is moving on, she is grateful he helped put the foundation in place for the district to continue succeeding in his absence.
“Tom will be the first to tell you that Blue Valley doesn’t exist simply because of one person,” Robinson said. “It exists because of a community that works together, and that includes everyone from parents to local businesses. Tom was just an integral part of it.”
His praises were also sung by students Tuesday afternoon.
Molly McGinty, a recent Blue Valley Northwest graduate, became fast pals with the superintendent while working in the district’s bakery as part of the Blue Valley special education career program.
Trigg always made sure to buy trail mix or freshly baked snickerdoodles from the 17-year-old.
“He’s good-looking and funny and very kind,” Molly said. “I’m really going to miss him.”
Her mom echoed her sentiments.
“He’s not just some guy up at the top of the ladder,” Jeanne McGinty said. “Dr. Trigg is down-to-earth and accessible to everyone. I think that’s pretty cool.”
Although he will be living eight hours away, Trigg will not become a stranger to the district. He grew up in Johnson County and one of his three adult children lives in the Kansas City area.
He also said he’s looking forward to keeping up with Blue Valley’s success and he is positive the district has a bright future.
“I want everyone to remember that it’s not about me, it’s about our kids,” he said. “It’s about providing opportunities to students to make them better people. That’s why we all do what we do.”