By Brian Baxter,
Prior to stepping down from his official duties for the State of Montana, Governor Steve Bullock nominated Keith Haggerty of Troy for the 2020/21 National RISE (Recognizing Inspiring School Employees) Award. Each year the U.S. Department of Education invites the governor of each state to nominate up to two classified school employees as potential recipients for the RISE award.
Haggerty had been nominated for consideration in representing Montana for this year’s award by Troy Schools Superintendent, Dr. Jacob Francom. “He is a model leader and an outstanding individual,” Francom said. “Because the governor can only nominate two people each year for the award, this is huge honor for both Keith and our Troy Schools.”
What is a classified school employee? One might call them human infrastructure which keeps our schools moving day-in and day-out. Custodians, secretaries, food-service workers, bus drivers, and paraprofessionals to name a few.
Haggerty has been with Troy Public Schools as Maintenance and Transportation Director for approximately seven and a half years. In the nomination letter submitted by Francom, Haggerty’s involvement with a total facilities facelift had been highlighted.
When asked about the, Haggerty stated, “First off, the face lift design and plan came from the great leadership of Dr. Francom and his wife Jill. They had provided a wonderful blueprint for all the changes.” Haggerty explained that Jill, too, is always volunteering her time, labor, and expertise for projects. “Without them, basically nothing would have changed,” Haggerty added.
Together, Haggerty and his team accomplished renovation work at each of the elementary, junior, and high schools. Exterior tasks included painting, landscaping, installing irrigation systems, reworking parking lots, and tackling improvements to the sports field. Indoor work involved renovating nearly every classroom, hallway, lobby, office, kitchen and gym. Murals were then added throughout the various facilities, and new flooring installed. This not to mention the renovations to restrooms and upgrades including security cameras, a new Wi-Fi system, and changes to the school’s heating systems in order to improve efficiency and create cost-savings.
“There are way too many important people involved in all of this, it is very hard to highlight a few,” Haggerty said in an interview when asked to discuss his nomination. Knowing Haggerty, his fellow school workers had predicted he would say that. “He’s just that kind of guy.” Though nearly everyone who knows Keith will attest that without his outstanding leadership and example set forth, much would not be done.
Haggerty, however, did not stop awarding due credit where he felt it should fall. He reported that numerous church groups had come to volunteer their time and resources. Troy Parks and Recreation, the Troy Mayors of the last eight years, Dave Norman and Clint Taylor with the City of Troy, Dave Kyriss and the county road crew, had all been incredibly supportive with the various tasks required.
Haggerty also wanted to personally acknowledge his co-workers on the Troy Schools maintenance and custodial crew whom he credits with being willing to take on anything that needs to be done – Scott Hoffman, Josh Cole, Jen Bonifas, Jen Funk, Nikki Ramirez, Erin Serrett, Eloise Aldrich, and Tina Starks. Then added note of several student workers over the years who played a huge part in the upkeep and improvements that transpired, and named Trinette Todd and Robin Ridgeway as having played large behind the scenes roles in everything the department does.
It was obvious to this reporter that anyone leading a team that could accomplish so much must have a great work ethic. “I grew up in rural northeast Pennsylvania and started working on farms at age ten. Worked on residential, then commercial construction from age 14 to 23. I moved to the Yaak in 1993,” Haggerty said. He met his wife, Suzanne, in the Yaak and together they owned and managed the Yaak Mercantile and Tavern for 14 years.
Haggerty later worked construction until starting his position with the school system. “My parents are the best people I know. I couldn’t have had better. They had an incredible work ethic. Most of the people I knew growing up worked very hard. Dairy farmers are some of the best. The old timers looked down at lazy people and I never wanted to be looked at that way,” he said when reflecting on the work ethic he had adopted in life.
When asked if he believes the students appreciate all that he and his co-workers do for the schools and how they might have shown their gratitude over the years, Haggerty replied, “Most students are appreciative of what everyone does for them. The first time a student sees a renovated area and they start staring in amazement – that is all the appreciation needed.”
“The school board, administration, staff, and the community of Troy are all motivated by seeing the students succeed,” Haggerty added about the factors which drive him towards continuing to work within the school district. “They all give time, effort, and money so we can have a place that provides the students a great opportunity to find that success.”
The United States Secretary of Education will select a single school employee from this year’s nationwide list of nominees for the 2020/21 RISE Award sometime this spring. In the interim, the Troy School District and its community members commend Keith for his ongoing dedication and hard work on behalf of every student he continually strives to serve.