Trish Groves came to Halls High School as principal in 2000. Dink Adams had retired after a long career as football coach, then assistant principal and then principal at the school. Most of us thought his assistant Rusha Sams would replace him. But then-Superintendent Charles Lindsey opted to send Trish Groves, then an assistant principal at South-Doyle High School instead.
Groves had not even applied for the job.
This writer trekked over for the obligatory interview, published in the Halls Shopper on July 31, 2000. The questions were tough.
How will you build trust with the faculty and community?
“Honesty,” she said. “I’m known for being very straightforward.”
Did you know you are the school’s first female principal?
“Gender is a non-issue, at least it is for me. I hope it is for the community as well. I’m tough enough to do this job.”
What about changes?
“I will be a good listener. I will learn about this school before starting to make changes.”
Groves said she would put together a plan for the school with academics as a priority. “You no longer just go by the seat of your pants, reacting to what happens.”
Health issues cut short her tenure at Halls High. She retired in 2003, having built trust, proven her toughness, improved academics and made lifelong friends in Halls.
One day we got a call at the paper. “Ms. Groves has just cancelled the senior prom!” Turns out some pranksters had splashed graffiti on some buildings, and Groves said the prom was off until she found out who had done it. Social pressure was intense and soon some key football players ’fessed up. Groves turned them over to the coach for discipline, reinstated the prom and presided over a virtually graffiti-free campus.
Trish Groves died on April 8 at age 75, leaving a daughter, Katherine Groves Medlock, and a grandson, Mark. Her obituary lists her accolades and volunteer work. A celebration of her life will be held at Westminster Presbyterian Church when all can safely gather.
Fellow educators reacted to the news of her passing. “Trish put her heart and soul into everything she did,” said Connie Graham. “Trish was great to work with – her humor brightened my days during many challenging times,” said Shirley Underwood. “Trish brought joy to many people,” said Jeanette Casteel.
Sharon Keck-Davis, a nurse practitioner, had Ms. Groves as a teacher at Rule High School. “I had her for several English classes and French I and II. I took French just because I loved her so much as a teacher. She was bright, enthusiastic and always believed in you. She always challenged us to do our very best – and a little more.”
Susan Swan said Trish was an outstanding human being. “It’s difficult to be in a demanding, stressful position of authority and still have the ability to endear yourself to all those under your charge. Trish did it so effortlessly.
“As a people person Trish’s primary concern was being able to communicate with you as a person. … It was all about the honest, positive relationship with the other human being from the lowest to the highest social level. It was her special gift.”
Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of KnoxTNToday.com