SANTA FE, Texas - For this community shattered by sudden, inexplicable mass bloodshed, the proof of resilience could not be more profound.
Fifteen months after the violence at Santa Fe High, this once devastated school district has elevated its state academic rating a full 15 points. Students and faculty at the high school did even better, rising from a failing 59 a year ago to a much more solid 76.
"Staying broken in this particular case was not an option," said Santa Fe School Board President Rusty Norman.
Norman calls the staggering year-over-year progress a calculated demonstration of grit.
"These students are just way more resilient than people ever give them credit for and it just blossoms from there," said Norman.
Principal Rachel Harris still leads a high school campus where ten lost their lives and 13 others were wounded. Like her students and teachers. She refused to crumble, focusing instead on a carefully crafted formula of psychological healing and academic success.
"We realized we did not want to be defined by the tragedy. We wanted to be defined by our resiliency afterward," said Harris.
Perhaps most critical for a community still emerging from crisis is the lingering impact on its youngest and most vulnerable members. This year Santa Fe's elementary schools actually led SFISD's academic surge and administrators say it didn't happen by accident.
"Pressure makes you grow and it makes you better every year and it's okay to have that little bit of pressure that makes you move forward. I think some of the pressure we felt did lead us to some great out comes and growth this year," said Destini Martin, who is leading Barrett Elementary this year as campus principal, but last year was principal of Kubacak Elementary which turned SFISD'S top performance.
Encouraged by the progress, SFISD leadership is fully expecting even better results in the year to come.