LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) –The students at Corrigan-Camden High School are gaining national attention.
"We really weren't expecting it," said Corrigan-Camden Independent School District Superintendent Tom Bowman.
The Texas Education Agency informed Bowman they've nominated Corrigan-Camden High School to be a blue-ribbon school based on their improvements in math over the past five years.
"That's one of the things that TEA looks for, not just high scores, but high scores from school districts that have challenges," said Bowman. "We have a high economic disadvantage ratio, we have a high minority percentage of enrollment."
The nomination is a turning point for the district. From alleged teacher assaults to complaints against district personnel, they've seen their fair share of troubles in the past.
"We've had a lot of community support, community-wide, even though there are times things were questioned," said Bowman. "There have been challenges and we've had personnel changes."
"In 2006, in May is when I moved into the principal's position and we were rated unacceptable as a campus," said Sherry Hughes, the district director of curriculum and programs. "Embarrassingly low scores and so we came together and rolled our sleeves up."
The school is now an exemplary campus -- a huge feat for Hughes who grew up in the district.
"I know the battles that we fought and the negativity that's come, understandably from the community," said Hughes. "There were huge question marks on us and there needed to be because we were not doing the best job for kids."
That's all changed with educators like geometry teacher Ernest Provasek.
"It's kind of like climbing a mountain, you know, you start at the bottom and you finally reach the peak," Provasek said.
Only 26 campuses are nominated out of the more than 8,000 campuses in Texas and Corrigan-Camden is only one of two high schools nominated in that group. Bowman said it's a new standard for every student that walks through the high school doors.
"In the past it's like we accepted mediocrity and now no one accepts that," said Hughes.
The nomination is based on math TAKS scores, as well as the dropout and attendance rate.
The district is currently preparing an application to send to Washington for the award since they've received their state nomination.
They expect to hear back in August.
To celebrate all of their hard work, a special ceremony was held at Corrigan-Camden high school Thursday evening.
More than 150 people from within the community showed up to give their support, including faculty, parents and students.
Speakers discussed plans for a successful future.
"Nobody is going to give up. This is not something that we're going to celebrate and then go back to everyday business. We've gotten this award and we want to keep getting, we want to keep succeeding and keep working very, very hard," said School Board President Melanie Taylor.
If they receive the national award, the school will be honored at a ceremony in Washington D.C. where they'll receive a plaque and flag signifying their status.