x
Breaking News
More () »

Denver's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Denver, Colorado | 9NEWS.com

Principal James bids farewell to Jefferson Jr/Sr High School

After eight years trying to change a struggling school, Michael James leaves for a new challenge.

EDGEWATER, Colo. — After spending eight years at Jefferson Jr./Sr. High School in Edgewater, Principal Michael James leaves after trying to transform a long-time struggling school.

"I will leave knowing that there were great things that have been accomplished," James said.

During the 2018-19 school year, 9NEWS followed Principal James and four seniors from the first day of school through graduation for a documentary and a series of stories called The Jefferson Project.

Jefferson Jr./Sr. High School is a place where 90% of the students come from low-income families. James said this is a school where kids have to deal with life before school.

"The best stories around these halls are kids that didn't start off in a great spot at all," James said.

Right now, the school is undergoing a $14 million construction makeover thanks to voters passing a bond issue. These are physical changes James said he pushed for over the years. But, what he is really proud of are the changes he made on the inside.

"I'd like to say that over the eight years, we've made an incredible school culture here." James said.

RELATED: Why we spent more than a year telling the stories of students at this Colorado high school

He said his biggest triumph is graduation rate.

"It was 67% eight years ago and with the Class of 2020, it was 89%," James said.

But, he said change comes at a cost. He admits that after eight years, he grew tired.

"I think when you're at a school like Jefferson, there are so many unknowns," James said. "There's not a clear path of this is what you do in order to succeed. It's about trying so many different things until you catch on to some things that really work."

While the last day is festive, it's also a concern. James said though he is leaving, the work is not done. Test scores still struggle.

"My greatest deficit moving forward will be if Jefferson doesn't succeed," James said. "It's very sad and very difficult cause you do put yourself into it."

He leaves to become principal at Loveland High School where he first started out as a teacher 24 years ago.

"A full circle -- heading home," James said.

James said he learned a lot during his time at Jefferson while trying to fix a broken school. He learned that change starts by making kids believe in themselves no matter their challenges at home.

"As I get to say goodbye to staff and students, they're going to remember how I made them feel," James said.

RELATED: 'Jefferson Project' student passes away

> Top stories from 9NEWS curated daily just for you! Sign up for the 9NEWSLETTER right now to get can’t-miss stories, Next and Broncos content, weather and more delivered right to your inbox. 

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Education stories from 9NEWS 

MORE WAYS TO GET 9NEWS 

Subscribe to our daily 9NEWSLETTER for top stories from 9NEWS curated daily just for you. Get content and information right now for can’t-miss stories, Next and Broncos content, weather and more delivered right to your inbox.   

DOWNLOAD THE 9NEWS APP
iTunes: http://on9news.tv/itunes
Google Play: http://on9news.tv/1lWnC5n  

HOW TO ADD THE 9NEWS APP TO YOUR STREAMING DEVICE 

ROKU: add the channel from the ROKU store or by searching for KUSA. 

For both Apple TV and Fire TV, search for "9news" to find the free app to add to your account. Another option for Fire TV is to have the app delivered directly to your Fire TV through Amazon.