DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Danielle Petters heard the warnings early.

“I can tell you what people said when they found out I was coming here. Are you sure about this? Seriously, you’re going to Spruce?” the principal of the Pleasant Grove area school recounted, as she provided a tour of various classrooms of the campus.

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H. Grady Spruce High School sits in a working class neighborhood near St. Augustine Street.

For years, the school was surrounded by poverty, crime, drug addiction and prostitution. The school’s consistent under achievement by state standards fueled dozens of families to seek transfers to other schools.

Spruce currently enrolls 1,700 students. It now offers an early college program, along with a variety of specialized career academies that students can select. On the walls of hallways are postings of student achievement in exams, attendance, athletic and academic endeavors.

Danielle Petters (CBS11)

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There’s an enclosed glass case with photos of Petters with students holding medals and trophies for excellence in tennis to technology. All of the changes are part of the campaign to build support and pride for a school that faced state closure a decade ago.

Today, Danielle Petters is Dallas ISD’s secondary schools’ Principal of the Year. Her selection is invariably tied to the renaissance of student enrollment, teacher retention and community embrace of the school she leads. “The benefit of me being recognized with Principal of the Year is it shines light on the good things we’re doing here at Spruce.”

People are starting to feel proud, coming from Spruce and Pleasant Grove. We are highlighting what they are accomplishing,” Petters said.

School and community pride are resurfacing, because gradual growth in school enrollment and student achievement is being documented.

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Petters says the accolades belong to her 100-plus teachers. This year, 80 percent of those teachers returned to Spruce High. Just a few years ago, the teacher retention rate was just above 40 percent.