JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. - Columbine High School principal Frank DeAngelis plans to retire at the end of the school year, according to Jeffco Schools.
"The Columbine School Community is truly special and I have been blessed to have spent the past 34 years at CHS," DeAngelis said in a letter to parents announcing his retirement. "It has been my privilege to lead this wonderful school through the best and worst of times. The support of our families and the Columbine community has meant the world to me; I have been profoundly honored and humbled to be a part of the Columbine family."
The social studies teacher turned administrator has been principal of Columbine High School since 1996. He was honored in April as Colorado High School Principal of the Year by the Colorado Association of School Executives.
He is known for his courage, compassion and strong leadership, especially in the wake of the tragic Columbine school shooting, CASE officials said in a news release.
"DeAngelis has continued to inspire his colleagues and fellow educators with his unwavering belief that every student matters," said Jeffco superintendent Cindy Stevenson.
DeAngelis stayed at Columbine after the shooting because he promised the then-ninth grade class that he would not leave until they graduated. In 2012, he graduated students who were in kindergarten at the time of the shooting.
"People said, 'I'm amazed you're still there, that you have the strength,' and I said, 'This place provides strength for me,'" DeAngelis told 7NEWS.
Mr. D, as he is known by students, remembers the shooting vividly.
DeAngelis said he was in his office when the shootings began.
"I came right by this trophy case and all of a sudden I'm thinking, 'I'm going to die,'" he explained.
With shots being fired, he saw one of the gunmen and heard glass breaking all around him.
"Did you even know where you were going?" 7NEWS asked.
"No," he said, "Something just kicked in."
He said he remembers seeing a group of girls trapped in the cross fire. He ran with them toward a room -- that was locked.
"I have 35 keys, and this is the thing that was so amazing, the one key that opened every door is the key I pulled out," DeAngelies said.
DeAngelis is pretty open about the personal toll the shootings had on his life. His marriage of 17 years fell apart, and doctors warned him of raised blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
DeAngelis said he is now healthier and remains very positive.
He said he believes schools everywhere are safer. And while there have been other school shootings, he points to the many cases where violence hasn't happened because more people are aware.
"(Cases) where students are reporting things about their friends or something that may not have been right," DeAngelis said.
DeAngelis, says while the name "Columbine" will forever be associated with the tragic shootings, he hopes people will also think of the 13 victims -- and the lessons they've left behind.
"Hopefully that'll be inspiration for others to know it doesn't matter how much tragedy enters your life, there's hope for a brighter future," he said.
--- Read DeAngelis' retirement letter --
Aug. 13, 2013
This is a special year at Columbine High School as we celebrate the 40 Year Anniversary. The Columbine School Community is truly special and I have been blessed to have spent the past 34 years at CHS. I want to take this opportunity to inform you that I have decided to retire after this school year. It has been my privilege to lead this wonderful school through the best and worst of times. The support of our families and the Columbine community has meant the world to me; I have been profoundly honored and humbled to be a part of the Columbine family. I can never thank you enough for the continued support that you have given me over the past four decades as a teacher, coach, assistant principal and the past 18 years as principal.
It has given me great pleasure to see many of my former students’ children attending and graduating from Columbine High School. I felt it might be time to retire before a student informs me that I taught their grandparents. Thank you for 18 memorable years as principal of this extraordinary school. I know that I will shed a lot of tears, tears of joy and tears of sadness; and I know that the memories of my time at Columbine will last for a lifetime. I am eternally grateful. Wherever my next journey in life takes me, my heart will always be with Columbine.
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