We’re just Cardinal.


That’s what students used to say about Cardinal High School.


Six years ago, school spirit was low, students were opting out of the district, school leadership was experiencing conflict, Cardinal was listed as a persistent low-achieving school, state budget cuts were affecting Cardinal, and the community was discouraged.


Parents wanted what was best for their children. So many enrolled them in other schools. And with the departure of each student, the district took in less and less money.


The buildings were dull and depressing places. Teacher morale was low. Technology was antiquated. And in an area where 65 percent of the students live under the poverty level, things seemed rather bleak.


But in 2010, the School Board stepped up and made some major changes. They hired a new superintendent with a strong vision for the future. They passed a 5.3 million bond to make school improvements. And they began to turn things around at Cardinal Community School District.


Working together, the school board and superintendent started to change the school culture. They spoke with community members, got their buy in, and helped shift their perception of Cardinal. They met with businesses and formed partnerships. They planted the seed of what was possible.


In the end, everyone focused on the students, and in so doing; Cardinal began to accomplish great things. Once the positive momentum began, it just kept right on rolling.


Students began open enrolling into the Cardinal district — 160 at last count — and it became clear that Cardinal was a great place to be.


Among many other positive changes, leaders instituted a strict no bullying policy, gave every student a laptop, installed Wi-Fi on school buses, started a robotics club, encouraged teachers to come in on Saturdays to provide extra help, brought in a therapy dog, and installed new technology to help both students and teachers.


However, what is most noticeable are the physical changes. Administrators believed that changing the environment was one of the quickest ways to change student achievement and morale.


Cardinal went through an extreme physical makeover. Now when former students and alumni return for visits, they don’t recognize their former school. Visitors often say it feels like a Fortune 500 company or a university.


In a partnership with SportsGraphics, leaders at Cardinal transformed the school and branded it with positive messages. Once grey hallways are now adorned with bright school graphics. Plain walls feature inspirational sayings. And the former dull and drab gym is decked out with colorful wall graphics, bleacher pads, and protective wall pads for the athletes.


SportsGraphics was pleased to work with administrators to offer custom designs and products. We were also happy to donate many of our materials to help change the look and feel of Cardinal Community School District.


Today, the future looks bright for this once under-performing school district. Their Cardinal Promise 2020 is a strategic plan for improvement. As you’ll learn in the We Are Cardinal video, Cardinal hopes to become one of the best districts in the entire United States.


Gone are the days of we’re just Cardinal. Today, the students chant — loud and proud — we ARE Cardinal.