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H. Grady Spruce High School is rising from the ashes

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By Shawn P. Williams – Dallas South News Editor

H. Grady Spruce High School is on the comeback trail, and I’m making an early prediction that they’ll make it back better than ever.

Car Echo Wash

I was drawn to Spruce High this passed Saturday to check out their “Eco-Friendly”Car Wash.  I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but it sounded pretty cool and I had never been to the Pleasant Grove campus before so I headed out that way bright and early.  The car wash would benefit the cheerleaders who are in need of new uniforms and the Auto Collision Program.


There was lots of activity on campus for a Saturday morning.  Not only was the car wash going on, but Saturday School was also in session, and the girls basketball team was preparing for an afternoon game with North Dallas High.  But my first stop was at the Auto Collision Shop where the car wash was being held.

Eco-Friendly Car Wash

Eco-Friendly Car Wash

There I met Coach Greg Cano, who is the Auto Collision teacher.  One of my first questions for Coach Cano was what made their car wash so eco-friendly.  “Any oil or grease that comes off the car is separated after it goes into the drain,” said coach Cano.  The oil/grease is stored and a truck comes out once a year to dispose of the waste properly.  Also, the sprayer that is used to wash the cars makes sure that they only use a gallon and a half of water for each wash.

Coach Greg Cano

Coach Greg Cano

The set up is one of the few in the city that is so environmentally advanced.  Coach Cano credits Service King and Chuck Fairbanks Auto for their support of the Auto Collision program.  “With what we’ve been through, you need good partners.”

What Spruce has been through is reconstitution.  The State of Texas and DISD stopped just short of shutting Spruce down a couple of years ago due to abysmal test scores and horrid attendance.  According to Spruce High School’s 2008-2009 scorecard, only 32% of Spruce students met minimum standards on the Mathematics portion of the TAKS Test three years ago.  Only 4% had math scores that met college ready standards.  The trend continued and Spruce was basically dismantled with most of its students going to other schools within DISD.

Spruce High 2008-2009 Scorecard

Enter Dr. Lucy Davila Hakemack who is now in her second year as principal at H. Grady Spruce.  When Dr. Hakemack arrived last year the entire staff was let go.  She eventually brought back 25% of the previous teachers, but 75% percent of the staff is brand new and charged with instilling a new culture at Spruce.


While on a tour of the campus with English II Teacher/Cheerleading Sponsor/Yearbook Sponsor Lori Welch, we happened into Dr. Hakemack’s office.  “How are these children doing?” Hakemack asked of the Saturday school students.  Though the question was rhetorical, it almost seemed as if Dr. Hakemack wanted a report from each of the 15 or so teachers who volunteer their time to help the students who are struggling in various areas of study.  Ms. Welch said that there could be as many as 150 students who attend Saturday school on a given weekend.

Spruce High Cheerleaders

Spruce High Cheerleaders

Because of the school’s reconstitution, Spruce is currently made up of only freshman and sophomores.  Each year a grade is added and the next graduating class is scheduled for 2012.

After visiting the campus of Spruce, interacting with students, and feeling the enthusiasm that dripped from every member of the staff -including the grounds supervisor- it’s not hard to root for the troubled school that’s still ranked as unacceptable (though Math scores rose to 66% minimum and 21% college ready in Hakemack’s 1st year).   I went looking for a car wash, but what I found was what I often find in Southern Dallas: a diamond in the rough that needs a little extra care to bring out the shine which lies beneath the surface.  You can count on more at DSN from Spruce in the future.

Also read Sharon Grigsby’s Be Someone at H. Grady Spruce for the Dallas Morning News.


Categories: DISD, Education, Featured
  • Phelps

    I hope that it has been turned around. My brother was incarcerated in Spruce (that’s the only truthful way to describe it) and from that, I can tell you that at least half of the passing 32% cheated their way there (with the help of the teachers, of course.) The school needed to be gutted and rebuilt, which is what they did. They’ve tried everything short of making it a charter school (oh, the horror! Private sector! Oh no!) and I have the highest hopes for it.

  • Jan Gore

    Great News ! I enjoy reading each of your articles. They are informative and gives a perspective that enlightens and educates.
    Keep up the great work. Thanks for all you do.
    Peace and Blessings,
    Jan Gore

  • Spruce-like reconstitution of Kimball, Pinkston, Roosevelt and Seagoville should be considered | Dallas South News

    [...] we’ve reported here, Spruce High is making strides under the direction of Dr. Lucy Davila Hakemack.  Test scores are up, and even more importantly [...]

  • KJ

    I’m glad to see that the principal, teachers, and staff are going the extra mile to help the students in our community. Spruce is my alma mater and I was saddened to learn that the school was on the verge of closing because of poor performance. Hopefully, there will also be good news coming from Samuel which is located in the same area. When our children succeed in school, it helps them become better citizens which in turn helps our communities.

  • Rfannin

    This year the school did so much better as a teacher at Spruce I am so proud of the hardwork of the students and staff. Way to go Spruce Timberwolves.

  • Chriscarroll2348

    school looks great

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