I was the principal at Colorado’s Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. I remained principal for fifteen more years.
Virtually every day at the school, I heard variations of How can you do this? How can you go back? How can you walk those same halls? How can you stand to be reminded every day?
Many friends and colleagues urged me to move on. I refused to seek or accept a transfer to another school or move to the Jeffco Public Schools central administration. I needed to be at Columbine. I wanted to be there. I couldn’t walk away—not from the kids, not from the high school, and not from that community. I wanted to make sure that those who were murdered that terrible day were never forgotten. Beyond that, I wanted Columbine to become a story of courage, love, heart, resilience, and recovery. I wanted to lead the way to that healing.
“ This book is a testament to the power of compassion in the face of crisis and the age-old belief that leaders are not born but made.”
—President Bill Clinton
“Frank DeAngelis offers us a rare window into a personal journey few have traveled and fewer have paved.”
—Kristina Anderson, founder, The Koshka Foundation for Safe Schools
“An incredible book written by an incredible human being.”
—Scott Bemis, retired president and publisher, Denver Business Journal
“Tempered in the crucible of unimaginable tragedy, DeAngelis’s voice emerges as optimistic and inspiring. Please read this book. We need its message now more than ever.”
—Steve Farber, author, The Radical Leap; founder and chairman, The Extreme Leadership Institute
“This book is for every leader in every profession; it is the truth about trauma, recovery, and moving forward while never forgetting.”
—J. Kevin Cameron, executive director, North American Center for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response
“They Call Me ‘Mr. De’ should be required reading for every educator, school resource officer, and parent.”
—Theresa Campbell, president, Safer Schools Together
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About the Author
Colorado native Frank DeAngelis retired from his position as principal of Columbine High School after thirty-five years of service. He began his career there as social studies teacher and filled the roles of head baseball coach, assistant football coach, dean of students, and assistant principal before becoming the principal in 1996.
After the tragic shootings on April 20, 1999, DeAngelis mourned with the Columbine community. He vowed to never forget those who were murdered, those who were injured, and all who were impacted by the tragedy. He dedicated his life and career to helping his students—his kids—recover. He committed to staying on as principal to help the students and the community heal. Columbine was his family.
In the years that followed the shootings, DeAngelis was named the Colorado High School Principal of the year and was one of three finalists for the National Principal of the Year. He has also received the Jefferson County Lifetime Achievement Award and the Gandhi, King, Ikeda Community Builders Award.
DeAngelis is often asked to speak and consult with schools and communities as they recover from acts of mass violence. He currently serves as a consultant for safety and emergency management for the Jeffco School District in Colorado and continues to deliver speeches in the United States, Canada, and Europe.