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May 2, 2001, San Diego Union-Tribune, Two principals recognized for work during school shootings, by Jill Spielvogel,

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May 2, 2001, San Diego Union-Tribune, Two principals recognized for work during school shootings, by Jill Spielvogel, Staff Writer, 

The San Diego State College of Education honored the principals of Santana and Granite Hills high schools yesterday for their leadership skills and courage during the recent school shootings.

Karen Degischer, principal of Santana High in Santee, and Georgette Torres, principal of Granite Hills in El Cajon, received the Kurt Friedrich Secondary Administrator Award.

Degischer said challenges have been a great part of her life and career but that the shooting was the challenge she never expected.

In March, 15-year-old Santana freshman Charles "Andy" Williams allegedly opened fire on campus. Two students were killed, and 13 other people were wounded. Jason Hoffman, 18, is accused of shooting and wounding two teachers and three students at Granite Hills High School later that month.

"We continue to learn from it," Degischer said when she received the award. "You can probably see the pain in my face. We're taking it one step at a time and rebuilding our school."

She said she is starting to see signs of the students' resilience in their excitement about nominations for campus officers and for events such as prom and graduation.

Degischer and Torres led by example during the tragedies, said Lionel Meno, dean of the SDSU College of Education. Even though they were feeling personal pain, they continued to function extremely well, he said.

The two principals were the clear choice of the committee that determines who should win the award, Meno said.

The award is named for former SDSU education professor Kurt Friedrich and was established by his wife after his death in 1996. It recognizes educators who go above and beyond the call of duty, many times at risk to themselves, Meno said.

Torres said she was just doing her job. When you take a job as a principal, you don't know what you're going to be faced with, Torres said, and there are many challenges every day. The shooting has been the toughest, she said.

Torres is the second Granite Hills principal to receive the award. In 1998, Bob Avant won for his courage and integrity during a time of political turmoil in the district.

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