Marathon --The state legislature has been making news around Texas after proposing to cut more than $10 billion for public schools this February. The plan has forced smaller school districts to scramble as they look for ways to survive. One of those districts, Marathon I.S.D., has been in trouble for years.
Marathon I.S.D. is the little school that could. It's had its fair share of troubles, long before the state legislature presented initial budgets that would cut $10 billion in financing to public schools this February, this tiny district already had a state ordered conservator monitoring its finances. But the community banded together, got the school back into shape and now, they no longer need a conservator.
Maroon and white ribbons sway in the wind and streets fill with the sound of honking horns and screaming kids, as students cheer for their team the Lady Mustangs while they send them off to their first playoff game since 2002. Parents wave proudly from the cars, with a renewed sense of hope.
"It meant a whole lot more to the parents in those cars," said Marathon I.S.D. Superintendent Neal Harrison. "They have been watching kids ever since they were this high."
Harrison came to Marathon I.S.D. over a year ago, inheriting big problems.
"Very difficult and strenuous," said Harrison. "But there was a job to do."
The job -- the school was drowning in debt. Fear of consolidation with Alpine -- which is 30 miles away from Marathon -- was a palpable threat.
"You worry about it, every night and everyday, said Harrison. "Are we going to make it through?"
Things only got worse, as the Texas Education Agency appointed the school with a conservator.
"[The conservator] has the authority to really to do anything and everything," said Harrison."He can change your decisions."
But then, a light shone on the town.
"I just felt like I had to get the story out," said Marci Roberts, Owner of French Co. Grocer.
Roberts -- who owns the town grocery store -- started a newsletter, Marathon News. She wrote the real story of Marathon -- a tiny district of 56 students that she feels is overlooked.
"You're not on the radar," said Roberts.
The letter started gathering buzz around town, and found its way into the hands of people like Claudia Huntington and her husband. They own land in Marathon and wanted to help.
"They established a foundation, the Marathon Foundation," said Harrison. "They have given us eight grants funded for them, first one gives a $4,000 scholarship to every student that attends marathon for four years of high school."
Marathon's only senior, Michelle Campbell, says the scholarship money is one of the reasons she chose to stay at Marathon.
"I'll get lots of scholarships and grants, and all that," said Campbell.
Besides studying, Camobell played football for Marathon I.S.D. She was right end on a six-man football team for the school.
"They ran out of boys, because its such a small school," said Campbell. "They only had 5. They begged me for 2 weeks to play and I gave in."
Campbell played until she got hurt.
"I got hit and separated my diaphragm from rib cage," said Campbell. " I would play it again if we had a team."
Not only students, but also teachers like Andrea Johnson -- cheering alongside these kids -- have fond memories. Johnson has not only taught in these classrooms, but she once also sat in these chairs.
"I have a history with all the students that i have," said Johnson. "I know there parents and grandparents."
Because of people like Johnson, the school is back on its feet. The conservatorship has been lifted, and they have money in the bank, making the community hopeful that there will be more trophies on these walls and more kids in these halls.
"That just kills the soul out of the town, when kids are no longer here," said Harrison.
Harrison told me the school is doing so well that they have over $250,000 in emergenecy funds for the school, which is more than the state requirement. He says he can't thank the Marathon Foundation and the community enough. In the next report, I'll take you directly to the long time residents in the community who fought to keep the school open. And I'll tell you why they believe it's the lifeblood of their tiny Texas town.