It’s tough to work hard and get handed a big red F for your efforts. It would be easy to make excuses and slam the grading system. Or, that F can be inspirational and motivate action to fix the problem.

We congratulate the teachers and administrators at Wagener-Salley High for taking the second approach.

The school received a failing grade on a new assessment from the State Department of Education. Rather than quietly dealing with the problem, Principal Pat Keating stepped up on the first day of school Tuesday and addressed the issue head-on.

He may not agree with the grade, but he promised students that he and the faculty are working even harder to help them succeed.

Keating began by emphasizing personal responsibility to the students, they must take a major role in preparation for their own futures, he said.

“The key is not making the same mistakes over and over,” Keating said. “You have to understand you must do more in high school. The world changes right now. Everything you do from now on counts. Disciplinary behavior and your grades will follow you forever.”

That’s good. All the expensive programs, teacher’s diligence and first-rate resources won’t mean anything if a student chooses not to study, pay attention in class or be disruptive.

Wagener-Salley has its challenges. Many of the students are academically at-risk and many of the resources available in an urban area aren’t available in a rural community. The special state funding now available to the school should help.

But it’s how the school reacts that will set its future.

“Never have I been so personally motivated to prove such an evaluation to be incorrect and the students’ passion and faith in us to be so warranted,” English teacher Samuel Evans wrote in a letter to Keating and the faculty after learning of the failing grade.

“Let us turn what others would deem adversity and failure into another opportunity for success.”

The positive attitude and motivation will be contagious and spill over to what the students do.

No one likes failure, and being labeled a failure is even worse. It appears the faculty and staff at Wagener-Salley don’t plan on getting that label again.