I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM & Visual Performing Arts
1411 I.M. Terrell Circle
Fort Worth 76102
Baldwin R. Brown has big plans for his new job as inaugural principal of I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and Visual & Performing Arts.
This school will be unlike any other school in the Fort Worth Independent School District. For that matter, it will be unique among schools in Texas and possibly the United States, Brown said.
“There are some excellent visual and performing arts schools out there, and we’ve visited some of the best in Houston and Minnesota to find out what works and what doesn’t,” Brown said. “But what we are here by combining visual and performing arts with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is unique and an opportunity to really put Fort Worth on the map as a leader in education.”
The chance to lead the school district’s vanguard high school just east of downtown Fort Worth, is also an outstanding opportunity for Brown, 39, who has spent his entire career working for the Fort Worth district, beginning as a substitute teacher.
Most recently, he had been principal of J. Martin Jacquet Middle School since 2015. I.M Terrell will be the second Fort Worth school he has been involved in opening. As dean of instruction, he was part of the leadership team that opened the all-male P.L. Dunbar Young Men’s Leadership Academy in 2012.
A native of Jamaica, he is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States. After earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing from the University of Maine, Orono, he moved to Fort Worth, where he began substitute teaching while earning his teaching credentials.
He has also been a teacher, head coach, testing coordinator, data analyst and assistant principal. He earned his master’s degree in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Texas at Arlington. He also earned principal certification for all grade levels.
Perched on a hillside with views of downtown Fort Worth and the Trinity River, I.M. Terrell is imagined as a beacon of innovation and creativity. The building pays homage to the original I.M. Terrell School built on the site in 1882 as Fort Worth’s first black high school during the era of segregation. It was named for Isaiah Milligan Terrell (1859–1931), its first principal.
The high school was closed in 1973, then renovated and repurposed over the years, and remains a significant part of Fort Worth’s history.
The reconfigured building encompasses the existing Terrell structure and adds a 65,000-square-foot performing arts center. It is scheduled to open in the 2018-19 school year with 200 ninth grade students and will add a grade in each of the following three years, resulting in a four-year high school of 800 students.
Brown answered some questions from the Fort Worth Business Press about school operations and his outlook for this landmark academy.
What is your vision for the academy?
To create a learning environment that will develop and nurture artistic talent, creative thinkers and innovative problem solvers who will change the global landscape for generations to come.
How will the academy impact the educational opportunities of the FWISD?
The academy will give those students who want to focus on the fine arts or STEM a unique learning environment that will truly cater to what our students are passionate about. We will also offer our students access to an accelerated curriculum along with skills-based and project-based learning opportunities. This campus will be similar to you going to college in the sense that you will be able to pick what you want to major in for the next four years and your schedule will be set up to accommodate that.
How will STEM and performing arts programs, which seem to vastly different from one another, meld together on the same campus. Will facilities be shared and how will they be used for each program?
We are being very intentional in how we set up the campus so that our school and areas of focus are not operating in silos. Our teachers will be required to do a lot of cross-curricular planning so that all content is integrating curriculum and application from other faculty members so that the students can see the connection from course to course. We are also incorporating The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture using the Cowan model on our campus to not only enhance our students’ learning but to bring connection to what they are learning. Students will also be in academic classes together as well, so that the school can be operating as a cohesive campus. The facilities will be available to all students and staff as the expectation will be that this is one campus and we can all learn from each other.
What type of unique classes will be offered?
Humanities, Latin, coding, bionics and cyber security. The thing that will make our classes unique is the instructors and industry experts we are looking to bring in to work with our students. Our goal is to bring in first-class instructors so that they can share their knowledge and real-world expertise with our students. Our instructors will have the flexibility to develop their own curriculum so that it is relevant to students’ need and up to date with what the industry is looking for in the workplace. We are also partnering with businesses that align with the vision of our campus and what we want our students to take away from their time at the academy.
How will students be selected to attend? Will any neighborhood students be given special priority?
Students will be selected through an application process. Those students that meet the criteria will go through an audition for the VPA (what is this?) and then a lottery. Our STEM students will not have an audition process. Any students within the Fort Worth ISD and outside of Fort Worth ISD will be able to apply because we are now a school of choice. We really don’t have a true feeder school so there is no true attendance zone to give special priority to in this case.
What kind of extracurricular activities will the students be able to participate in?
Our school will not offer UIL (University Interscholastic League) athletics so my goal is to work with the student body to develop extracurricular activities that will meet their needs and interest.
What partnerships do you have with area colleges/universities/hospitals and businesses for class content, internships or programs?
We have a great start to a partnership with Burns & McDonnell (engineering consultants) and we are in the process of connecting with Texas Christian Univrsity’s engineering department.
For the fine arts, we have met with the following organizations: The Cliburn, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Kimbell Art Museum, B Sharp Youth Music, Fort Worth Opera, Bass Performance Hall, Imagination Fort Worth, Texas Ballet Theater, Ballet Frontier and TCU Fine Arts. We are also in talks with Atmos Energy and Barnes & Noble at Hulen Center.
The goal is to continue building those long-term partnerships between our school and the business and art community so that our students and teachers will have the opportunity to not only learn in the classroom or on the school grounds, but to be able to go out in the community and do internships, externships and job-shadowing to get hands-on experience from industry leaders and companies.
How can the business community help?
Our goal is to build a strong partnership with the business community by creating a mutually beneficial relationship where our students will be able to get real-world experience and exposure to what businesses are looking for in employee. We want our students to go off to colleges all over the nation and come back and serve as leaders in Fort Worth and as the global landscape changers we want them to be.