HISTORY OF BOOKER T WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL 
FOR THE
PERFORMING AND VISUAL ARTS
 
The School: 1976-2008

Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts boasts the honor of being the first institution in the Dallas Arts District and the only school. There are no cheerleaders at BTWHSPVA. There is no football team, no basketball team, and no pep rally on Friday. The building was built in 1922 as the first African American high school in Dallas. In 1955 additional space was added for vocational training when it became a technical high school.

The Dallas magnet system evolved from a court order on desegregation in 1976. Dallas Public Schools met specific needs to educate gifted artists with both the potential and aspiration for careers in the arts by establishing BTWHSPVA as a school solely dedicated to this mission. Gallery space and studios were added as a new wing. Portables were moved in to accommodate increasing graduation requirements required by TEA.

Since its inception, BTWHSPVA has received national acclaim as a prototype for subsequent magnet schools throughout the United States and Canada through its membership in the "Network for Performing and Visual Arts Schools". In 1994, BTWHSPVA was named a Mentor School by the Texas Education Agency and in 1995 was named a Texas Blue Ribbon School by the United States Department of Education.

The school's dual emphasis on arts and academics typically produces a stellar list of famous graduates including these Grammy winnders: R&B vocalist Erykah Badu; jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove; and, members of the gospel group "God's Property". Other noted graduates are dancer Jay Franke; cellist John Koen; visual artists Chris Schumann and Chris Arnold; drummer Aaron Comess; and musicians Edie Brickell of the "New Bohemians", as well as Grammy Award winner, Norah Jones.

Located in the Dallas Arts District near the heart of the city, the magnet school attracts students from throughout the metropolitan area. The student body includes approximately 700 students in grades 9 through 12 who attend the school fulltime enrolling in a full range of arts and academic classes.

In January 2006 the school was temporarily located at Nolan Estes Plaza in south Dallas while the new building was under construction on the original Arts District site. Students moved back to the Arts District location in April, 2008.

BTWHSPVA was created to provide a program of excellence in the arts which meets the needs of the students and the community. BTWHSPVA is not a school for everyone, but it is the school of choice for students with special talents and the desire and commitment to develop their potential. Intensive training in the performing or visual arts allows students to explore the demands of an artistic career. A rigorous academic program offers all courses required for the state's three graduation plans, including a host of honors courses and Advanced Placement courses. Students are selected through audition, interview, portfolio, or other demonstration of artistic aptitude. On average, 150 graduating seniors boast $1.5 - $8.5 million dollars in college scholarships in both arts and academic majors.

The instructional staff consists of 64 full time teachers and approximately 24 part time teachers and consultants. Approximately 88% of the faculty have more than ten years of teaching experience while over 83% have advanced degrees. Faculty distinctions include 4 Fulbright Scholars, a Christa McAuliffe Fellow, and two National Tandy Technology Scholars, a Disney American Teacher Award, and 6 SURDNA Fellows. The school is accredited by the Texas Education Agency and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Additionally, a variety of civic and business partnerships help support the program, including the Betty Marcus Endowment fund and the Arts Magnet Advisory Board composed of business, community and arts leadners committed to the educational success of the school. The Alumni Association and the Parent/Teacher/Student Association are all actively involved.

Getting the Word Out
With volunteer services from the graphics department at J.C. Penney's in Dallas,a video and brochure advertising the Arts Magnet High School was produced in 1993. This was followed by a School Handbook distributed to parents and students which contains valuable course information about the four clusters as well as an Internet Home Page which posts calendar events.The position of Public Relations Specialist was added to the faculty in 1995. A revised information brochure was produced by students enrolled in computer graphics classes in 1999.

Today a website, cluster brochures and handbooks, a school brochure, as well as a promotional DVD advertise BTWHSPVA on a national level.

The Washington-Lincoln Alumni Association
WLAA has over 300 members in ten chapters throughout the nation. These members are former students from classes since 1939 who have met for twenty annual conventions and are committed to community service projects. In 1989 this group was instrumental in having Booker T. Washington High School declared a Historical Landmark.

The Arts Magnet Alumni Association
The Arts Magnet Alumni Association was founded by graduates Luis Valdespino 88, Sharon Modabberi '79, and Otis Gray '88 in January of 1995, in honor of the twentieth-year anniversary. The organization has grown quickly and already has been successful in creating a scholarship fund for promising students.

This fund was created from an alumni art show and concert held in August 1996 when more than 60 alumni from the past twenty years returned to the school to donate works of art and produce or perform in the show. Each year, four graduating seniors are awarded a scholarship from this fund for college studies. On May 4, 1997 the Advisory Board, along with business and community leaders, hosted Sundayfest, a fund raiser luncheon and concert at the Morton Meyerson Symphony Hall. On May 23-25, 1997 the Alumni Association hosted a reunion for all alumni from the classes of 1977-1997. These events included an art show, a family picnic, and a concert.

In February of 2000, three Arts magnet Alumni were granted the honor of placing their handprints along Dallas' Walk of Fame at the Lakewood Theater. Grammy winner R&B vocalist Erykah Badu, Grammy winner jazz trumpter Roy Hargrove and Visual Artist Chris Arnolds' handprints will remain on Dallas' Walk of Fame forever. This event was sponsored by AT&T and Showtime.

The Alumni Association can be reached through their Web site: www.artsalumni.org.

BTWHSPVA has specific purposes and goals:

  • To attract artistically gifted students from the Dallas community at large.

  • To prepare students for college/ university/ professional schools or for professional career entry.

  • To recruit and retain a faculty of academic and arts professionals which reflect a multicultural society.

  • To educate the whole child by fostering the development of perception, conceptualization, sensitivity, and creativity.

  • To provide a general education with an emphasis on societal, civic, and ethical responsibilities.

  • To coordinate the content of academic classes with specialized arts curricula.

  • To provide for continuity and upgrading of in-depth course offerings in each art area.

  • To provide an educational atmosphere which is conductive to the development and nurturing of creative artistic talent.

  • To develop the students' abilities so that they can express their ideas clearly and specifically within their chosen art form.

  • To maintain a close working relationship with the Dallas Arts District and the local arts community.

BTWHSPVA was created to provide a program of excellence in the arts. The curriculum reflects a commitment to exemplary standards in both the arts and the academics. Since its inception, BTWHSPVA has received national acclaim as an outstanding arts high school and has served as a prototype for subsequent developing "magnet" schools.

BTWHSPVA shares with only one other school the distinction of having produced more Presidential Scholars in the Arts than any other school in the Southwestern U.S. The Presidential Scholar Award is the nation's highest award for excellence in the arts and academics. Students have been distinguished by receiving a variety of awards and honors including thirteen Presidential Scholarships. BTW ranks within the top 5% of all schools in the country to attain this honor.

Other student accomplishments include 120 Deebee Awards from Downbeat magazine - the most awards by any high school or college on an international level.

BTWHSPVA annually outscores local, state and national scores on standardized tests. The National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts and other arts organizations recognize our students for outstanding achievement. Colleges, universities, and conservatories offer scholarships in excess of 2.5 million dollars annually. Over 99% of the graduating seniors attend college, while a select few from each discipline embark on a professional career immediately following high school graduation.

BTWHSPVA has been rated EXEMPLARY by the Texas Education Agency in both the 2001 and 2002 school years for scores on the statewide TAAS tests. Since 2003, BTWHSPVA has annually been rated a Recognized School by the Texas Education Agency.

 
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