BTW centennial memories
Booker T. Washington High School celebrates 100 years of greatness this fall.
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BTW became the first Tulsa public high school to offer Advanced Placement courses and in 1983 began offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
According to the IB mission statement, the goal of the program is to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. The two-year program is designed to encourage students to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, also can be right.
Principal Furch oversaw the initial years of the IB program, including the first students in the program to graduate.
“It was my first year as principal here,” he recalls. “Both the AP teachers and the IB teachers had differences of opinion as to their respective programs. I had to struggle to bring those two groups together. But since that time, there’s been no problem. ...
“The AP and IB programs really make Booker T. what it is today,” Furch adds.
This period saw several changes in BTW administration. Karen Rogers became principal in 1994, followed by Thurman Stephens in 1997.
Dale Mingo was named principal in spring 1999, then Alice Black in 2000, with Debi Boyles assuming the role in 2002.
Rogers returned to the principal position in 2007, followed by Michael Johnson in 2008. James Furch returned to the helm in 2009.
Acknowledging the high turnover, Furch explains that as schools get bigger, it is hard to hold a principal for more than three years or so at a time.
“Times are changing, and we’re seeing shorter principal tenures everywhere, not just at Booker T.,” he says.
BTW reached a landmark in 2003 with the completion of a 213,000-square-foot building, constructed at a cost of approximately $25 million.
The new facility was funded by the 1996 bond issue during John Thompson’s tenure as superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools. The school’s state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories feature the latest technology to provide students optimal learning opportunities.
In February 2012, a new multisport on-campus facility made its debut as the Hornets defeated Central High School. The Nathan E. Harris Field House, named for the former BTW basketball coach, is an $11.5 million, 54,000-square-foot facility that seats about 1,500 and includes offices for all of the school’s coaches. A 2010 bond issue funded the field house.
Assistant Principal Michael Mims has likely experienced more phases of BTW than any other person in the community.
A BTW 1964 graduate, Mims was named to All-Conference and All-Regional basketball teams as a Hornet and also participated in BTW track.
Both of Mims’ parents are BTW grads (father Reuben Mims, Class of 1937, and mother Geneva Ousley Mims, Class of 1938) as well as his son, Anthony, Class of 2001.
Mims has spent most of his career in education with TPS as a teacher, coach, dean and administrator.
He served as the Hornets’ head basketball coach from 1972-82, accumulating an enviable record of 170-84 and winning three state titles.
He then served 13 years as an assistant basketball coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Oklahoma. He returned to various roles within TPS and in 2009 was named BTW assistant principal.
His lifelong experience with the school and the BTW community affords him a unique perspective on BTW’s legacy.
“We want to make sure that our students fully understand and appreciate the history and the achievements of all those from Booker T. who preceded them,” Mims explains.
To sum up the reason for its success, BTW makes this pledge to each of its 1,315 students: “We cannot guarantee a successful student.
However, we can guarantee that we offer the opportunity for success. If a student is willing to make a choice and take the challenge, we can provide the opportunity.”