Stephanie Love was tasked with going before the State Board of Education earlier this month and convincing it that her education model can change the lives of children in the 76104 zip code. She didn’t win every board member over, but she won enough. 

Now, the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts can proceed in its plans to make a home in Fort Worth. The board approved it 7-6 at its June 17 meeting. It was the only charter school approved to come out of this round of applications.

“I’m feeling incredibly grateful for our local team because we had a lot of local support in the community,” Love, the proposed superintendent, said. “The parents can trust us with their kids.”

The campus will start with 6th and 7th grades and add another each year up to 12th grade. Love previously told the Report the campus would serve Fort Worth City Council District 8. It does not have a site yet, but council member Chris Nettles told the Report he and his staff are having meetings about the best place for the school.

The school would use trauma-informed, creative curriculum to help students both academically and psychologically. The goal is for students to not only achieve high test scores, but to handle their emotions in a healthy way.

One example of the trauma-informed model Love previously said is finding ways to deal with test anxiety. If students are anxious about a test, learning how to manage those emotions can help them perform better, she said.

She equated the model to adults getting therapy, learning how to manage emotions and find ways to cope, such as journaling or listening to music. Those skills often are not taught to children. The school would work to teach students those coping mechanisms.

Support among the state board representatives who oversee Fort Worth and Tarrant County was split. District 11 Rep. Pat Hardy voted yes, whild District 13 Rep. Aicha Davis voted against it.

Part of what swayed Hardy was the way Love answered questions from the board, she said. Love was able to articulate with her own experience why she wanted a performing arts school without auditions in the neighborhood she grew up in.

Other performing arts schools require auditions, and Hardy said it’s difficult for low socioeconomic students to access lessons and have the resources to prepare for those types of auditions.

She supports charters that are compelling and going in neighborhoods that need them.

“We were able to see a need and that she had the fortitude to keep going and get this done,” Hardy said. “And I guess, for me, it was a lot of her feeling that she was looking out for the kids that she was at one time.”

Davis voted against the application because of safety concerns, she said. The applicant did not demonstrate it would have the resources required for a true performing arts facility, she said.

“I love a lot of the ideas in the application,” Davis said. “But when it comes to safety and the safety of our students — you have to have safe flooring and you have to have safe lighting, especially when you talk about performing arts. We asked the applicant if she had that available, and it was not available at this time. So for me it was a safety issue.”

If the application had a safe facility and the equipment students need for a performing arts campus, Davis said she “absolutely” would have voted yes.

This will be the second charter school in two years to come to Fort Worth. Last year, the state approved Rocketship Public Schools to start a school in the Stop Six neighborhood.

“Fort Worth is becoming a new area where you are seeing a lot of different schools, not necessarily because the demand is there, but there’s other things going on in Fort Worth that are attracting charter school applicants,” Davis said.

Still, the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts was the only applicant approved in the state this year. Davis said the state board is thoroughly vetting applicants.

Love thinks having so much local support helped, but she also completed a fellowship for educators called BES, which stands for Build, Excel, Sustain. The guidance of that fellowship helped her prepare a clean application and have the tools necessary for the board meeting.

The next step for the school is to get a contract from the state. Once the school has a contract it can sign it and move forward, she said. She anticipates the school will open for the 2023-24 school year.

“This is where the real work starts,” she said. “Articulating your school model not just on paper, and not just in the interviews, but this is the actualizing of a school model and trying to make sure you’re doing it to the best of your abilities for the community.”

Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at kristen.barton@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. 

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Avatar photo

Kristen Barton

Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. She has previous experience in education reporting for her hometown paper, the Longview News-Journal and her college paper, The Daily...