Middlebrooks started school there at the same time. He lived in the Riverside neighborhood and feared going to Carter-Riverside High School, where the reputation for gang activity was worse. Trimble Tech became a school of choice in 1995, accepting applications from students citywide. Middlebrooks was accepted at the school and became sophomore class president with little effort.

A vintage photo shows Trimble Tech students demonstrating circuit board techniques. Courtesy FWISD Archives Center
A vintage photo shows Trimble Tech students demonstrating circuit board techniques. Courtesy FWISD Archives Center

“There was a lack of interest in anything other than that street life,” he said. “We didn’t have people beating down the doors to be in student council.”

Many students lived in distant neighborhoods and attended solely for vocational training. When school let out each afternoon, they were gone.

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Middlebrooks “majored” in business law (Trimble Tech students pick a major for their field of study, similar to college students). But law didn’t grab the Fort Worth kid, and he found his calling in Penland’s newly created theater department. He wanted to be an actor, and he received well-rounded training in the school’s media technology classes, where he learned to shoot and edit videos and film sporting events.

Those sporting events were threatened in 1995, when the school board floated the idea of cutting the athletic department. If athletics were killed, extracurricular activities such as band and cheerleading would follow. There was even a discussion about returning students to the high schools closest to their homes and busing them to Trimble Tech only part-time for certain vocational courses.

Students heard about the “plan” (it had been a discussion only, never a formal plan) and revolted.

“When you take away sports, you are taking the entire high school spirit,” Middlebrooks said.

School pride blossomed again as students prepared for a three-mile march. About 1,000 Trimble Tech kids vowed to leave school shortly after classes started on a Monday morning, cross underneath the freeway, traipse across the long Trinity River bridge on West Lancaster Avenue, and then head up University Drive to school district headquarters.

Graduation ceremonies were just around the corner. Trimble Tech officials threatened to ban seniors from walking across the stage if they participated in the march. That cut the number of marchers by half. Middlebrooks, who had intuitively grabbed a bullhorn from the band hall, found himself at the head of the pack, leading hundreds of his peers across the bridge. Sympathetic teachers just happened to leave boxes of pom-poms in the hallways. The youthful marchers waved the school colors while chanting “Save our sports!”

Police stopped the march near the corner of Lancaster and University and corralled the kids onto Farrington Field while TV news crews captured the scene. The students agreed to return to school with the promise that no cuts would be made to sports without a public hearing.

“What got everybody upset is, there was no discussion,” Middlebrooks said. “If we wouldn’t have fought for it, I don’t know if Trimble Tech would still be open, at least not as it is today.”

Any discussion about killing sports faded away, and district leaders — and even some students — looked at the old school with fresh eyes.

“It showed the people that Trimble Tech actually cared about what happened at their school,” he said. “After that, anything going on with the school, we would have discussion and meetings. It became a different way of dealing with the changes that needed to be made.”

Community activist Eddie Griffin had two children attending the school in the 1990s, and he helped to usher in changes as PTA president in 1995. First, he and others noted the need to update the school’s campus and antiquated vocational equipment. They developed an improvement plan and presented it to then-Supt. Thomas Tocco.

“I saw a disparity in resources between the urban minority schools and what the other schools were receiving,” Griffin said. “Our kids were not getting as good an education.”

Tatum, speaking to several hundred Fort Worth coaches: “Coaching has the ability to create hope in the lives of others who don’t have hope.” Jeff Prince
Tatum, speaking to several hundred Fort Worth coaches: “Coaching has the ability to create hope in the lives of others who don’t have hope.” Jeff Prince

Tocco took an interest in Trimble Tech and sent a group of educators and parents to Orlando, Fla., to observe a vocational school that was upgrading its computer equipment. That prompted similar ideas for Trimble Tech. Meanwhile, new principal Sue Guthrie was making her own mark.

“Sue was the key to the turnaround,” Griffin said. “You judge a school by the restrooms — if you can get the little things right, you can get the big things right. When she went to work, that was her first priority — put doors back on the stalls, engage the students about not stopping up the toilets. She got that fixed and was able to reform the behavior of the school.”

Since students had to apply for enrollment, they took more pride in being there. Together, the students, teachers, and Guthrie collectively changed the school’s culture.

“Our student body just seemed energized,” Penland recalled.

So was the staff.

“We all wanted to stay late and work harder,” she said.

Something similar happened this year after NBC’s Smash decided to sponsor Trimble Tech for a year and help it establish a self-sustaining musical theater group.

“Their mission was to go into under-served high schools and support fine-art programs,” Penland said. “They knew we were trying to get a musical program started.”

The Smash sponsorship included money for costumes, props, and sets, but more than anything it was an ego boost for the students and staff. “We were so excited that we were jumping up and down,” recalled Lessly Hernandez, a junior.

“It got more people here involved [in theater],” said Tempie Love, a senior who attended workshops sponsored by Smash. “If it wasn’t for Smash a lot of people wouldn’t have joined us.”



  1. What a story. Thank you, Jeff. My dad loved Tech and is doubtlessly very pleased at the work Kyev is doing there. Thanks for finding the good that should come.

  2. My dear old Alma Mater! So good to see you in the limelight these days. It was a long journey from the bottom to the top; Trimble Tech, but there you are!! Excellent article Jeff. Thanks for tooting the horn for the school-that-could!. Its funny to know that students are clamoring to get in and how much in demand this type of teaching and training is. And to realize that Tech is in the 98 of over-all tests scores of all schools in Ft. Worth,well, that is just astonishing! All of this progress is due to dedicated management and teaching staff who have instilled into the students, that they are important and deserve and are expected to do excellent work. Congratulations to all at Trimble Tech. Go Bulldogs! Sincerely, Candy Clark, class of 1965

    • I attended Texas A&I in fall of ’62 through spring of ’64 and I thought you were there at least the 2nd year. You played Desdemona in Othello and I was the uncle? You were very, very blond at the time…pls tell me you are one and the same!

  3. Great article, Jeff. It has been 17 years since we wrote the “Trimble Tech Improvement Plan”. In school life, that’s an entire generation. The seed that was planted then is still being fruit. I’m so proud of the school, its students and faculty. Thank you for mentioning the Community Action Team (CAT) who continually meet with school officials, and a broad and diverse coalition of community stakeholders dedicated to improving the entire school system. Trimble Tech is proof that it can be done. A SHOUT OUT to everyone who contributed to this article.

  4. I too am so very proud of my graduating from T.T.H.S. Bulldogs Class of 1984. Band Sweetheart 1983-84. I was also blessed enough to have attended the senior class spring break trip to the Bahamas, Paradise Island. I graduated in three years skipping the 11th grade at the age of 16 graduated with a 23 ranking in the top 10 percent of our senior class (magna cum laude). Giving God all the Glory. Now happily married to a Church of God in Christ ordained minister with our four children. I too am a licsensed Missionary/Evangelist in the Church of God in Christ since 2007. Trimble Tech was good to me concerning getting me ready for life, college education in business, engineering, and socially. I attended both North Texas State Univ. and Univ. of Texas at Arlington. I raked up enormous amount of awards concerning Who’s Who book in 1984, Ambassador Debutante 1988 presented by Jerome Thomas-radio broadcaster personality, Alpha Kappa Alpha Debutante the Beta Mu Chapter Inc., Texas Girl’s Choir Alumini God RIP Shirley Carter. and God RIP the great Clayton Mitchell. I was so proud to see him at NTSU my freshman year at the football game at our stadium. Because I was sixth chair french horn player in the NTSU Marching Band out of 13 top notch french horn players in the country. Fall of 1984-85 football year MUSIC CAPITAL COLLEGE UNIVERSITY of the state of Texas.I was blessed to also live in the athletic and band dorm KERR HALL that year as well.
    Which was a awesome experience. Now raising our family in a equally yoked Holy Ghost filled marriage with my husband. We daily teach our children too the importance of education, and christianty too. Jesus Christ by way of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is needed for eternal life in God’s Kingdom. Education yes is very important. But without God nothing matters. When the death angel come and visit with us on a individual personal basis. The Holy Ghost knows his way home to the good Lord. And there is no evil in Zion. Eternal life with God and his angels in the New Heaven/New Earth. No dealings with Hell, Satan, or evil. Sunshiny days for life forever. So I pray that this testimony helps some young lady or man. Hard work do pay off. Sacrifices and sufferings bring about wisdom and good rewards. No CROSS no CROWN. No PAIN no GAIN. Anything worth having isn’t going to come easy. Only the pure in heart shall see God. Everything you do will be tried by fire. Make sure your works come forth as pure GOLD!!!….

  5. Thanks to the efforts of prior and current campus and district administrators, teachers, community members, alumni, and other stakeholders our students have been able to succeed on an amazing level. Trimble Technical High School has forged strong relationships with stakeholders and has gone from a school with many opportunity areas to a model high school and choice learning institution. We are grateful to our superintendent Walter Dansby and his administration as well as to all of our school board members inclusive of Juan Rangel, Dr. Carlos Vasquez, Dr. Ann Sutherland, and J.R. Martinez for continuing to support our school and initiatives. Our success would not be possible without the singleness of purpose we have committed to which is the success of all students. Trimble Technical High School and its supporters are instructive of what we can do when we work together towards one concerted and well defined goal. Although our achievements have gained national recognition, we have a great deal of important work to do. As a school we must focus on building tomorrow’s leaders today.

    • Congratulations to you Mr. Dugan, your colleagues, and all who have gone before you, for bring Trimble Tech to the high standards it is experiencing today. If there is anything you ever need me for, I would be glad to help. One day, I would love to meet you and walk the halls of Tech High and see for myself, these huge changes. Thank you for loving the students who have so much faith in your good works.

  6. Thanks to Jeff Prince for putting this together so quickly–what a great article! Congratulations also to Pastor Kyev, a beacon of light for all of FWISD, to former principal Cantu and to principal Joe Dugan for keeping the light burning.

    How about another school like this one in our district?

    • There are none thanks to this School Board. This Board has done little to support good Administrators, Teachers (who continue to leave in droves), or Dansby. Though gracious in his appreciation, Mr. Dugan and everyone else would be wise not to put their faith or trust in Carlos Vasquez. Sutherland continues to prove herself unable to make the ethically tough decisions.