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Mansfield ISD Names Elementary School After District’s First Ever Black Employee

Photo via Mansfield Record

Mansfield, Texas - Mansfield Independent School District dedicated its 24th elementary school to Brenda Norwood, who was the first Black employee in the school district, on August 7, 2021.

Norwood, 73, was a part of the first integrated graduating class at Mansfield High School in 1966. She attended the Colored School in Mansfield through the eighth grade. For ninth through 11th grade, she caught the Trailways bus to I.M. Terrell High School in Fort Worth because there was no high school for Blacks in Mansfield.

When she was entering her senior year, the Mansfield school district finally integrated. There were only seven Black students at Mansfield High School, including her and her sister Ora Lee.

“I did not want to go,” Norwood said. “The teachers let us know that we’d be lucky if we got out of there (with a diploma). The white kids would spit in our water fountains.”

After she graduated, she was approached by the Mansfield superintendent, who asked her to become a teacher’s aide in the district. The district, which had no black employees, was set to lose federal funds if it didn’t hire some black people. She worked as a paraprofessional in the district for several years, but her reception as the district’s first Black employee wasn’t always warm.

After graduating from Texas Women’s University in 1997, Norwood was hired to teach science and eventually multicultural classes in Mansfield ISD. She retired in 2009, after spending 40 years working for the school district.

Brenda Norwood Elementary School is primed to be different kind of school, following the legacy of its namesake. The $29 million building is approximately 112,747-square-feet, considerably larger than the other elementary schools in the district. It will house a 700-student traditional neighborhood school, a 100-student STEM Academy and a 100-student Fine Arts Academy.

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