Principal lauded for turning high school around speaks out about her removal

- “I’m very saddened by all of this,” said Dr. Bertie Simmons.

You would think the Houston Independent School District would be singing Simmons praises. When she became the principal of Furr High School in 2000 it was plagued by gangs.

“On her watch gang activity crime and drugs have been drastically reduced,” said Simmons’ attorney Scott Newar.

That’s one of the reasons why Simmons says she enforced the school’s uniform policy even in the wake of Harvey. She wasn’t the only principal who chose not to relax the uniform policy but appears to be the only one removed for doing so.

In an e-mail the district says Simmons was also relieved of her duties for verbally threatening students with a baseball bat.

“I do tease them and I do say things like that, but everybody at the school knows I’m playing with the students,” said Simmons.

“We provided definitive evidence that these allegations are ludicrous,” Newar said.

In complaints to the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, Simmons alleges her removal was part of a pattern of discrimination on the district’s part.

“Because of her age race and to gain control of this XQ Project grant,” said Newar.

The XQ Project grant is a prestigious grant. Furr High is one of only 10 schools in the United States to be awarded the grant which totals $10 million. HISD also removed two other employees from Furr who have been working with Simmons on the grant. All three deny any wrongdoing regarding the money.

“I’m 83-years-old. I don’t have to be at Furr but I do care about those students and their families,” Simmons said. “I want the best for them and this is not the best for them.”

In a statement HISD says it has an obligation to investigate when there have been allegations of misconduct. HISD denies any allegations of a pattern and practice of discriminatory treatment against employees.

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