Houston Matters

How a Retired Teacher Made Peace Between Rival Gangs at Furr High School

(Above: Furr High School Bertie Simmons and a student. Photo: Laura Isensee | Houston Public Media) Bertie Simmons was a longtime educator in Houston schools who’d retired to a happy life as a grandmother. Then, her granddaughter died suddenly in a skiing accident. Simmons decided to honor her granddaughter’s dream of doing good in the world by […]

Furr Principal Bertie Simmons listened to a freshman read his first essay. (Photo: Laura Isensee, Houston Public Media)(Above: Furr High School Bertie Simmons and a student. Photo: Laura Isensee | Houston Public Media)

Bertie Simmons was a longtime educator in Houston schools who’d retired to a happy life as a grandmother. Then, her granddaughter died suddenly in a skiing accident. Simmons decided to honor her granddaughter’s dream of doing good in the world by returning to education and taking over as principal of Furr High School on Houston’s east end.

Then, last fall, Furr High School learned it was one of ten schools nationwide to receive a $10 million grant from Steve Jobs’ widow. It rewarded the school for reinventing how it educates its students. The school is getting the money over five years. As principal, Simmons, of course has played a key role in that reinvention.

We talked with her last fall on the heels of the award to learn about her unusual approach to education and how she forged peace between rival gang members at the school.

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