For 61 years Dr. Bertie Simmons, Ed.D. was a dedicated educator in the Houston Independent School District (HISD). Simmons came out of retirement to serve as principal of Furr High School in 1999. During her more than 17 year tenure, she was instrumental in revitalizing the school and creating transformational opportunities for some of Houston’s most disadvantaged students.
Known as a visionary and a change agent who can bring out the best in her students, the high-energy educator maintained that upbeat and infectious attitude to reach and inspire her teachers and students with her passion, knowledge, dedication, and maybe even the occasional rap song or two.
The first of Simmons’ seemingly countless honors came in 1965, when she was named the HISD Teacher of the Year. That distinction was followed by many more, including HEB’s Best High School Principal in Texas award in 2011 and KHOU’s Schools Now Spirit of Texas award. In addition, Furr was one of only three schools in the nation identified for the College Board Inspiration Award in 2011.
As evidence of Simmons’ indelible impact on Furr High School, education advocate and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of the late Apple, Inc. CEO Steve Jobs, recognized Furr High School as a recipient of a $10 million grant through the XQ Super School Project. Simmons’ school was one of 10 selected from nearly 700 schools nationwide for “reimagining high school education.”