NORTH SHORE – Bertie Simmons is a powerhouse who at 82 years old enjoys life and being a principal of one of the toughest schools in Houston ISD.
Last Saturday, Oct. 29 she held a celebration at Furr High School to mark the receipt of a $10 million grant from the XQ Foundation, for innovations she proposed in a national grant application.
The community and the students turned out for a day of celebration and fun, including Bertie and her family singing and dancing to some hip-hop music.
Speakers included Russlyn Ali, representing Job’s widow and the XQSuperschool project, Juliet Stipeche for Mayor Sylvester’s office, Congressman Gene Green, and school board members.
The grant will be for $2 million each year for 5 years, and Bertie intends to use it for social workers, a mentorship coordinator, student travel, a clinic, an immigrant center, and an educational training center. Her innovation approach will include individual instruction and competency-based education. She believes in her students, and letting them advance on their own schedule.
When Bertie came to Furr 16 years ago, it was plagued by gang violence. She faced up to the 15 gangs, and won them over and got their help in changing the school.
Next year she will get a new building, built beside the old structure, and this will help to accomplish many of her goals.