Is This the End of the Road For Principal Bertie Simmons and HISD?

Did a historic figure in HISD really cross the line? Or is this just retaliation by the district?
Did a historic figure in HISD really cross the line? Or is this just retaliation by the district? Photo by Margaret Downing
Legendary Furr High School Principal Bertie Simmons, put on leave from her job since last October by the Houston ISD, has been told she won't be working for the district much longer, her lawyer Scott Newar says.

In a statement released Tuesday, HISD said it was unable to comment on Simmons' employment status. But added that the investigators who've been looking into allegations of misconduct at the school have found there were grade changes that did not comply with state law and changed attendance records.

Newar, who is representing Simmons in a lawsuit against the district which claims age discrimination, racial discrimination and retaliation against her on the part of the district, called the HISD investigation "a farce designed to justify its illegal discrimination and retaliation against Dr. Simmons."

"It is HISD’s Board of Trustees and HISD administrators who should be investigated: for their illegal conduct and for continuing to place their selfish interests above the students’ and the taxpayers.," Newar said in a statement emailed out to the media. "Dr. Simmons very much looks forward to holding HISD accountable for its illegal conduct in a court of law."

Here's the text of the HISD statement:

"Bertie Simmons’ employment status with the Houston Independent School District is a personnel matter. We are unable to comment. However, the investigation conducted by HISD’s outside attorneys into concerns about student attendance, grades, and transcripts revealed that Furr High School administrators engaged in conduct that contradicts the district’s mission of providing quality instruction and producing global graduates. The investigation revealed, among other things, that:

"Grade changes that did not comply with the state law concerning the finality of a teacher’s grade were made. In some instances, grades for classes were changed by administrators without the knowledge of the teachers who taught the classes.

"Teachers were instructed not to assign grades below 50 percent, regardless of student performance or completion of assigned tests and assignments.

"Grades were changed at the end of the semester for the purpose of what appeared to give students passing grades that the students had not earned.

"Attendance records were changed for unauthorized reasons and credits were awarded for classes when students had not met the attendance requirement.

"The district is addressing these matters to ensure students receive appropriate instruction and guidance."
Simmons, who was brought out of retirement to head up the then troubled Furr High School, has maintained all along she did nothing wrong, including the original allegation that she threatened students with a bat.

Newar said today they still hadn't received any documents from the district and without them he wouldn't be making any further comment. 
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing