One great prin­ci­pal

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

Re­gard­ing “Prin­ci­pal de­nies threat, dress fra­cas” (Page A3, Thurs­day), I’ve known Dr. Ber­tie Sim­mons for 12 years and have been as­ton­ished by the mir­a­cles she has wrought at her school. Furr is lo­cated in north­east Hous­ton and serves a low-in­come, racially di­verse stu­dent pop­u­la­tion. Ninety-two per­cent of the kids qual­ify for re­duced- or free lunches.

When Sim­mons came to Furr High School 17 years ago, the grad­u­a­tion rate was 47 per­cent. This past year, it was 96 per­cent. When she ar­rived, there were 16 gangs at the school, which she set about break­ing up, in large part by in­sti­tut­ing a uni­form pol­icy to keep gang mem­bers from wear­ing “col­ors.” She cre­ated a stu­dent court where kids can peace­ably set­tle their dif­fer­ences. Her mantra, “When you show kids re­spect, when you lis­ten to them and show you re­ally care about them, they give re­spect back,” has worked.

Sim­mons’ in­no­va­tive model for ed­u­cat­ing in­ner-city chil­dren has com­manded the at­ten­tion and re­spect of ed­u­ca­tors across the coun­try. Great school dis­tricts like HISD need great prin­ci­pals like her. B. Glenn Wilk­er­son, Hous­ton

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