Key Coverage

Without Its Storied Principal, What’s the Future of Furr High?

This was supposed to be a banner year for Furr High School. It moved into a brand new building and was using a ten million dollar grant to reinvent high school. Even though Hurricane Harvey delayed the school year by two weeks, things seemed to be back to normal.

Longtime principal Bertie Simmons met with a mom who was trying to get her daughter into Furr. 

“I’m going to take a chance on her,” Simmons told the family, using her typical tough love approach. “So if she doesn’t do it, what I do is I take my earrings off and bring her down,” she said.

“Yes, I remember you said that to my oldest daughter,” replied the mom, Erica Alejo, with a laugh.

“And it worked with her, and I have a baseball bat. And that’s what I use on you, OK?” Simmons continued.

Everyone in the room takes it as a joke. Simmons is 83 years old and just five feet tall —  shorter than many of her students. Kids have heard this so often, they once gave Simmons an engraved bat as a gag gift. But now district administrators aren’t laughing.

A recording went out to homes on Sept. 29: “This is the Houston Independent School District, calling with an important message for Furr High school parents and students.”

About two weeks ago, they suspended Simmons after students complained about her playful threats and the school’s strict dress code, which the superintendent had said would be relaxed district-wide.