Allegations of changing grades, improper spending and harassment are among the issues that led Houston ISD administrators to expand their investigation of Furr High School Principal Bertie Simmons, the widely known educator temporarily removed from her post last September, newly obtained records show.
Court documents filed by district officials Friday offer the first glimpse into additional allegations against the 83-year-old Simmons. Superintendent Richard Carranza previously described the allegations as "pretty serious" in an interview last month, but he declined to elaborate.
A district memorandum included in court records show Houston ISD officials are investigating several issues involving Simmons, including "recording of student grades," "attendance and discipline reporting," "discrimination and harassment claims," "master scheduling" and "expenditures." The memorandum offers no additional details on the nature of the allegations.
Houston ISD spokesman Tracy Clemons said Monday that the investigation is ongoing. He declined to provide additional details on the allegations.
Simmons' lawyer, Scott Newar, said in a statement Monday that the district is engaged in a "witch hunt" and "taxpayers should be outraged that the district continues to spend" money on the investigation.
Earlier Chronicle coverage
- Furr High School students demand return of their tough-talking principal
- Esteemed principal's banishment is head-scratcher
- Houston ISD investigating new allegations against Furr principal
- Falkenberg: Removing Furr High's beloved, tough principal makes no sense
Simmons, the longtime leader of the east Houston campus, was initially placed on paid leave in late September after she threatened students over the school intercom with a bat and continued to enforce the district's dress code after Hurricane Harvey even as district officials were relaxing them. Simmons has said the threats were clearly made in jest, and the district gave principals discretion regarding the dress code.
HoustonChronicle.com: Houston ISD investigating second new allegations against Furr principal
In mid-October, district officials said they completed the initial investigation and planned to reinstate Simmons, but that district staff came forward with the new allegations. This, they said, led to the second investigation and temporary removal of Simmons.
"During this time, it became apparent that some employees feared retaliation for reporting concerns while you were still on the premises," Houston ISD Area Superintendent Jorge Arredondo wrote in a memorandum to Simmons.
Simmons has countered by alleging age and racial discrimination. Her lawyer has alleged that district administrators engaged in racial discrimination by systematically pushing white principals out of their jobs.
A Chronicle analysis of state employee data showed a small uptick in Hispanic principals since Carranza's arrival more than a year ago. During that time, the number of Hispanic principals has increased from 95 to 102, the number of white principals has decreased from 63 to 59, and the number of black principals has decreased from 95 to 91.
SIMMONS: Furr principal claims age, race discrimination while on leave
The district's court filings Friday were made in response to a temporary injunction sought by Simmons and Sharon Koonce, a Furr High School staffer who was also placed on leave around the same time as Simmons. The pair alleged that Houston ISD violated their free-speech rights by prohibiting them from speaking with students, parents and colleagues at Furr High School.
District officials said Friday that they had lifted the no-contact order....Read more