Find Your True North

Terry Grier


Terry B. Grier, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools, Houston Independent School District

Terry Grier has led the Houston Independent School District into the national spotlight by innovatively meeting the immediate challenges of urban education while crafting a global vision for its 215,000 students on 283 campuses.

In his six years as superintendent of the nation’s seventh largest school district, HISD’s graduation rate has increased to an all-time high while dropout rates have been reduced by more than 50 percent. HISD’s Class of 2014 attracted record offers of scholarships and financial aid exceeding $250 million, and with 8,248 scores of 3 or higher on AP exams in 2014, HISD students earned the equivalent of 24,744 college credits for a potential cost savings of $7.3 million.

HISD’s gains in closing achievement gaps under his leadership led the district to become the first two-time winner of the Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2013, and its approach linking classroom learning to college and careers earned HISD a $30 million, five-year U.S. Race to the Top grant in 2013.

Dr. Grier was the 2014 winner of the Council of the Great Cities Schools Urban Educator of the Year Green-Garner Award and has been named a 2015 Children’s Defense Fund “Champion of Children” for his leadership in connecting children to healthcare coverage.

His leadership in HISD’s “PowerUp” digital transformation saw him named an Education Week “Leader To Learn From” in 2015. PowerUp has put laptops for anytime-anywhere learning in the hands of more than 40,000 high school students (all 65,000 by January 2016), created a district-wide HUB platform for collaboration and to personalize teaching and learning, and accelerated digital conversion and the elimination of textbooks.

Reflective of Houston’s multiculturalism and of the growing need for students to be competitive internationally, Dr. Grier has championed several global initiatives. HISD’s consistent expansion of its successful dual language program is on target to have all elementary school students learning two languages in five years. The number of International Baccalaureate campuses has grown to 16, Mandarin Chinese and Arabic (2015-2016) language immersion schools have been created, with plans for a Hindi immersion program. HISD has joined the Global Learning Network and is a participant in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s international assessment of high school students.

Dr. Grier is widely recognized for his leadership in turning around failing schools. The district’s Apollo 20 program has received state and national recognition for narrowing the achievement gap in HISD’s most troubled schools and for piloting best practices, such as tutoring and increased class time, now used throughout the district.

Under his leadership in 2012, a staggering 69 percent of Houston voters approved a $1.89 billion school construction bond—the largest in the history of Texas. The program is fully underway, rebuilding or renovating 40 schools, including 29 high schools, and providing major technology infrastructure improvements.

Grier has received accolades for his leadership in eliminating outdated offensive school mascots from HISD, and for his unflinching embracing and nurturing of all students, including refugee youngsters from throughout the globe and those from a neighboring school district disbanded by the state.

He was named Texas Superintendent of the Year Award in 2014 and was a finalist for the national title (among a handful of superintendents receiving the honor in two states — Texas and North Carolina). The American Association of School Administrators presented him with the prestigious Effie H. Jones Humanitarian Award for his support of women and minorities in education. And the Southwestern Regional Forum of the College Board presented him with their Martha H. Salmon Leadership Award for his role in expanding advanced placement opportunities for disadvantaged students.

Dr. Grier earned his bachelor of science and master’s degrees from East Carolina University, and his educational doctorate from Vanderbilt University. He has received Outstanding Alumni awards from both institutions.

He and his wife, Nancy, have four grown children, a cat, and a cool dog.