Susan Simpson Hull had a demanding job leading 30,000 students. But she found strength and clarity on the road. She had an adventurous spirit and loved riding her Harley. The Grand Prairie Independent School District superintendent died Monday in Arizona following a motorcycle accident.
“She was fierce. She was a warrior," said her colleague, Linda Ellis, deputy superintendent of teaching and learning. "And I heard her more than one time talk about getting on the motorcycle, the wind in her face and, you know, everything became open and wide."
Ellis says Hull was just as passionate about education. When she walked into a room, she had a piercing smile and look.
"I can tell you many times she said, 'All means all,' and that was the charge that she gave us," Ellis said. "There was no difference between students who had things and didn't have things."
Rather than fight charter schools, Hull led the district in partnering with Uplift Education to open a charter school within the district. Hull was interviewed by KERA in 2015.
“The benefit comes from what we’ve begun to call coopertition – cooperation and healthy competition," Hull said. "We know there’s value in competition. There's a lot of value in looking across the hall and wondering if I’m doing as a good a job as that teacher.”
The charter school in Grand Prairie ISD is free and serves kids in Kindergarten through fifth grades.
Ellis says Hull was open to taking a different approach.
"Really her goal was…we don’t say no to anything, we investigate all things. If it is something that our school community and parents want, then lets do that. Let’s work with them and we’re both better together,” Ellis said.
The district also created several non-traditional schools, including an all-girls school for sixth through 12th graders.
Vern Alexander, deputy superintendent of student services, said Hull made one thing clear when she arrived at the district 12 years ago: boost student achievement.
“And so certainly that was our primary focus. That drove all of our decisions and so it influenced every department,” Alexander said.
Alexander also said Hull knew how to select the right leaders for the school district. She respected them and, in turn, Alexander says, they respected her.