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Getting Smart Podcast

Dec 11, 2019

This week, Tom is speaking with Terry Grier! Terry is known as America’s Superintendent coach and was a big district superintendent for over 20 years in four different states. He made Houston the best big urban district in the country. And as Tom says, has done more to develop educational talent than anyone in history! But, his most important legacy is that, to-date, 81 women and men who have worked for him have gone on to lead school districts themselves.


In this episode, Terry takes listeners through his journey in each of these large systems he led and recounts some of his biggest leadership lessons from each of them. Tom and Terry also discuss his hiring philosophy, the keys to developing talent, and some of his proudest moments during his time in education.


Key Takeaways:

[:14] About today’s episode!

[:42] Tom welcomes Terry on to the podcast!

[:51] Terry speaks about where he went to high school.

[1:19] When and why did Terry decide to become a biology teacher?

[2:52] After teaching, when and why did Terry decide to lead a school and then a system?

[5:52] Terry recounts his time as Superintendent of Williamson County Schools from ’96 to 2000.

[10:17] Tom and Terry speak about a prominent figure in education, Cecilia "CeCe" Cunningham.

[10:51] Tom and Terry reiterate the lessons learned from Williamson County Schools.

[12:40] Terry speaks about his time spent as Superintendent at Guilford County Schools in North Carolina from 2000-2008 and shares some of the lessons that he learned.

[16:10] Next up in Terry’s superintendent journey, he speaks about his time leading the San Diego Unified School District, and recalls the challenges he faced and the lessons learned.

[8:27] In his last role as superintendent, Terry reflects on his time spent at Houston ISD and shares some of the lessons that he learned.

[24:21] Terry and Tom discuss the change of Houston state taking over Houston ISD.

[28:11] Terry elaborates on his hiring philosophy; what it is that he looks for when he’s trying to hire someone in a leadership role in a district.

[36:17] Terry speaks about his ‘talent first’ approach in hiring.

[39:42] Terry speaks about what he is most proud of during his time in education: the 81 women and men who have worked for him that have gone on to lead school districts for themselves.

[42:29] Tom thanks Terry for joining the podcast!


Mentioned in This Episode:

Terry Grier

Williamson County Schools

Cecilia "CeCe" Cunningham

Guilford County Schools

San Diego Unified School District

Houston Independent School District (Houston ISD)

Terry Griers Twitter: @TGrierHISD

Union County Public Schools

Spring Independent School District (Spring ISD)


Want to Learn More?

Listen to Getting Smart Ep. 218: Michael Hinojosa on Making Dallas Schools Work


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