By Bobby Horn Jr and
The North Forest ISD, which is under a state investigation to account for $23 million in FEMA federal funds, fired its superintendent Dr. James Simpson Thursday night during a called meeting of the Board of Trustees.
Board president Barbara Gaston told the North Forest News that the firing was with good cause, but that Simpson will be allowed due process to appeal. He was terminated without pay or completion of his $160,000 yearly contract. Trustee Charles Taylor was quoted as saying the firing was due to a lack of confidence and lack of communication from Simpson. The board was concerned about the continuation of 8 out of 11 NFISD schools not meeting state standards, and ranked academically unacceptable.
The board is planning to meet again next week, according to Gaston, to name an interim superintendent. At the present time, it is expected that Assistant Superintendent William Jones will temporarily run the district.
A Texas Education Agency representative, Ron Rowell, was present during the board deliberations, but did not participate. He told the NF News that a conservator will be placed by TEA in the district offices, with the authority to direct financial spending and investigate previous financial activity. It is expected that the conservator will be Henry Boening, who previously served as superintendent in Galveston and other districts, said Rowell.
According to the Texas Education Agency, North Forest received more than $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to make repairs caused by Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. The TEA said that North Forest has failed to show documentation indicating how another $13 million in federal funds earmarked for Allison repairs were spent.
In late February the board, by a 4-3 vote, agreed to hire an outside auditor Deloitte Financial Advisory Services to go over the accounts and determine what funds have been spent and where.
Last week, Simpson released a statement to the public to address the issue. According to Simpson, the former administration used bond money that was supposed to go toward new school construction for immediate flood repairs, with the understanding that FEMA would reimburse the district for 75% of the costs provided that the district provide documentation.
Simpson said that any inadequate documentation was done prior to his coming to the district in 2004.
Despite coming to the district after the fact, Simpson took responsibility for correcting the situation in a letter that went out to the community three days before he was fired.
While the problem did not occur under my watch, it is my duty to ensure that the solution will, Simpson wrote. He added that since coming to the district $10 million of bond funds have been recovered by the district. He also pledged to continue working with the TEA and Deloitte to discover any missing documentation.
By Bobby Horn Jr and