By GILBERT HOFFMAN North Forest News
NORTH FOREST– The North Forest ISD Board of Trustees last Thursday evening voted to end the services of Superintendent Adrain Johnson. This was accomplished by accepting Johnson’s resignation as of July 31, which no doubt had been requested. Then the board moved to keep Johnson on leave until that date, and denying him back pay since his suspension in April. The vote came after an hour of discussion in a closed meeting of the board. The vote was unanimous, six Yes and no No votes. Board member Horace Williams, Jr. was not present or voting.
In the official action, the board agenda stated that the reason for dismissal was “for good cause” but no further information was available. The board had held three called meetings with this business on the agenda, but delayed the final vote as negotiations with Johnson and his attorney continued.
Johnson had been the superintendent of the District since his appointment in October 2008, when the State of Texas Education Commission took control of the troubled district, and replaced the Board of Trustees with a new Board of Managers. However, the new law under which this action was taken, only allowed the state two years to manage the district. In November 2010 the old Board of Trustees was reseated and regained control of the district.
The state assumed control of the district in 2008 due to its weak financial condition, irregularities in student attendance reporting and financial accounting, and poor standing academically on most of its campuses.
Johnson, who was an associate administrator at TEA at the time, and previously a superintendent at LaMarque ISD, had worked to improve these conditions. The district is now on better financial footing, and seven of the eight campuses are rated “acceptable” or better now by the state. However, the drop-out and graduation rate at the high school has not improved, and in fact has caused the district to receive an “unacceptable” rating and the probation rating on its accreditation. Johnson has made a number of changes at the high school, and says that more time is required to realize the results of these. North Forest is the recipient of a federal/state grant of $5.26 million, over 3 years, to make these changes at the high school, including a new principal, new staff, and better procedural methods. Johnson and Edna Forté worked together on this Title I improvement grant.
In addition to raising the ratings of most of the campuses, Johnson has instituted many other innovative changes in the district, including bringing a YES Prep charter school into one of the unused buildings, giving serious academic students another choice and theoretically attracting out-of-district students. He has also been instrumental in setting up an Education Foundation, independent of the School District, that would raise funds for student, teacher, staff, and campus enhancements that would otherwise not be available. The Education Foundation was set to start a major fund drive in April, but now has been put “on halt” according to officials.
When the Board put Johnson on leave on March 28, the board said to the Northeast News, “In light of ongoing fiscal deficiencies, graduation rate concerns at North Forest High School, accreditation issues, and time sensitive staff reduction priorities, in the best interest of the district, the Board of Trustees felt it necessary to move in a different direction by placing the Superintendent on paid administrative leave.
“Educating the students of NFISD continues to be the number one priority of the district. The Board is confident that the district has capable and competent individuals who can continue day-to-day operations. Effective immediately, Edna Forté, Executive Director of Federal and State Programs, will serve as Acting Superintendent.”
The NFISD board, with different members, has a history of firing superintendents, and in at least one case rehiring him. And now five of the last six superintendents have left due to firing or pressure from the board.
At present, Forté continues as Acting Superintendent, and the Board has asked TEA and SBEC for an “Emergency Certificate” for her, so that some time in the future they may appoint her as Superintendent, even though she has not completed all requirements for the position.
By GILBERT HOFFMAN North Forest News