By GILBERT HOFFMAN, Northeast News
NORTH FOREST– The public and the District held a celebration party Thursday night, heaping praise and accolades on the newly appointed permanent Superintendent, Ms. Edna Forté. Several board members, past and present, and the HCC-NE President, Margaret Ford Fisher, wished Forté well in her position.
Unfortunately, by the next day, Friday, the happy thoughts had turned sour, when the District received a letter from Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, informing them that a Final Decision had been made, and they would be dissolved as of July 1, 2012. At that time, the Houston ISD is ordered to absorb the North Forest district and its 7500 students, according to the letter. Scott’s letter was not entirely unanticipated, but the District has maintained all year that they would be able to correct the long-standing academic and financial problems, and get TEA approval.
Public statements rebutting the closure notice were immediately issued by Superintendent Forté and Congresswoman Jackson-Lee.
The community, with the strong support of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, has waged a campaign to save the district from closing. In fact, an “Education Town Hall” was held after the NFISD fete Thursday evening, as Lee returned from a meeting in Austin with TEA. Another meeting Sunday afternoon, at 3 pm in the Shadydale Elementary school, continued organizing the community support against the TEA decision.
In his 8 page letter to the District, Scott cited the district and the high school for a 2011 rating of Academically Unacceptable (AU), and further noted that this was the third consecutive year for the district, and the sixth consecutive year for the high school. He continued that the district earned a substantial financial accountability rating for the fourth consecutive year.
Therefore, he stated that these findings “require me to assign the North Forest ISD a 2011-2012 accreditation status of Not Accredited-Revoked and to close the district effective July 1, 2012.”
The letter contains a long and detailed list of deficiencies that the TEA Conservator assigned to the district has identified. Scott indicates that most of these have not been solved satisfactorily.
In regard to previous academic accountability ratings, Scott notes that on Nov. 2nd that appeal was denied.
Scott states that “This order will annex the North Forest ISD to the Houston ISD effective July 1, 2012.
Although a “Final” decision, he notes “The procedures available to the district to request a review of the accreditation status assignment and order of annexation are discussed below.”
Scott also notes that the annexation must be precleared by the US Department of Justice, under the National Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In a statement issued by North Forest’s Forté, she said that “the North Forest ISD has retained legal counsel and will continue to fight the closure of the district.”
And in a slap at the TEA, she continues “The Texas Education Agency is seeking to close the district for issues that occurred while under partial or complete conservatorship.”
Based on a meeting that she and NAACP officials had with TEA Commissioner Scott on Thursday, she stated in a press release Friday that “It is not accurate to assume North Forest ISD is going to close especially if they were to receive a fair and unbiased review by the TEA.”
Jackson-Lee said that the TEA Commissioner based his assessment largely on the two years when NFISD was under the control of TEA and their conservator.
“The NFISD now is moving towards the improvements that the TEA failed to accomplish. She concluded “Stop condemning… and give them a chance!!”