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Posts published in “Day: March 26, 2013

Charter group proposes PHILO as NF solution

NORTH FOREST – Efforts to save the North Forest school district from closure and forced merger with Houston ISD continued on several fronts last week.

A group of Charter Schools propose to take over and run the district, through a non-profit entity known as PHILO.

Philo has been in existence for a number of years, long before the North Forest crisis, according to Rod Paige, former HISD supintendent, PHILO board member, and former U.S. Secretary of Education. PHILO would be the manager of a 3 charter consortium that would take over and run the North Forest district, responsible for academic achievement, completion rate, and financial accountability.

In a news conference on Monday of last week, Paige and KIPP founder Mike Feinberg, also a board member of PHILO, outlined somewhat more specific plans for running the district.

Superintendent’s Report

Later that evening, at a North Forest Board meeting, NF Superintendent Edna Forté reported to the community on these PHILO plans. She also reported on the second initiative, which was a meeting with the TEA on Friday, March 15 to discuss and protest the decision to close the district.

Attending the TEA hearing were Forté, North Forest attorney, Chris Tritico, administrator James Troutman, and others. This meeting lasted over 4 hours, and was conducted in a state hearing room. The group told the TEA that of the 10 items that the district had to meet as a condition of their continued operation, they had clearly met 8 of them, and 2 others were under appeal or substantial progress had been made. She said the evidence they present was a solid case, worthy of reconsideration. She said that the district missed the completion rate, one of the important criteria, by only 2 students, which meant a 66% rate when the state was requiring 75%.

The group made the point to TEA that they sought Innovative Alternatives to closure, and therefore had investigated a partnership with Texas A & M, and more recently a partnership with PHILO and 3 charter schools that offered to help run the district.

As Forté said, “We are not conceding, we are trying to innovate.”

Forté made the point, that the district was now classified by the U.S. Dept. of Education as a “Choice” district, due to failure to meet requirements, and a letter had been sent to parents informing them that they now have a choice of which school to send their children, at the district’s expense.

Attorney Chris Tritico said that the problem with the Closure order was that the initial hearing was in front of the same person who ordered the annexation, thus could not be impartial as required. If the district does not get another reprieve, this would be one point to be appealed in court. The next hearing would be in front of an Administrative Law Judge in the judicial system, not the TEA, Tritico said. After that, there are still two appelate courts available to hear the pleadings.

Nichols Park dedicated in Airline District

Arlene Nichols, District 140 advocate, remembered

NORTHEAST – Four years after her death, friends and family of community advocate Arlene Nichols gathered to open a new 10 acre park in the Airline District, that will memoralize her work and is named for her. Airline District Executive Director Teri Koerth presided over the dedication ceremony Friday morning, which included Nichols family, Aldine High School Band, agency representatives that helped pay for the park, community leaders, and government officials.

Nichols was a tireless activist for the welfare and quality of life of those in Legislative District 140, where she was employed as an aide to State Representative Kevin Bailey.

Bailey was instrumental in setting up the legislation that formed improvement districts in Aldine and Airline, and Nichols was involved in this important work.

Community groups such as the Bellmar, Northline Terrace, and Colonial Hills Civic Clubs worked closely with her to continually improve conditions in their neighborhoods.

After her retirement and subsequent death in 2008, those that knew her in East Aldine, Greenspoint, and Airline Districts wished to remember her work by establishing a memorial such as this park.

The 10 acre site became available, and the Airline Improvement District working with the Texas Parks & Wildlife and the Harris County Community Services Department, raised $951,437 to acquire and build this park. Of that amount, TPWD funded $200,000 with a grant, US HUD contributed $626,437 through Harris County, and the Airline District contributed $125,000.

The park has been developed with two multi-use playing fields, a walking/jogging path, playground equipment, picnic areas, parking and landscaping. Design of the park was donated by McDonough Engineering Inc. and construction was by Cooley Construction, LLC.

Speaking at the dedication were AID’s Teri Koerth, Zera Presley of the Bellmar CC and AID board, Armando Walle, State Representative District #140, Roxane Eley, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Cindy Gabriel, Harris County Community Services Department, Nick Nichols, husband of Arlene, Brian Rego of Harris County Pct. 1 and the AID board. John Martin, chairman of the AID board, presented each with an appropriate memorial plaque and artwork from the park.

In her remarks regarding Arlene, Teri Koerth recalled her history:

“Arlene grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island and moved to Houston in 1968. Her inspiration for public service began in her youth where she worked as a candy striper and volunteered in Catholic Nursing Homes. She began getting involved in Public Service with the school PTA and local political campaigns. Arlene’s first public service job was for Representative Bailey at District #140 where she worked for 18 years.

“Arlene was one of the most dedicated public servants I have ever known. She worked tirelessly with the community on issues such as water and sewer, public safety and education. Arlene was instrumental in laying the foundation for this (park) project by helping to obtain one of the initial grants that was used to building this very park.

“It is with great admiration that we acknowledge her service and accomplishments. What a great honor it is to have our park named after such a wonderful role model.

“As some of you may be aware, this site was the original Carroll Elementary location where children used to learn and play. With the construction of this park, the site has come full circle and I know that Arline would be proud that once again children will play here.”