NORTH FOREST – With only a few weeks remaining before the TEA ordered annexation of the beleagured North Forest school district into Houston ISD, the district lost one of its last appeal opportunities when the 126th District Court in Austin issued an order dismissing the case because it “lacks jurisdiction.” In effect this grants the TEA authority to continue with its plans to merge North Forest ISD with Houston ISD.
Immediately the NF attorneys, Ron Rainey and Chris Tritico, indicated to the Northeast News that they would appeal this court decision to the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin. In addition, North Forest is still waiting for a decision from the U.S. Department of Justice on whether the merger would be compliant with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
North Forest superintendent Edna Forté issued a statement that “we are disappointed that the state district court judge declined to stop the closure of North Forest ISD. We will continue to fight for our children and our community.”
In a meeting with the Northeast News, attorney Ron Rainey indicated that time may actually be on the district’s side, since the appelllate court and the DOJ may not make decisions by the July 1st deadline. In that case, he surmised that TEA might be forced legally to keep the district open.
Plea to Houston ISD
Supporters of the District appeared at an HISD board meeting on Thursday afternoon, and each made a plea for the board to delay their annexation vote. However, in two motions the board voted 8-0 to redraw the boundaries to include North Forest, and to assign portions of the district to HISD single person districts 2 and 8. These are represented by Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Juliet Stipeche.
Appearing and speaking at the meeting were NF advocates Rev. William Lawson, Millicent Edwards, Deidre Rasheed for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Nakima Brawns, Rev. Lawrence Woods, Ernestine Jones, Elliott Livingston, and Rev. Ken Campbell.
Rev. Lawson asked the board to give North Forest “some opportunity to have a voice. Don’t vote until the court has made a decision.”
Ernestine Jones and others pointed out that North Forest is delivering a quality education, and test scores are better than neighboring HISD schools.
Observers noted that HISD superintendent Terry Grier has visited all 8 North Forest schools, and held a “TeleTownHall” to garner opinions on the annexation.
Attorney Locke said that his office had drawn boundaries for the annexation, which should be considered temporary until a complete redistricting in Jan. 2014. However, HISD District 2 would get the major portion of North Forest (SEE MAP ABOVE) and this would be a predominantly African-American district. The other portion of the NFISD would go to HISD District 8, and be predominantly Hispanic. He said that he felt this would satisfy the Civil Right Act requirements.
Letter to Parents by HISD
An unsigned letter was issued to North Forest parents last week by HISD, informing the community of future plans for their schools and their children. This letter said an information center had been established at the Northeast Multi-Service Center, 9720 Spaulding. In addition two (now 3) public meetings will be held to give information and answer questions.
The letter said that Lakewood Elementary would be closed, but all others would remain open, and named new principals at each of the 7 remaining schools. The letter also included new attendance zone maps for remaining NFISD and HISD schools.
Public Information Meetings
June 18, 6:30 to 7:30 pm, Kashmere High School, 6900 Wileyvale.
June 25, 6:30 to 7:30 pm, Eden Event Center, 7540 N. Wayside.
June 27, 6:30 to 7:30 pm, Eden Event Center, 7540 N. Wayside.
During these meetings, open to all NFISD and HISD parents, information will be presented by HISD on school attendance zones, new principals, and questions will be answered.