HOUSTON - The Texas Education Agency will force the North Forest Independent School District to merge with Houston ISD after sanctions for failing academics and financial mismanagement.
The TEA’s plan is to allow the Houston Independent School District to annex the beleaguered district, which has historically been plagued by low-performing schools and high drop-out rates.
NFISD Superintendent Edna Frote released the following statement early Monday afternoon:
“We at North Forest ISD are disappointed by the TEA’s decision to merge North Forest with HISD. Because we truly believe partnering with the charter schools that make up PHILO is the best option for the children of North Forest, we will appeal this decision to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Regardless of the outcome, the faculty and staff will continue to move forward with the transformative work we are doing at North Forest ISD to complete a successful year.”
The move to merge the two districts comes amid harsh criticism by those who accuse the state agency of turning a blind eye to the academic progress they claim NFISD continues to make. Critics also believe the TEA ignored a proposal to partner North Forest schools with PHILO.
“It was an innovative process and could of set the tone and been a real innovator for education across the country,” Sue Davis, spokeswoman for NFISD, said.
NFISD was given a year to turn things around, but the state said that never happened. The district’s attorney said North Forest exceeded almost every benchmark.
“Every time we hit the standard, they changed the standard, and so there’s no way for us to ever win,” Chris Trittico, attorney for NFISD, said.
A sentiment shared by allies in Congress, who called TEA’s move unjust.
“I’m making the argument and we’ll be looking to work with the school district for a federal lawsuit,” U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston. “I frankly believe that there now is no basis, after they have seen this school system make the improvements that it’s made to join this school district with the song and dance of closing schools across America.”
Parents are definitely concerned about what the merger means for their children’s future.
“Our kids are important to us, and we’re not going to have them just dumped somewhere with no plan, no direction,” Ivory Mayhorn, a parent, said.
However, some parents applauded the decision.
“I think they should take over, HISD, why? They don’t have the supplies they need here, they don’t have extracurricular activities, they don’t have too much of anything,” Yolanda Johnson, another parent, said.
HISD officials said the district remained poised to serve in the best interest of all students.
“We know that we have areas to work on, without doubt, and we know that’s coming and we know that’s here,” Orlando Riddick, chief high schools officer for HISD, said.
The merger will take effect July 1.