North Forest ISD To Fight District Closure

Officials in the North Forest Independent School District say they plan to fight an order from the Texas Education Agency to close down next July. The decision will affect 75-hundred students, who will likely be merged into the Houston Independent School District. Pat Hernandez has more.

North Forest ISDNorth Forest Independant School District is located in a mostly residential and  economically challenged area in NE Houston, just outside Loop 610. It has been mired in chronic academic and financial problems since the 1980s. When ratings come out later this summer, North Forest will receive the worst accreditation  issued by the Texas Education Agency, called Non-Accredited Revoked.

That means it can longer function as a public school.

Debbie Ratcliffe, director of communications for the TEA, says the agency has notified the district to close  in July of 2012.

"A few years ago, we literally took over the district ,and put in our superintendant and appointed the school board. And still, we like the district itself, have been unable to turn it around. So, that just really leaves us closure as an option."

PH: "So, what you're saying Debbie, is that the TEA does what it can to help the school district reverse its trend?"

Ratcliffe: "We really do. Through state funds and federal funds, millions of dollars have gone to this district to try to turn it around, and it had some success here and there, but just not enough. It's still has financial problems."

Leading the district's misfortunes is North Forest High School, where only 3 in 10 ninth graders passed the state's math exam this year.

"When it receives the rating of academically unacceptable, it'll be the 6th year in a row. And we have 8 thousand schools in the state, and North Forest High School will be the only one with a rating of unaccepable for that many years."

Ratcliffe the TEA decision is just the beginning of the process to close a school district.

"The district can appeal its academic rating, its financial rating. It can appeal its accreditation rating. And then, assuming all those stick, our agency will have to go to the U.S. Department of Justice to get their blessing, before we can consolidate North Forest with another district."

The Houston School District would likely absorb the students from North Forest, but it's not known which schools they would attend. And while the closure will be contested, State Senator John Whitmire says it's time to give the students what they deserve.

"I'm shocked, that anyone would say, 'Keep them in a poor, run down, inferior school district,' when they can go to a major school district, not perfect, but at least HISD provides a quality education. And they're not getting it now."

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...