North Forest ISD Continues Fight Even After Judge Dismisses Lawsuit

The North Forest School District is running out of legal options as it fights closure. Today, a judge in Austin dismissed the district's lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency. The district's last hope is the Justice department.

The future of some 6,800 students attending North Forest schools is now in the hands of the Houston Independant School District, after a judge in Travis County threw out a lawsuit filed by the district against the TEA.

DeEtta Culbertson is a spokesperson for the agency. She says the TEA considers the ruling a victory for students of North Forest schools.

"Commissioner [Michael] Williams would like to thank Dr. Terry Grier of the Houston ISD for all the work his district has completed, to assure that this transition for the North Forest students and their parents is going to be a smooth one. We still have a lot more work to do in a short period of time over this summer, but today's ruling allows us and that critical work to take place."

She says North Forest ISD is slated to close July 1st.

"After July 1st, the annexation is complete and North Forest will be absorbed into the Houston ISD. At that time, Houston will take steps to assure that things will be ready for students, the new Houston ISD students, to start school in August."

Hernandez: "So this will happen, regardless of the fact that the attorney representing the North Forest School District is appealing?"

Culbertson: "We're moving forward as the Commissioner has said that this annexation is going to take place, pending Department of Justice action."

Ron Rainey is one of the attorneys representing North Forest ISD.

He says their appeal of the ruling and the Department of Justice's approval of the merger into HISD are happening at the same time.

"The TEA has already gone to the Department of Justice and sought pre-clearance. We oppose that. The Department of Justice said pretty much, 'How can we determine pre-clearance if you haven't even given us your plan?' And so that's what they're doing now is they're scrambling around gettting a plan. But it's a band-aid. It's a plan for one year and then they're going to have to redistrict, and so what's it going to look like after the year?"

HISD has said it is ready to welcome the new students this next school year, but is still awaiting final clearance by the DOJ.

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. We have still not received word from the U.S. Department of Justice on whether it approves the merger. The Trustees and our attorneys will continue to explore other options.”  —NFISD Superintendent Edna Forté
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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

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