Supporters vow to continue fight to save North Forest ISD

November 14, 2011 4:42:34 AM PST
The Texas Education Agency says it is closing North Forest ISD, but parents, students and a well-known legislator say it should stay open.

The state says NFISD is too mired in problems to fix it, and it's better for the community to close the district. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) disagrees.

Jackson Lee held a town hall meeting Sunday at NFISD's Shadydale Elementary School. She threw her support behind those wanting to keep the school district going, declaring that condemnation of NFISD is premature, and there's still an appeals process and a court battle if necessary.

Concern about the future of NFISD classrooms showed on the playground at Shadydale Elementary, but supporters are optimistic and determined.

"We're going to make it. They're not going to close the district. We are ready to fight," teacher Lorugene Young said.

NFISD supporter Ivory Mayhorn agrees with the optimism.

"There's no reason in the world for TEA to close North Forest," she said.

Just Friday, TEA Commissioner Robert Scott revoked the school district's accreditation, slating it for closure and annexation by Houston ISD.

The district received an "academically unacceptable" rating for each of the past three years. It also earned substandard financial accountability ratings for four straight years.

Jackson Lee says that's an unfair characterization, though, since the TEA itself had direct oversight of the district during a portion of that time.

How, she asked, can the state penalize the district when it's been in control?

"How are you going to tell us that now we have to have the death knell. the penalty and punishment when you were in charge for two full years?" Jackson Lee asked Sunday. "Why didn't they fix the problems or lay out a plan to fix the problems?"

Jackson Lee questions whether North Forest received a fair and unbiased review by the TEA, going so far as to suggest discrimination against the districtg which is 70 percent African American and 30 percent Latino.

Supporters have launched a petition drive. They say they are gathering 7,000 signatures and asking for a Department of Justice investigation.

"You don't have the right to come into our house and put us out," said Ann Tillis with the NFISD Parent-Teacher Organization.

Among the crowd opposed to the annexation by HISD is one of its own school board trustees -- Carol Mims Galloway -- who notes that HISD has its own problems.

"We in HISD do not have our house totally together. Why are we adding to it?" she asked.

HISD'S superintendent tells us it's important to note that they did not pursue annexation of North Forest.

Closure is set for July of next year.

North Forest supporters say they will fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

School administrators will hold a news conference tonight at 6:30pm to discuss their plans to fight to keep their district open. The meeting at the North Forest ISD administrative offices will be held immediately following the news conference their regular school board meeting.


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