North Forest ISD supporters aim to stop merger

HOUSTON The state wants to close North Forest Independent School District and merge it with another district. Parents gathered at an emergency town hall meeting Saturday for their voices to be heard.

Many of the people attending that emergency meeting said they are not giving up on this school district, and they are prepared to fight the Texas Education Agency's decision.

"We are working with one high school, so when they say they cannot educate those students, they don't know who we are," said Edna Forte, interim superintendent for North Forest ISD.

Claps and cheers erupted at Forest Brook Middle School as more than 300 concerned community members packed the meeting Saturday to discuss the future of their school district.

"First and foremost, we are focused and determined. We are focused and determined," Forte said.

Focus and determination are tools district leaders and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee told attendees they'll need in fighting the TEA's decision to shut down this predominately African-American school district by July 2012.

That notice last week took many parents and students by surprise.

"I want the TEA to know right now that they shouldn't close the district, and that there are concerned parents and we have wonderful teachers in this district," parent Angela Brown said.

Many of the supporters at the meeting were upset, accusing the TEA of blasting North Forest High School for having the lowest academic ranking in the state for the last six years. The agency also claims the district's financial accountability has been poor for the last three years.

But community members and Jackson Lee say they believe the TEA has left out something major in its critique.

"Most people don't realize this that this school district was under the operation of the Texas Education Agency for the past two years. This is not the work of the school board, and if anyone should be fired, it should be the Texas Education Agency," Jackson Lee said.

Hundreds of concerned people are signing petitions, saying they don't believe closing North Forest ISD is in the best interest of its 7,500 students. Jackson Lee is asking federal agencies to investigate.

This week, several North Forest parents told us they support the TEA's decision and would like to see Houston ISD accept the students. For now, North Forest ISD is planning to appeal the TEA's decision.

Stay with Eyewitness News and as we continue to follow new developments in this story.

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