The Texas Education Agency on Monday upheld the state education commissioner’s order for the North Forest Independent School District closed and annexed into the Houston Independent School District effective July 1.
According to the TEA, Education Commissioner Michael Williams based his decision on North Forest’s track record of poor academic performance and low high school completion rate. His decision was upheld Monday by Chief Deputy Commissioner Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds. North Forest’s elected school board now has the option of appealing the decision to the State Office of Administrative Hearings, which could uphold or reverse the decision.
If the commissioner’s order stands, HISD will have three months to finalize preparations in order to assume the responsibility of educating nearly 7,000 new students from the North Forest community.
“We know this has been a trying ordeal for the North Forest community, and we are committed to making this transition as smooth as possible for the students and their families,” said HISD Superintendent Terry Grier. “Our promise to the North Forest neighborhood students is the same as our promise to every student already attending HISD schools: You will be challenged academically, because we believe in you. You will have effective teachers and principals, because every child deserves the best. You will attend a safe school, because learning does not happen when children feel vulnerable.”
HISD will soon schedule a North Forest community meeting to gather input for the transition plan, and to address questions about the annexation. Updated information about the annexation will be posted regularly to the HISD website: www.houstonisd.org. Below, HISD Chief High School Officer Orlando Riddick addresses TEA decision to close North Forest ISD and merge with HISD.[vimeo http://vimeo.com/63115289]
More than 300 students who live in North Forest currently attend HISD schools thanks to the district’s open transfer policies. Students from North Forest will now have equal access to HISD’s popular magnet schools. All North Forest students and parents are invited to explore their options by attending the HISD School Choice Fair from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, April 27 at district headquarters, 4400 W. 18th Street.
HISD students have made strong academic progress over the past several years. The district’s graduation rate has never been higher, and HISD was notified last week that it is a finalist for the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education for the second consecutive year. The award recognizes urban school districts that have made the most overall academic progress while also narrowing the achievement gap. Each year, only 4 out of 75 eligible districts are chosen as finalists.
Plans for increasing the level of academic rigor in North Forest neighborhood schools are already under way. Earlier this year, the HISD Board of Education agreed to seek a federal grant to open middle and high school magnet campuses in North Forest that will focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.