Attorneys fight to keep North Forest ISD open

HOUSTON - Attorneys are joining the fight to keep a small northeast Houston school district open.

The Texas Education Agency ordered the North Forest Independent School District to be shut down because of academic struggles and financial issues.

Supporters of the district said North Forest is being unfairly targeted.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and the president of the Texas NAACP sat down with Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott Austin to discuss the closure.

Scott has proposed that the Houston Independent School District take over North Forest ISD's 7,500 students.
Jackson Lee and other supporters met Monday night to outline a plan to fight the decision.

North Forest Independent School District hopes to convince the state education commissioner that financial and academic performance problems were caused by former district leaders.

"The fact is that the Texas Education Agency ran the district for the entire time the commissioner claims the district was financially and academically unacceptable," the president of the board of trustees, Albert Coleman said.

The attorney working on the appeal believed one year would allow the district to become academically acceptable and the finances could be fixed within two years.

"Administratively, this is a tough fight. Administrative cases are already a tough fight. Because the law is weighted in favor of the administration," attorney Chris Tritico said.

The district has 30 days to appeal the decision. District officials said they are questioning several items—the review process used to shut down the district, why the decision was only left up to Scott and why after two years under the Texas Education Agency's watch, the schools still failed to perform.

The North Forest superintendent says her district is prepared to fight this decision all the way to federal court.

"Next, the district will pursue the second level of state appeal formally termed the 'record review' with the Texas Education Agency," superintendent Edna Forte said.

If North Forest is closed, HISD said it will work with North Forest leaders toward a smooth transition.
Supporters of North Forest are also asking the Department of Justice to look into if the district is being discriminated against because of its large minority population and because the district is so small.
North Forest ISD has one high school, two middle schools and six elementary schools.

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