This could be the end for North Forest ISD.
Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams recommended that the district of 6,900 students be annexed into the mammoth Houston ISD effective July 1. His statement came just two days after the district said it would seek a partnership with Texas A&M University to assume day-to-day operations of its 10 schools.
Last March, then-TEA Commissioner Robert Scott granted North Forest a one-year reprieve. Scott’s successor, Williams, said the reprieve is over.
The commissioner’s recommendation will now go to TEA Chief Deputy Lizzette Gonzalez-Reynolds, who was designated by the previous commissioner in 2012 as TEA’s final decision-maker in this matter. If Reynolds approves the closure, the U.S. Department of Justice must pre-clear the merger with Houston ISD, according to the TEA.
Meanwhile, North Forest leaders have 10 days to ask for the record review to be reopened. They could then appeal the ruling to the State Office of Administrative Hearings, said TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe.
Ideally, the legal appeals would be done by June 1 so that the annexation could be completed by July 1, she said.
See here for the background, here for the TEA news release, and here for the letter from Commissioner Williams to NFISD. I guess the Texas A&M experiment didn’t work out. Pre-clearance is an issue because North Forest ISD has a Board of Trustees that will cease to exist when NFISD goes away. I suppose it’s possible that HISD could be required to redo its trustee districts again, but I’m just guessing. Assuming the appeals are denied and there’s no further legal action, it will be a big task for HISD to absorb NFISD and its students. It’s not clear to me if the NFISD schools themselves will close, which would be a big logistical deal for HISD, or if they’ll just now operate under HISD supervision. Either way, HISD has its work cut out for it. This Trib story from last April examined the issue of school district closures, which are rare – NFISD would be the first one since 2006 – and for which there’s not a consensus that it’s actually beneficial to the students. That story also notes that a second district, Premont ISD in South Texas, was under the same threat of shutdown as NFISD. We’ll see when the TEA makes a decision about them. Hair Balls has more.