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TEA insists North Forest closure moving ahead

TEA Commissioner Michael Williams says don’t listen to the noise, North Forest ISD will be assimilated into HISD as planned on July 1.

Williams said the Texas Education Agency, which he oversees, has followed state law and has the necessary approval to proceed with shutting down North Forest ISD, which has a long history of academic and financial problems. His order calls for neighboring HISD to assume control of the 7,000-student North Forest district on July 1.

“This is going to happen,” Williams said.

The top lawyers for the TEA and HISD had a conference call with Justice Department staff on Wednesday.

According to a memo from HISD general counsel Elneita Hutchins-Taylor, she is proposing that the HISD board approve a redistricting item at its June 13 meeting.

She said the initial recommendation is for North Forest to be assigned to District II, represented by Rhonda Skillern-Jones, with some residents possibly assigned to District VIII, represented by Juliet Stipeche. Neither seat is on the ballot in November, so the Justice Department doesn’t have to issue a ruling in the near future, Hutchins-Taylor wrote.

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier said North Forest officials are not fully cooperating, withholding basic information like test data and students’ addresses, needed to help plan bus routes.

See here for the background. Yesterday, North Forest’s proponents got a boost when a judge granted a temporary restraining order temporarily halting the takeover.

The order by Judge Jon Wisser means the Texas Education Agency cannot proceed with shutting down the long-troubled North Forest school district at least until a court hearing on June 13.

North Forest supporters saw the temporary restraining order as a victory in their fight against closure, but a TEA spokeswoman said the judge’s order was routine and agency officials were “absolutely confident” the takeover will take place.

“There have been illegal actions by the (TEA) Commissioner and his appointees throughout this process,” North Forest attorney Chris Tritico said in a statement. “The law does not permit the government to manipulate the law to accomplish its own ends. Today is a major step in ensuring the continuation of the North Forest school district.”

I think in the end North Forest is going to lose the fight and the closure will go ahead, but I’m not quite ready to believe it will happen on schedule. We’ll see how big a bump in the road this is.

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