North Forest ISD's Hopes to Avoid HISD Merger Vanishing Quickly

The likelihood of North Forest Independent School District being annexed into Houston Independent School District seems imminently probable, even though North Forest promises at least one more appeal of the decision.

North Forest, which has been in disarray for almost two decades now, threw a Hail Mary pass at the 11th hour, using a record review of its closure order before the Texas Education Agency as a chance to pitch a proposed hybrid public-charter district concept to rescue the district from its academic dirge.

North Forest's proposed partnership was with the new PHILO Management Group. PHILO, not to be confused with the inestimable character Philo Beddoe in Every Which Way But Loose, actually stands for Public, High Impact, Low-income community focused, Open-enrollment schools.

North Forest, in its statement today, expressed disappointment over the decision:

Because we truly believe partnering with the charter schools that make up PHILO is the best option for the children of North Forest, we will appeal this decision to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Regardless of the outcome, the faculty and staff will continue to move forward with the transformative work we are doing in North Forest ISD to complete a successful school year.

North Forest can appeal its record review to the State Office of Administrative Hearings, but the review would be confined to the closure order, which seemed fairly airtight at the agency record review last month.

At a hearing before Senate Nominations, Education Commissioner Michael Williams expressed his hope the annexation process would move quickly, with HISD moving into North Forest to begin the takeover in June or July.

Williams told senators he had reviewed the PHILO plan but called it sketchy. Asked for a copy of the plan, the Texas Education Agency produced a boilerplate two-page document signed by the charter schools and North Forest. An accompanying nine-page PowerPoint document was more diagrams than words, showing the slow year-to-year takeover of district campuses by charters.

The last step will be approval by the Department of Justice of the annexation. TEA moved to get that approval in advance of its March hearing.

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