Threatened with shut-down, North Forest ISD turns to charter groups

"Good morning Congresswoman Lee. And all of you. We hope you enjoy your visit at Shadydale University, home of the Rams. Do we need to close the doors on these children? No. I can't hear you. No!"

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is fighting for the second time to keep the North Forest Independent School District open.

It's a district with a history of academic and financial problems.

"So today we announce an offer to the state of Texas, something that is highly unusual. And we have reviewed across the nation, and it come back to us that this will be the first. This will be the first: a partnership with public charters and the North Forest School District."

Those schools are high-profile national operators with roots in Houston: KIPP, Yes Prep and Harmony charter schools.

There are already partnerships between charters and traditional public schools in Houston, New Orleans and other places.

Take North Forest. For the last three years the district has hosted YES Prep, and its teachers at one of its schools.

But this proposal takes the idea to a new level as former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige says.

A teacher helps a student at Shadydale Elementary in North Forest ISD
(Laura Isensee, KUHF)

"I think this is very unique. Unique in the fact we have three of the nation's best, most recognized, most successful charter organizations partnering with a traditional school district. I'm not aware of that occurring anywhere else in the United States of America."

If the plan goes forward, Paige would join the board of the new group.

Chris Tritico is the attorney for North Forest ISD.

He says there would still be a North Forest school board, but one with less power and also a new management group.

It's not clear if one charter operator,like KIPP, would run a single campus, say Shadydale Elementary.

"We're really not far enough to talk about specifics. We have a memorandum of understanding that's signed by all the parties.[It] says to the commissioner: we want to enter into, what I'm calling, an educational services agreement. This group [would] come together as a consortium to manage the school district."

He says it's better than merging with the Houston Independent School District.

"This is a better deal, and it will bring about more rapid change for these students."

Before the deal goes forward, the Texas Education Commissioner has to approve it.

And North Forest has to win its appeal next week against the state's order to close.

 

Tags: News, Education

 

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