HISD and KIPP debate North Forest’s future

HISD SUperintendent Terry Grier and KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg meet with the Chronicle to discuss their vision for North Forest ISD.

Under either scenario, students could face longer school hours to help them catch up academically, and some employees may have to change positions or lose their jobs if they don’t perform well.

Grier said the Houston Independent School District would save money thanks to efficiencies in its bus and food service departments. He also noted that HISD’s tax rate is lower, by about 28 cents, so North Forest property owners would see their bills fall.

Under Feinberg’s proposal, a nonprofit board called PHILO would oversee the North Forest district. It would include a mix of charter schools and traditional public schools. The elected North Forest school board would continue to collect taxes and could perform other duties if the TEA chose.

Feinberg said the novelty of the idea – a twist on efforts in New Orleans and Tennessee – likely would attract outside funding from foundations.


Grier said his staff has been discussing details about annexing North Forest since the former state education commissioner, Robert Scott, first ordered the move in October 2011. Scott then gave North Forest a one-year reprieve.

“We could merge that district into our district tomorrow morning,” Grier said during a meeting with Feinberg before the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board. “It’s ready to go. And we can implement it smoothly.”

Grier, however, declined to release many details of the district’s plan. He said North Forest High School would remain open, and HISD would start some magnet programs in North Forest. He would not say how many, if any, North Forest schools would be closed.


The PHILO group would keep open the 10 North Forest campuses in the coming school year, with new charter schools coming on board in 2014. The group has not detailed what changes it would make to help existing North Forest campuses to improve. The number and type of charter schools would be determined by where parents and students applied.

See here for more on the charter schools’ proposal. North Forest is making one last appeal to avoid closure, but I suspect that’s just going through the motions. The TEA will hand down its decision on their final appeal on April 1, so we’ll know soon enough though litigation may follow. As far as the actual proposals from HISD and PHILO go, all I can say is that they’re both a little light on the details. Grier touts his Apollo initiative, which is based in part on KIPP, as their model to follow. One could argue that if you’re going to go that way, you may as well go all the way. I’m not sure I consider Feinberg’s statement about the possibility of outside funding under his plan to be a positive, since that would also imply outside agendas that may or may not be desirable. Regardless, assuming nothing strange happens these are the choices, and the TEA will decide which way it wants North Forest to go.

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