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A new day in North Forest

I’m really really rooting for this to work out well.

[Maria] Cortez used to teach at Burbank Elementary in the Houston Independent School District but agreed to follow her principal to a tough new assignment – and to transfer her daughter, too.

[Thurgood Marshall Elementary] was part of North Forest ISD in northeast Houston until the state shuttered the long-troubled district and ordered HISD to assume control this summer.

“We know about North Forest’s history, but I trust him,” she said of her principal, Hilarion Martinez. “I took the chance.”

Cortez was one of 11 staff members who followed Martinez from Burbank, which earned the state’s second-lowest grade before he became principal in 2011. For last school year, Burbank met the state’s standards and earned all possible honors in reading and math performance, and in overall progress.

Martinez said he is bringing his same philosophy to Marshall: hiring top-notch teachers, supporting them and instilling a no-excuses attitude. For starters, on Monday morning, he surprised his staff with cupcakes and cards that read, “Our Teachers are the icing on the cake! … Thank you for the positive impact you will have on our students, in our school, and our North Forest community.”

None of the old North Forest teachers returned to Marshall, which HISD converted from a pre-kindergarten campus to a full elementary school. The new staff mostly came from HISD, while a recruiting trip to California resulted in some hires.

Including Cortez, 11 employees enrolled their own children at Marshall.

“It says a lot when the teachers want to bring their kids here,” Martinez said, noting that he expected enrollment to top 800, with children returning from nearby schools in Aldine and Sheldon.

See here for the previous update. HISD spent a lot of money getting these schools into good physical shape. Getting the academics up to standard is the bigger challenge. After all that has gone on here, I wish for nothing but absolute success for the teachers, parents, staff, principals, and especially the students of the former North Forest schools.

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  1. C says:

    All this because of a supreme court decision. I really liked the charter school district plan, but I guess my faith is this, now.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    I hope it works out for the kids of North Forest, but if the kids continue to have no support at home or in the community in general, the facelift of the schools and the new teachers aren’t going to do any good. A quick drive around the community shows the problems it has. Trash everywhere, crime, and generally, squalor. I hope the new emphasis on learning in North Forest will impact the surrounding community. Maybe the kids can actually impact the parents, starting with teaching them not to treat Houston as their garbage can.

    I really hope this works, and good riddance to the folks who treated NFISD as their own personal piggy bank, hiring their relatives, and generally spending the tax money on anything BUT the kids. Maybe they can go get some of those $ 15/hr fast food jobs now.

  3. Randy Baker says:

    Many years ago as a reporter for the defunct Houston Post, I wrote several stories that involved NFISD in some respect. At the time I wondered how that district could really serve its students. It was a mess and obviously it remained so for some years, living proof that “local control” is not necessarily a good thing. Nor is school consolidation necessarily a good thing, but the argument for the latter far outweighs that for the former. HISD will do a better job. The question is how much better … Your story certainly bodes well for the future if it is representative of the takeover.