North Forest Independent School District

North Forest Independent School District
Administration building

North Forest Independent School District is a school district based in northeast Houston, Texas.

In 2009, the school district was rated "academically unacceptable" by the Texas Education Agency.[1]

In 2011 the Texas Education Agency ordered the closure of the district after the northern hemisphere spring 2012.



William G. Smiley School

The district was originally named Northeast Houston Independent School District.[2] The district originated as a single school in Harris County.[3] It was also named the East and Mount Houston Independent School District.[4]

The district originally had a low income rural White population. Schools were segregated until the late 1960s. After desegregation, many White families moved to other communities along U.S. Highway 59 such as Aldine, Humble, and Porter.[5] NHISD was a mostly white district throughout the 1970s. The current NFISD was formed out of Northeast Houston ISD.[6] After White families left, African-American families became the majority and gained political control of NFISD.[5] Area residents stated that they were not annexed by the Houston Independent School District because they wanted to maintain political control over their own schools.[5]

In 1979 NFISD area residents discovered that a company had lied to them about a development; it claimed that houses were being developed on a site, when in reality a landfill was being placed there.[7] The proposed landfill was about 1,400 feet (430 m) from the NFISD administration building, an NFISD high school, the NFISD sports stadium, and an NFISD track field.[8] At the time the NFISD high school did not have air conditioning.[7] Seven NFISD schools were within a 2-mile (3.2 km) radius of the landfill.[9] In 1979 the area residents sued the landfill company in federal court.[7] In 1985 the residents lost the suit in federal court. Due to the political efforts against the landfill, remedies were passed at the state and municipal levels.[9]

In 1981 the NFISD Police Department was established.[10]

As of October 12, 1989, NFISD was the largest school district in the State of Texas managed by African-Americans.[11]

In 1991 voters approved an about $40 million NFISD bond.[3]

In 1997 voters approved a bond in an election, leading to the construction of four schools.[12] On March 1, 1998, the district issued $46.9 million worth of the approved bonds. The district used $5 million to refund older bonds at an interest rate that favored NFISD. The remaining funds were used to construct B. C. Elmore Middle School, East Houston Intermediate School (now Hilliard Elementary School), Keahey Intermediate School (now Marshall Early Childhood Center), and Shadydale Elementary School.[13] In 1999 voters approved another about $40 million NFISD bond.[3]

In June 2001 Tropical Storm Allison hit Houston, damaging six NFISD schools.[3] Forest Brook High School sustained heavy damage after the storm;[14] Forest Brook, Lakewood Elementary School, and the NFISD district administration building were closed due to storm damages.[3] The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said that it would pay 75% of the damage costs sustained as a result of Allison. FEMA planned to give NFISD $1.4 million as its first installment of payments in November 2001.[15]

On March 18, 2003 it had a budget of $65 million during that year; about $50 million came from the state and the rest came from property taxes.[3]

On July 20, 2007, some teenagers vandalized Forest Brook High School with a water hose.[16] Students at Forest Brook began the 2007-2008 school year at nearby M. B. Smiley High School [17]. Forest Brook re-opened in the spring. After the vandalism of Forest Brook High School, North Forest ISD decided to merge Forest Brook's population into Smiley until Forest Brook is repaired. Some parents and observers criticized the decision, fearing territorial rivalries would cause tension between Forest Brook and Smiley students. School officials states that the repair would take at least four months [18].

In March 2008 North Forest ISD announced that it would consolidate its two high schools and close Tidwell Elementary School, merging it into Hilliard. Pupils formerly zoned to Tidwell started being a part of the Hilliard zone in August 2008.[19][20][21]

History of academic and management troubles

Since the late 1980s, and by 2011, the district has experienced reoccurring financial and academic problems.[22] Because of this, many parents in the NFISD area enrolled their children in state charter schools or moved out of the district area.[23] The district had the highest March 10, 1986 TECAT (Texas Examination of Current Administrators and Teachers) failure rate of any large school district. 25% of the district's administrators and teachers did not pass.[24] In 1988 the TEA assigned a monitor to NFISD to deal with the school board and the finances; Ericka Mellon of the Houston Chronicle said that the school board was "meddling."[25] On October 12, 1989, the Houston Chronicle printed an article, "North Forest district shows off its `other' side in tour," about the district trying to create a positive impression in the media.[11]

In a 2006 article Todd Spivak of the Houston Chronicle, described NFISD as "a prime example of how inconsistency can wreak havoc on schools."[26] In the five years before 2006 NFISD had four superintendents. In the years leading to 2006 the Texas Education Agency had indicated financial and governance problems at NFISD. Dr. Robert Sanborn, the president and CEO of the organization Children at Risk, analyzed North Forest ISD during that year. He describes the state of affairs as "inexcusable" as the district managed two high schools at the time; both posted state test scores considered to be poor and SAT scores considered to be the lowest in the Houston area.[26] During the same year Dan Feldstein of the Houston Chronicle said "By many measures, North Forest, which would serve the subdivision, is a troubled district. Not only is it last in Harris County in SAT scores and passing rates on the TAKS test, but it ranks among the worst in the state."[27] In late 2006 the TEA assigned two teachers to monitor two NFISD campuses that were rated "unacceptable" by the TEA.[25]

On March 25, 2007, the Houston Chronicle published an article chronicling the district's woes; for instance, Patty Pinkley, a teacher of "technology applications," did not receive any working computers until March in the school year.[28]. On July 21, 2007, The Dallas Morning News posted an article explaining standardized test cheating at Forest Brook High School. The article compared North Forest ISD to Wilmer-Hutchins Independent School District, a Dallas-based school district that was closed after years of poor performance.[29]

On March 9, 2007, the board voted 4-3 to terminate Dr. James Simpson, the superintendent.[30] In May, the state ordered the district to reinstate Simpson, citing that Simpson was denied due process.[31]

In November 2007 the Texas Education Agency appointed an academic overseer to monitor NFISD; the TEA had sent a financial overseer in March 2007.[32]

On January 23, 2008 the trustees voted to rehire Simpson.[33]

On January 28, 2008 the Houston Chronicle stated that Walter Davis, an independent auditor, told NFISD trustees that the district is nearing bankruptcy.[34]

On January 31, 2008 the Houston Chronicle stated that Texas Education Agency officials investigated the district, checking to see if the district violated laws by using construction funds for general purposes.[35]

On February 4, 2008 Tobie B. Ross, Jr., a trustee, requested to change his "Yes" vote for re-instating Simpson to a "No."[36] The Texas Education Agency denied the district's decision to reinstate Simpson.[19]

On March 20, 2008 the Northeast Education First community group asked for the state to fire the school board.[37] Governor of Texas Rick Perry did not remove the NFISD school board.[38] On March 26 the district stated that it would lay off 90 teachers to try to reduce its budget crisis.[39]

The Texas Education Agency stated that the district would have a $17 million United States dollar debt by August 2008.[40] The agency put the district on probation in June 2008.[41]

Outside monitors stated that NFISD had poor management and "security violations" related to TAKS testing.[42]

On July 31, 2008, Wayne Dolcefino of ABC 13 KTRK, a primary news station, based in Houston, reported on an investigation he had conducted regarding North Forest ISD, for possible finance and election malfeasance and misconduct committed by officials of NFISD leadership. Dolcefino investigated for several months prior to the release of his facts and findings. This investigation could lead to possible criminal indictments, in the future. Also, misconduct concerns from parents of NFISD enrolled children and investigating government officials may lead to petitions for new leadership. Special Education Director, Dr. Ruth Watson, has been removed from her position and given a new one within the district. The move in job position was reported as lateral, in which Dr. Ruth Watson maintained her current salary, despite not being Director of Special Education. Dr. Watson approved and forwarded more than five special federal government grants which were received, for her own family members. These grants are meant for the most seriously disabled special children. It was also exposed that one of the Special Education specialists, in question, had a child with Vice President of the Board of Education for NFISD, Allen Provost. When Dolcefino asked Provost if the board member ignored election laws, Provost shoved a business card in Dolcefino's shirt pocket, while telling the reporter(Dolcefino) to contact Provost's lawyer.[43] The TEA dismissed the NFISD school board on July 31, 2008.[44]

On Wednesday October 15, 2008 the state approved the removal of the board. The board members decided to appeal to federal courts.[45][46]

In a three year period until 2011, NFISD was consistently ranked "academically unacceptable" by the Texas Education Agency.[47]

Proposed shutdown

On Friday, July 8, 2011 the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced not to order the immediate closure of North Forest High School. The TEA also announced that North Forest High School and North Forest ISD would received an "Academically Unacceptable" rating and the district assigned a "Non-Accredited-Revoked" accreditation for the school year 2011-2012 and to close the district effectively by July 1, 2012.[48] The school district said that it was going to try to oppose the closure order.[22] The state said that the Houston Independent School District (HISD) would absorb the NFISD territory. Paula Harris, president of the HISD board, said that HISD did not advocate for the outcome, but that it would be willing to accommodate the students.[49] The NFISD closing date is July 1, 2012.[50] Some media reports stated that NFISD was a "historically black" school district, and some said that it would be the largest such district in the state to be closed. Kimberly Reeves of the Houston Press said that if the criterion for "historically black" was that the district was predominately African-American in the segregation era and that it remained predominately African-American since desegregation, then NFISD would not be "historically black."[6]

Sheila Jackson Lee, a local congressperson, expressed an opposition to closing the district.[51] Paul Bettencourt, the Harris County tax assessor, said that a handover to HISD would be beneficial for the NFISD students.[52] George McShan, who served as the head of the TEA-appointed committee overlooking NFISD before the current board returned to power, stated that he is not surprised that the TEA is trying to close the district. Harold Dutton, a state representative, said that the TEA did not do enough to save the district, while Debbie Ratcliffe, the spokesperson of the TEA, said that the TEA could not get NFISD to make sufficient progress.[6]

An editorial in the Houston Chronicle argued that the district ought to be shut down, and that parents in the NFISD region should try to enroll their children in HISD schools, as HISD allows children living in neighboring districts to attend HISD schools tuition free. The editorial stated that once HISD absorbs the NFISD territory, it ought to begin offering school bus services between the NFISD area and the current HISD territory.[23]

The district began the 2011-2012 school year, while the possibility of annexation was present.[53] In November 2011 Robert Scott, the TEA commissioner, announced that he was officially closing the district and revoking accreditation. The United States Department of Justice still has to approve the closure. The USDOJ has approved similar closures in Texas.[54] Jackson Lee said that she would continue to advocate against the closure. Ivory Mayhorn, the head of a group campaigning for the salvation of the district, accused the TEA of discriminating against North Forest.[55]

Catchment area

NFISD covers 33 square miles (85 km2) of land in northeast Harris County.[56] The NFISD area is about 20 miles (32 km) from Downtown Houston,[5] and south of George Bush Intercontinental Airport.[57] Jan Jarboe, who wrote for Texas Monthly stated in 1986 that the district "clings to isolation" despite its proximity to Downtown.[5] Helen Wheatley, who served as the Houston Federation for Teachers staff representative for NFISD, said in 1986 that while the community was an "urban area," the NFISD zone "has a country feeling to it."[5] North Forest ISD covers about 33 square miles (85 km2).[12]

North Forest ISD covers small parts of northeast Houston (including the neighborhoods of East Houston, Northwood Manor, Dorchester Place, Royal Glen, Fontaine, Scenic Woods, Melbourne Place, Kentshire, Henry Place, Baker Place, Glenwood Forest, Royal Oak Terrace, Houston Suburban Heights, Warwick Place, Chatwood Place, Townly Place, Wayside Village [58][59][60], and Settegast) and parts of unincorporated Harris County, including Dyersdale.

NFISD is the poorest district in Harris County. During a period NFISD made $1,711 per student in property taxes. Despite having a higher tax rate than Deer Park Independent School District, that district made $7,021 per student in property taxes.[61] As of 2003 the NFISD attendance zone had very little industry.[3]

In 2006 the area within NFISD had the lowest property value per student ratio in Harris County. Its property value per student ratio was less than half of the average ratio in the State of Texas. Within the district, in 2006 the typical single family house was appraised to be worth $51,106. 42 of the 15,637 houses within the NFISD boundaries had an appraised value greater than $200,000.[27]

In 2007, of the school districts in urban areas in Texas NFISD had the highest concentration of ex-prison inmates.[62]

Student body

As of 2010, NFISD had 7,410 students. 68.6% of the students were Black, 30.8% of the students were Hispanic, .5% were White, and .1% were Asian or Pacific Islander. 100% were classified as economically disadvantaged. At that time the district had over 1,050 employees.[57]

In 1980 80% of the students were African American.[63] In 1989 the student body consisted of mainly urban working class people. It was overwhelmingly African American.[64]

In 1996 the enrollment at NFISD began to decline.[3] The student body steadily declined; it had 13,132 students in the 1993-1994 school year, while it had 11,699 in the 2001-2002 school year. This was an 11% decline over a nine year period.[65] During the 2001-2002 school year, Both NFISD high schools had 2,837 students, while the capacities of the schools combined was 5,875, giving a classroom usage percentage of 48%.[13] On March 18, 2003 the district had 11,217 students, fewer than the expected 11,650.[3]


NFISD operates nine schools in northeast Harris County.[66] Facilities within the district's supervision include one early childhood center, five elementary schools, two middle schools, one ninth grade center, one charter school, and one high school.[67]

Secondary schools

Alternative secondary schools

High schools



  • W. G. Smiley Career and Technology Center [1]

Middle schools

Forest Brook Middle School - the former campus of North Forest High School and Forest Brook High School
  • B. C. Elmore Middle School - Built in 2000[65]
    • The original 29 classroom building was built in 1957 for $513,113.00. It was named B. C. Elmore High School, after Bennie Carl Elmore, a school principal. In 1972, after Forest Brook High School opened, Elmore became a middle school. The district demolished the original building in 1999. The current 40 classroom, 130,000 square feet (12,000 m2) facility, which had a multi-million dollar cost, replaced the original Elmore.[4]
  • Forest Brook Middle School - Building built in 1972[65]

Primary schools

Elementary schools

Shadydale Elementary School


  • Fonwood Elementary School - Built in 1964[65]
  • A. G. Hilliard Elementary School - built in 2000[65]
    • Original Hilliard was built in 1963[65]
  • Lakewood Elementary School - Built in 1962[65]
  • W. E. Rogers Elementary School - Built in 1964[65]
  • Shadydale Elementary School - Built in 2000[65]


  • Thurgood Marshall Early Childhood Center - Built in 2000[65]
    • Original Marshall Elementary School built in 1956[65]

State charter eligibility

In addition to the district-operated schools listed here, area residents may also apply to YES Prep Schools's North Forest campus; only NFISD residents may apply to the school.[68]

Former schools

High Schools

After Spring 2008 two high schools combined into North Forest High School, located at the Forest Brook campus.[69]

  • Forest Brook High School (School built in 1972,[65] opened on August 2, 1972[70]) - Campus now used for Forest Brook Middle School.[71][72]
  • B. C. Elmore High School - Opened in 1957 as a high school. The 29 classroom facility had a cost of $513,113. It was named after Bennie Carl Elmore, who served as the school principal until 1969. After Forest Brook opened in 1972, Elmore became a middle school.[4]
  • M. B. Smiley High School - School built in 1953,[65] Now used as the main campus for North Forest HS.[73]

K-8 schools

  • Settegast High School - Opened 1951 to serve black students. It housed about 300 students - Grades 1-8[4]

Middle schools

  • R. E. Kirby Middle School - School built in 1964[65]
  • Northwood Middle School - School built in 1960, closed due to declining enrollment, used for storage in 2003[65] - During that year the 18.59-acre (7.52 ha) property had a valuation of $7,637,830[13]
  • Oak Village Middle School - School built in 1967[65] Now used as 9th grade center for North Forest High School[71][73]

Primary schools

  • East Houston Elementary School (site after renovation became East Houston Intermediate School[citation needed]; the campus now houses Hilliard Elementary School)
  • Tidwell Elementary School (school built in 1962,[65] closed after spring 2008[19])
  • Langstead Elementary School (built in 1968 [65]; closed due damage from Tropical Storm Allison; later used as a temporary administration building[74])
    • The building was a converted church, which was valued at $180,000 1973 dollars. It served grades K-3, had space for 350 students, and used an "open concept" design.[75]

Intermediate schools

  • East Houston Intermediate School (built in 2000,[65] the campus is now the site of Hilliard Elementary School)[76][77]
  • Keahey Intermediate School (built in 2000,[65] the campus is now the site of Marshall Early Childhood Center)[76][78]

Headquarters and other facilities

Its current headquarters is at 6010 Little York Road.[79]

The previous district headquarters sustained damages in Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.[3] The previous district headquarters had opened in 1964.[65] The Texs Comptroller of Public Accounts stated that the 12,000-square-foot (1,100 m2) facility was destroyed as a result of the flood.[13] Langstead Elementary, which had been constructed in 1968, was used as a temporary administration building. In 2002 the district had no plans on where its headquarters may be.[65] By 2003 NFISD planned to establish its new headquarters. The district considered a 250-acre (100 ha) plot of land across from North Forest High School's main campus (formerly M. B. Smiley High School) as a location for a new headquarters.[3][65]

The Jones-Cowart Stadium serves as the district's stadium for sporting events.[12] It is located on the property of North Forest High School.[56]


The school district provides transportation to any elementary, middle, or high school student living over 2 miles (3.2 km) from his or her assigned school. The district may add .1 miles (0.16 km) to establish a reasonable boundary. It also provides transportation for AM and PM kindergarten students when the time is about 12 Noon. If students face hazards (such as construction areas and multilane highways), preventing safe travel to the assigned schools, the Department of Transportation will decide to allow bus travel for those students.[80]

The district has a fleet of fifty school buses. The fleet makes 111 runs daily, and serves about 3,300 students. Since the transportation department also has maintenance and service vehicles, it has a total of 162 vehicles in its fleet.[80]

See also

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  2. ^ "Study Area 4." City of Houston. Accessed October 21, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Martin, Betty L. "North Forest strives to move ahead / Beleaguered school district battles decline in student enrollment and financial strain." Houston Chronicle. Thursday March 20, 2003. ThisWeek 1. Retrieved on July 15, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d "The History of B.C. Elmore." B.C. Elmore Middle School. Retrieved on November 14, 2011.
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  73. ^ a b "North Forest High School Ninth Grade Center and Main Campus Standard Dress Code." North Forest Independent School District. Retrieved on July 15, 2011. "A standard dress code has been approved for North Forest High School. All students North Forest High School attending both the main campus at 10725 Mesa Drive and the Ninth Grade Center at 6602 Winfield Road are required to adhere to the required dress code."
  74. ^ "Flood-ravaged schools open in make-do spirit," Houston Chronicle. September 5, 2001. Retrieved on November 14, 2011.
  75. ^ The Texas Outlook. Texas State Teachers Association, 1973. Volume 57. 56. Retrieved from Google Books on November 14, 2011. "North Forest ISD (Houston): Dedication ceremonies were held for Langstead Primary, a church which was converted into an open concept school. The $180000 school for grades K-3 will accommodate 350 students in three large team-teaching[...]"
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  77. ^ "Contact Us." A. G. Hilliard Elementary School. Retrieved on November 14, 2011. "Address: 8115 East Houston Rd. Houston, TX 77028"
  78. ^ "15-contact.jpg." Marshall Early Childhood Center. Retrieved on November 14, 2011. "6200 Winfield Rd.*Houston, Tx 77050"
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  80. ^ a b "Transportation." North Forest Independent School District. Retrieved on November 13, 2011.

External links

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