Trustees of the historically Black and financially troubled North Forest school district Saturday blasted the state’s decision to disband the school board, calling the order racist and unwarranted.
School board president Tobie Ross Jr. said the current seven-member board is “the best” in the northeast Houston district in many years, and trustees say they planned to file a formal appeal.
The 8,000-student district has had a state-appointed financial conservator on site since March 2007, and an academic conservator joined him in November. The district is $12 million in debt, Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said.
Seventy percent of the district’s enrollment last year was Black and 29 percent was Hispanic. All the trustees are Black.
“I feel that this decision is biased, racist, political and disrespectful to this board and all stakeholders of this predominant Black school district,” Ross said at a news conference.
State education commissioner Robert Scott announced his decision to appoint a board of managers Thursday. The next day, new school accountability ratings showed that North Forest maintained its overall “academically acceptable” rating and cuts it number of “unacceptable” schools from five to two.
Four campuses earned “recognized” ratings, the state’s second-highest status, while the five others were “acceptable.” Trustees questioned why the TEA would want to remove them when the district is improving academically.
Ratcliffe said the agency was pleased the ratings improved, but said the decision was “largely because of the financial status of the district and the governance issues in the district.”
Ratcliffe denied the claims that the agency was discriminating against a minority district.
“Race didn’t enter into our decision,” Ratcliffe told the Houston Chronicle. “If anything, it would be racist if we didn’t act based on the color of the students in the district. Our decision was based on their financial situation and the governance of the board, not on the race of the students.”
The ouster of the seven elected trustees hinges on approval from the U.S. Department of Justice. Ratcliffe said the TEA expects approval from the federal government, and the agency has asked for a ruling by Oct. 10.
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