PAS kindergarten line started this morning

January 22, 2012


The infamous line for kindergarten registration at the Penn Alexander School began at about 9 a.m. this morning, 24 hours before registration actually begins.

By 10:30 a.m. the line had already swollen to about 70 people. Those in line, some of whom were wrapped in sleeping bags, had begun to devise a plan to provide some relief – maybe two hours on, two hours off – from the freezing temperatures. There are currently three kindergarten classes at the school.

The line has started very early in recent years, including the night before registration last year. This year’s line, however, is unprecedented. Kindergarten registration across the district begins tomorrow morning.

28 Comments For This Post

  1. BGA Says:

    It doesn’t have to be this way

  2. stephanie Says:

    this is ridiculous, and the district needs to end this immediately. no one should be allowed to form a line until 7am on the day of registration.

  3. Kelly Anne Says:


  4. Amara Says:

    In-catchment registration for kindergarten starts tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. district-wide, not just PAS. At least one person from the West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools is registering their kid at Lea Elementary tomorrow, no camping equipment required.

    From 9:00 a.m. to Noon, Lea will have registration in the main office for catchment students continuing through the rest of the year Monday through Thursday. Students must be 5 years old by September 1, 2012. Parents must bring their child’s birth certificate and immunization records and show ID (driver’s license or passport) and proof of residency (utility bill, voter’s registration, lease or deed). If parents would like to request a specific teacher, they should do so during registration, otherwise students will be assigned randomly.

  5. Ruby Johnston Says:

    I personally believe it’s inspirational for the kids and not at all ridiculous. If you want your kid to grow up in such a welcoming environment you have to fight for it, set a good example. It motivates the kid you sign up and the kids already attending because it shows how good of a school they go to and how privileged they are. I’m saying this as school President of 2012 not a parent who just doesn’t want to sleep outside for 24 hours

  6. My mind is blown Says:

    Inspirational? Really? Inspirational? Dude, your kid will never thank you for this. You did this for yourself, not for them. Inspirational is when a kid goes to a public school and dukes it out with adversity. Inspirational is not when his parent pays $100,000 more for the same house 1 block away from a catchment area only to still stand outside in 30 degree weather after a snow storm so his/her kid can go to a school that Upenn decided is worthy of an extra $1300 a student. You’re the school president? I bet that makes you feel good. Your first order of business should be to deal with the fact that people have to line up outside of a school to get there kid enrolled.

    Don’t put this shit on your kid. This is all you.

    Inspiration has nothing to do with it.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Um, Ruby Johnston is a student at PAS and is student government president. But I do appreciate that someone associated with the school finally admitted the students there are very privileged. Out of the mouths of babes…

  8. Shelly Says:

    I bet if given the chance to send thier kids to PAS for free, people in other neighborhoods would gladly sit outside a few hours. Just saying.

  9. Anonymous1 Says:

    While it is the legal right of any parent to move where they want and send their kids where they want, this leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. Many parents buy expensive houses in the catchment with the sole purpose of sending their kids to Penn Alexander (this includes that woman in the front of the line according to the Inquirer). Meanwhile, there are parents who cannot afford to send their kids to private school, let alone afford an expensive house, work in the neighborhood because it is the only place where they could find a job, and do not have the resources to sit out in line beginning at 9am the day before registration. The result is a free, tax funded school that disproportionally benefits parents of means.

  10. mdschill Says:

    @stephanie: so then there would be people lined up to get in the 7 am line?

    @my mind is blown: maybe you should read a little more carefully before venting your spleen on a PAS student who sounds very appreciative of her school.

    as many folks have said, the best response would be to focus energies on improving all Philly public schools, starting with one’s own neighborhood school. the Penn support obviously makes a huge difference, but what sets PAS apart in my mind is the commitment of parents to the school’s success. That is something that can be replicated almost anywhere.

  11. stephanie Says:

    “I bet if given the chance to send thier kids to PAS for free, people in other neighborhoods would gladly sit outside a few hours. Just saying.”

    not us.

    we are in west philly, in the alexander wilson catchment, and attempting to enroll in PAS wasn’t even on our radar because of the drastic inequality focused on one school while the two others in the same neighborhood were left floundering – and while the CEO collected the largest public salary in all of pennsylvania. how does a district, a city, a neighborhood allow one school to be the shining example of wealth & privilege, while two others are left with the scraps?

    we abandoned all hope of any public school when we found out how inequitable and random the entire system is – powel, greenfield, mccall, meredith, henry, jenks – all different in-house policies regarding accepting out-of-catchment kids, or if we moved, a question lingered – is there a guarantee that if we live in a catchment, we will be allowed to enroll?

    in the end, after countless hours of worry, paperwork and open houses – public & charter – we were accepted at powel, but we chose homeschooling. not a choice for everyone, and we have sacrificed a lot to do what we feel like is the best choice for our family, as every family needs to do, but fundamentally, the system of inequity among schools, and ultimately among neighbors, needs to change.

  12. Another Mother Says:

    The example set by this type of insanity is not one I would want to set for my children. One of their own students has seemed to have learned that only the priviledged deserve or can obtain a welcoming environment, and that being priviledged (wealthy or dare I speculate, mostly white?) enough to go to this wonderful school should be their motivation to do well…smh

  13. craig Says:

    Let’s cut Ruby some slack here. I think you’re misreading (projecting, perhaps?) her use of the word “privilege.” She’s proud of her school. She feels honored to go there. Is that really something you want to denigrate?

  14. Michelle Says:

    Money doesn’t make a school great, the students and parents do.

    I work at an “impoverished” West Philly public school, and we have all the resources we need. What we don’t have is kids that want to learn (or at least behave in any sort of respectable manner) and parents who care.

    Penn Alexander has both. Privilege has nothing to do with student behavior and parental involvement.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    A teacher who does not recognize the impact socioeconomic status has on students’ readiness to learn and parent involvement has no business being in teaching profession.

  16. Ishmael Says:

    Another Mother and Others who criticized Ruby: for goodness sake, are you unaware of the conventional use of the word “privilege,” as in, “It’s a privilege to be speaking to you tonight,” or “an education is a privilege.” This use of the word has nothing to do with wealth. Obviously, Ruby is getting a pretty good education.

    That said, in a capitalist nation a good education is indeed a privilege, no longer a right. And *that’s* what we should be paying attention to, not carping at a decent school. Instead we should be demanding that all of our schools are good. And to do this, of course, we all have to pony up and pay higher taxes (we are where the buck stops, folks).

  17. Anonymous1 Says:

    I couldn’t agree more Ishmael, although I think there’s another dimension to this particular situation: Penn Alexander is a public resource that is being increasingly dominated by wealthier families who do not actually need it because they can afford private schools. I was in that line, and the difference between the front and back was pretty stark: at the head you had a VP at JP Morgan who could afford to buy a house in the catchment just to send her kids there, and the wherewithal and motivation to begin scouting it out on Friday. And towards the front you had parents who were smart and motivated enough to create phone trees and alert each other when the line formed, and my impression was that many of them were young professionals who at least had a household income well over the median. Towards the back you had a lot more parents who were motivated enough to get in line on a Sunday morning, but were not quite as wealthy, were not part of the “club”, and for the most part Penn Alexander was the only option they were considering.

    So this was absolutely about privilege, and even the line itself was a microcosm of our winners-and-losers system (many parents at the back will probably not get a spot). It is hard to blame any individual family for wanting to send their kid to a good school for free, and kudos to those at the front for playing the game well. But something about it does not seem right.

  18. Lisa Marie Says:

    I hope that the parents whose children didn’t get in (and the parents whose children did) will become motivated to 1) work for improve other schools in West Philly and 2) demand better from the school district of Phila.

    It is such a crucial moment for phila public schools right now between the SDP budget crisis and the Corbett administration’s move to dismantle public education in Pennsylvania but also with ackerman out of the way and a school reform commission with a new makeup (and corresponding good intentions, I hope). I encourage everyone who doesn’t follow the SDP in the news to read up about it (start with the public school notebook) and see if you too don’t become boiling mad.

    Too many young professionals see the issue as: you either get into a good public school or you move to the suburbs, as if staying in the city and working to improve the public schools not commonly considered “good” were not even an option.

    I don’t understand how people can feel a sense of entitlement (I bought a house in the catchment therefore my child is entitled to attend PAS) and NOT have that sense of entitlement to a good education extend to every child in Philadelphia.

    These are people who are highly educated, eloquent, and connected—they should be in the forefront of the fight for public education in Philadelphia.

  19. April Says:

    Well said anonymous, very well said.

  20. Ann Says:

    It all reminds me too much of segregation back in the day. The people whose kids were getting the great eduacation rarely fought for those who were not. That would be like the lady in the front of the line giving her child’s spot to a less fortunate child who could not choose private school as an option. The rich get richer….

  21. Eden Says:

    All of a sudden the charter school’s lotteries don’t seem like such a bad idea after all. At least that way the playing field is a little more level. Also the college should reach out to other schools in the area. They probably can afford it. Or maybe Drexel and all the others should get involved with a needy school.

  22. Anonymous1 Says:

    I think that Eden and Lisa Marie have the beginnings to good solutions. Implement a lottery system in the Penn Alexander catchment so the playing field is a little more level (at least within the catchment), and get involved in helping to improve surrounding schools. I know of at least one parents’ group dedicated to this, The West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools. And perhaps lobby UPenn to provide more resources to Lea and other neighborhood schools?

  23. Robin Says:

    Just to clarify, Drexel has been providing significant financial and staff support to both Powel and McMichael this past year. Drexel, while not in the same financial position as University of Penn, is committed to working with their local school communities to provide supports and programs in a variety of ways.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    It was Warren Buffett who said (facetiously) that we can fix public schools by outlawing private schools and assigning public school enrollment by lottery because, if their kids have to go to them, the captains of industry and powers that be will then make sure all public schools have every last thing they need or want. I think it’s a good thing that a VP of JP Morgan sends her child to public school in Philadelphia. Penn Alexander, even with all of its advantages and additional resources, is still a public school. That said, I have been disappointed on the whole with the level of advocacy coming from Penn Alexander parents in support of the entire Philadelphia public school system. At SRC meetings, there are usually parents from Meredith, McCall, Greenfield and Cook-Wissahickon and others and the scope of their testimony often reaches beyond their little slice of the public education pie. Same situation for a lot of other public education related events and meetings in the city. Does the PAS HSA avoid the spotlight and have parents working behind the scenes? Or are they really MIA because they’re insulated from cuts by the extra funding from Penn? Honestly, I would like to know and someone please correct me if I’m wrong…

  25. Lisa Marie Says:

    Anonymous, I strongly suspect you are right. I have never seen any communications from the PAS HSA relating to broader phila school district issues, only PAS-related events, and the same for their website (which is one of the reasons I’ve been reluctant to become involved in it).

    I would personally love to be able to attend SRC meetings and the like, but they always seem to be on weekday evenings and as a single parent, I can’t be in two places at once, especially since I end up spending hours helping my daughter with homework every night.

  26. Anonymous1 Says:

    @Anonymous: There is a big difference between (1) wealthier families investing in and sending their children to public schools on a large scale and (2) wealthier families crowding out poorer families within an individual catchment that receives special resources and outperforms other catchment areas. Aside from increased property tax revenue, I don’t see how the latter would do much for the public education system as a whole unless it did motivate those parents to get more involved in the system. So I think your question is an excellent one.

    It should be said that PAS does seem to slightly mitigate economic factors that have pushed poorer families away by guaranteeing spots for Head Start children. I would love to see that effort expanded to include other low income families that do not qualify for Head Start.

  27. Anonymous Says:

    Since the PAS HSA apparently hasn’t been keeping people updated, PAS parents may want to familiarize themselves with the SRC’s more recent finance presentation for the district and the severe and extreme cuts that not even PAS would be able to escape unscathed from:

    The next SRC meeting that allows public testimony is February 16th at 5:30 p.m at 440 N. Broad Street. Speakers must register by 4:30 p.m. the day before by calling 215-400-4180 (And it should go without saying, please don’t come and speak only about the damn kindergarten line. The district’s entire gifted program, music instruction and all security guards and much more are on the chopping block).

  28. Anonymous Says:

    Gah, copied the wrong link, here’s the finance presentation:

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