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PAS kindergarten registration lottery deadline April 1; parent reactions mixed

January 19, 2013

PennAlexSign

The controversy over kindergarten registration at the Penn Alexander School has moved from “the line” to “the list” and “the lottery.”

The School District of Philadelphia announced yesterday that kindergarten registration would move to a lottery system, ending the first-come-first-served process.The lottery will be held in early April.

“In an effort to make this process more efficient and less challenging for parents in the catchment area, the School District of Philadelphia has decided to conduct a lottery to determine kindergarten enrollment for Penn Alexander,” Superintendent William Hite wrote in a letter distributed last night to parents in line.

PennAlexSign2Reactions were mixed from some 70 parents who started lining up yesterday morning, four days before registration was scheduled to begin. Some parents threatened a class-action lawsuit. Others requested that the district honor the list that each parent had signed next to a number indicating their place in line. Still others were relieved by the news.

One person who asked not to be named said that parents’ feelings seemed to correspond to their place in line. Those in the front protested the change, sometimes vociferously, while many near the end felt that transitioning to the lottery was a good decision.

A sign posted by parents at the entrance to the school makes note of “the list.”

“Families on the list will continue to advocate for enrollment based on the ‘first come, first served’ policy,” the sign reads.

A nearby sign posted by the district reads in bold letters “the process is no longer conducted on a first-come first served basis.”

The deadline for lottery registration is April 1 and children with siblings already attending Penn Alexander will not receive preference, according to the district. Penn Alexander currently has 72 kindergarten slots spread over four classes. Some of those spots will be reserved for children with documented special needs and children coming from early intervention programs like Head Start.

Applications for the lottery are available here. For more information call the district’s Office of Student Placement at 215-400-4290.

47 Comments For This Post

  1. mytzlplik Says:

    bout time! bunch of spoiled elitist!

  2. Abby Slakoff Says:

    To all of those in the beginning of the line threatening a class action lawsuit, do you ever consider those less fortunate? Some of these people are single parents who have to work for a living including myself. They’re doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, EMT’s, etc who don’t have the typical M-F 9-5 job. They’re out working to keep the community safe and saving lives. Possibly yours if you planned on sitting in the cold for 4-5 days. Do they and their children deserve to get denied by PAS because they’re not standing in this line? Finally some equality! Best decision ever.

  3. Karena Says:

    I suppose if I paid nearly double the average neighborhood rate for a house in the past few years, just to be in the catchment area, I might be upset by this. But honestly, I think this is a great move on the part of the School District. It is outrageous to me that a “public” school has continued to operate on such an elitist enrollment policy until now. Now if only the resources and limited classroom sizes that seem to make Penn Alexander such a prized school could be equally implemented throughout the district, we would all be better off.

  4. Pissed parent Says:

    I blame the first that started the line on Friday morning!
    That’s right I said it!

  5. Line Mom Says:

    It’s not the fault of that first person. All of us in line need to blame ourselves. If there at 60+ people just hanging around waiting on a hair trigger to jump in line, of course one of them is going to break down and start it.

    What I blame is the lax way the line was being enforced. People were leaving for a half hour to get lunch and get warm, people were planning on sleeping in their cars. And what was the deal with that camper? It wasn´t a line, it was an encampment of people wandering in and out with no one saving their place. If people had expected that they would actually have to be present on the street for four days and four nights in the freezing cold, they never would have lined up that early.

  6. VeronicaM Says:

    The last RV just pulled out a few minutes ago, under cover of darkness. Now if someone would please come get their port-o-potty!

  7. Steve Says:

    I understand the attitude of parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins, in-laws, etc. who planned to line up for days to get their child in kindergarten. However for those who have to work for a living and cannot hold a spot or don’t have relationships to hold the line for them – the lottery is the way to go. I do find it ironic that people who are already relatively well off benefit from the largesse of Penn while schools several blocks away languish for lack of resources. I know that Penn cannot subsidize all schools but PA is a school where many of the parents of the children who attend could afford to contribute to their children’s public education. So, no tears for those who lost their place in line or on place on the list. You paid more for your house but you will have no trouble selling it the time come.

  8. NotElitist Says:

    Has anyone heard anything else about this meeting that parents in the front of the line are trying to arrange with the superintendent?

    The parent collecting those email addresses on that sign is the Vice Provost for a major university in this area. I sincerely hope that the superintendent does not change his mind or allow exceptions to the lottery because of people who have connections. I sincerely hope that this is an open and transparent process, for the good of this neighborhood.

  9. Peter C Says:

    I understand it must be extremely frustrating and enraging to have the rules changed mid-game. I do sincerely hope though that the parents involved will come to see that the lottery is the just decision. I would like to think that if I were in this situation (my turn isn’t until next year so I’m not), I’d set aside my feelings of being wronged and recognize that the district ultimately made the best decision, even if the process they used to reach that decision was flawed.

  10. Line Mom Says:

    The superintendent’s representative who shut down the line on Friday announced at the time that there would be a meeting with the superintendent at the school on Tuesday, possibly at 9:00. That’s for everyone who wants to come. He was also giving out a phone number to anyone who wanted to call later with questions. I don’t know whether Vice Provosts get special treatment in addition to this, but the superintendent is making an effort to be available to everyone.

  11. Pissed parent Says:

    I still believe that if the line didn’t start until Monday or even after school ended on Friday, the lottery would have never happened.
    Now I’m glad the lottery is here, I would love it if they made drawing with the parents in the same room because I don’t trust anyone!
    I’ve heard first hand that schools with the lottery system have played favoritisms, that’s why I vote the lottery be held in a public forum.
    Again, I don’t trust anyone!

  12. Abby Slakoff Says:

    @Pissed parent, I couldn’t agree with you more! I don’t see why not to hold this lottery in public unless there is something to hide.

  13. Line Mom Says:

    Now I hear the meeting will be at 10:00am Tuesday, location unknown, only parents who were in line on Friday invited.

    Pissed Parent,

    I completely agree with you about holding the lottery in public, and I think the waiting list should be handled in a very transparent way as well.

    I still disagree about blaming that first lady though. If the administration had looked out the window and seen one lone woman standing by herself with no one behind her, I bet they would not have reacted the way they did. It was the fact that there were 60+ of us standing behind her and the class was probably already full that made it impossible to ignore. If we ourselves weren’t willing to go home like sensible people and take the risk that we’d come back too late, we can’t blame her for not being willing to take that risk either.

  14. slugmother Says:

    I hope that this lottery may cause those not admitted to PAS to choose other public schools in the area (Lea, Powell etc.) and bring their privilege, influence, resources, and passionate parental involvement to make those other schools better places. Maybe 5-10 years from now when I have a Kindergartener, Penn Alexander won’t be such a special place compared to the rest of the district.

  15. John Says:

    Superintendent Hite’s decision to implement a lottery at PAS affects more than those who were in line. Tuesday’s meeting should be open to all.

  16. cg Says:

    @slugmother: yes, well put.

    And agreed about openess of the meeting. A good friend of mine is a single mom who couldn’t get in line Friday because she was at work. She’s not invited to the meeting? Let those line parents tell her to her face why their kids should be admitted instead of hers.

  17. Ricky Says:

    It should be a closed meeting. The point of the meeting is that the rules were changed and the parents this year weren’t able to have any other choices about other schools since the deadlines have passed. This meeting only effects us. There are plenty of other issues to be discussed with the school board but not at tha particular time. A lottery is fair. Not good for the neighborhood. But more fair. And I know for a fact that the people in line don’t think that was the best way. Bit those were the rules dictated by the district not the parents. All these issues that people want to discuss with the board have been addressed time and time again. We a glad something was done. Just not in the manner it was leaving no other real options.
    Also to all of the people claiming everyone who lives in this area are elitist privileged people? How if you met any of them could you truley believe that? Not everyone bought there house in the past 5 years. Not everyone lives in a house. You’re misinformed. As for the people who do have some money. Who cares. People deserve to make money and be successful. They work hard to be where they are. That doesn’t make them privileged. The real answer to what should be done is to expand the school and have everyone in the area that wants to attend have that option. That’s what people should be fighting for.

  18. MH Says:

    The Tuesday meeting should absolutely be open to anyone eligible to enroll a kindergartener at PAS in 2013, not just the people who made it to the line. People who didn’t contribute to the panic need to have their voices heard, too.

  19. LW Says:

    There’s calls for the lottery to be open and public, and meetings between certain self-selected parents and district officials to be closed. You can’t have it both ways.

    So there’s an email list? – Who maintains this ‘official’ email list? The school? The district?

    Just because people didn’t make it to an unannounced and unofficial line (despite all the attempts to somehow portray this some kind of an official policy), doesn’t mean they don’t have a say in how their neighborhood school operates.

  20. Ricky Says:

    You can have it both ways. They are two separate issues.

  21. West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools Says:

    The board of the West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools (WPCNS) would like to make neighborhood parents aware that the School District of Philadelphia is having a district-wide Kindergarten Open House on Tuesday, March 5th. Times are determined by individual schools and some schools may choose an alternate date. As it has done in the past, WPCNS plans to compile and distribute a West Philly Kindergarten Open House list in February. Lea Elementary, our organization’s current focus, has scheduled its Kindergarten Open House for Tuesday March 5th from 9:15-10:15 a.m (4700 Locust Street). There are currently three kindergarten classes at Lea with about 20 students in each. Principal Bell-Chiles is interested in adding a fourth kindergarten class in 2013-2014 if there is enrollment demand for it and the district allows.

    To learn more about our organization, current initiatives and how to get involved, please visit our website.

  22. cg Says:

    @Ricky, you say that parents were unable to plan for other options because deadlines have passed, but that’s on them. There were never any guarantees that their kids would be admitted to PAS. No matter how competitive a parent you are, thinking you can ensure that your kid has a spot through sheer willpower, there are dozens of other parents in the neighborhood who think the exact same thing. More parents than there are spots available.

  23. LW Says:

    “You can have it both ways. They are two separate issues.”

    Yes, the issues are different, but I think the underlying principles (of neighborhood involvement in school issues that affect the neighborhood) are the same.

    For the record, I think both processes should be open.

  24. 46er Says:

    You can find the information about their spokesperson, and their contacts here:

    http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2013/01/20/penn-alexander-parents-plan-combat-lobby-meet-hite-tuesday/

  25. Line parent Says:

    Cross Posted: I bought a house in this neighbor hood in the early 1990’s, long before Penn Alexander was even discussed. As my first child is now kindergarten-eligible, I have been watching the situation over the past few years with increasing anxiety. I want my child in his neighborhood school where he can walk with his friends. I do not want to drive him and I do not want him to ride a bus. I can move to the suburbs if I want that kind of life.

    So, like most of you, I prepared for “the line.” I did not expect it to start so soon. I was at PIC that morning and saw the first person in line. I felt that I couldn’t leave so I called out of work and stayed to watch the situation. Because of this, I secured a good spot. And, for a brief 8 or so hours, I felt a sense of relief that I haven’t felt in over 2 years. So, of course, I was initially infuriated when that was yanked away from me without notice. So, call me entitled or privileged or whatever, but I think most of you would have had a similar reaction and jumped on the ‘honor the line’ bandwagon.

    As the dust has settled, I think a few things:
    1) the previous situation was unfair (and I have been involved in some of the efforts to address the enrollment situation). The school and district have adamantly refused to consider any modifications to first-come, first-served despite repeated requests;

    2) a lottery isn’t fair either — once you do that, you start to rip apart the community that makes this neighborhood so great (not that the line hasn’t already started that rip);

    3) I don’t think it is good policy that the school district can arbitrarily change its policies (and with the old policies still available on their website) with no notice or input. If we accept that they can do this, then we accept that they may be able to arbitrarily change other policies (that we like) without process. Regardless of where you stand on the line or the lottery, you should be worried that we cannot rely on the school to follow its own policies;

    4) documented experiences of many parents who have been turned away in previous years indicate that none of us can trust the school district to properly reassign our children if they don’t get into PAS;

    5) it is unreasonable that the only access point to this school is kindergarten. I have new neighbors who cannot get their kid into PAS (and the school district has inexplicably been unable to assign her to ANY alternate school SINCE LAST SUMMER!) If they hadn’t found a spot at a private school (after school began), the child would still not be in school. Gross incompetence and also illegal, I believe;

    6) it is not reasonable to have a lottery without sibling preference. It just is not;

    7) the lottery as the district has proposed it is also unreasonable. If there is to be a lottery, it must be executed on timelines similar to that of charter schools (completed by the end of February) so that parents can make decisions if they are lucky enough to have multiple options.

    So, as a parent who has been a part of the “honor the line” contingent: I feel conflicted. I didn’t like the game, but I played it anyway. Lots of us did. I don’t think it was right to change the rules mid-game. I don’t think that instituting the lottery as it has been proposed is any more fair. And, must importantly, I don’t have any trust whatsoever in the school district to execute a fair process or lottery.

    Given the multiple and conflicting policies that the school district has simultaneously posted, I think that they have to do something extraordinary to rectify this debacle of their own making. They should do what they should have done all along: provide seats for every eligible child in the catchment by whatever means necessary.

    But, it is so nice to read these blogs and read about how I am an elitist, over-privileged monster. That makes me feel good about my neighbors. I fear that regardless of what happens, there has been irreparable damage done to this community.

  26. Billy Says:

    If I were a parent with a child several years away from kindergarden, knowing that PAS is ridiculous to get into, I would be planning for PAS as a dream school, with a safer option to fall back on.

    We’ve known for at least four years now that PAS was becoming ridiculous to get into, and yet the only ways parents have attempted to rectify the situation was simply to stand in line sooner. Thats what has damaged any sense of community: people chose their children over building a more accessible community solution to the problem.

    If you fretted for two years and your only solution was to stand in line four days before registration began, isn’t the real problem self evident?

  27. Neighbor Says:

    @ Billy,
    Perhaps you are not aware that several parent and community groups as well as countless individuals have petitioned PAS, SDP and Penn to improve the admissions policy at PAS. None of these authorities have been willing to participate in this dialogue, replying only “first come first served is the policy.” Instead of engaging with the very willing community to arrive at an equitable consensus improved approach to enrollment, the policy was changed unilaterally after deadlines for other school options has passed.

  28. Anon Says:

    I remember when this first happened, the school polled its catchment parents and claimed it found that long-time African-American catchment parents didn’t want a lottery and felt getting in line was at least something they could control. The school claimed it was keeping the first-come-first-served policy out of respect those particular residents’ wishes. It was a cowardly cop-out of the school. Good on the district for taking it out of the school’s hands on Friday.

  29. Line Parent Says:

    @Billy – of course I have not been that short-sighted. I have been involved in AGREE, signed petitions, made phone calls, written letters and attended meetings. The pleas fell on deaf ears, until magically after 6pm on Friday. I worked to change the system, but I also felt like I had to play the game by the rules that were set out.

    I have made charter school applications, private school applications and voluntary transfer applications. But, those are backups. Above all, I want my child in his neighborhood school. The timing of the lottery means that, if I am lucky enough to win one of those other lotteries (and the odds are low for all of those), I will have had to make a commitment to something else before I know if my first choice is available. That doesn’t make sense.

    I will also say that I have been following the Lea situation. I hear great things about the kindergarten teachers and the principal. Most of their statistics are looking up. In the school district’s parent survey only 24% of them describe the school as very safe and 34% as mostly safe. 12% describe the school as not safe. Compare this to PAS where 0% of the parents describe the school as “not safe.” This gives me pause.

    If I do decide that I want my child to go to Lea (my next closest school), it seems in question whether there will be room for the PAS kids and also whether I will be able to successfully navigate the system to get him there. Others with more degrees than I have not been successful, not sure I will be either.

  30. cg Says:

    Line Parent, I waited in line last year at PAS, was waitlisted, and did not hear until late August that my kid was not going to get in. I had absolutely no problem getting him into Lea after that. None. I just went to the school and registered him there, on site.

    I’d like to know why you think the lottery is going to “rip” the community apart, any more than first-come first-served.

  31. love this place Says:

    Let’s face it, this PAS experiment has to implode; we all know it’s not a sustainable situation.

    But even without PAS, it’s a great neighborhood to raise kids. Raising a three year old (2 years to K registration),I have always doubted PAS would be a real possibility for my kid, but I still think it’s worth the extra costs to live here. And I have learned to see all the new kids in the area as opportunity for my own kids, in addition to yet more competition for that PAS seat.

    And knowing how things work around here, I know that with the PAS shut-out for so many, other great options with bloom from between the concrete slabs; the buds are already showing.

    How many people walked the plains to California in search of gold, found no gold, but looked around and found some other great opportunity in a vast community of gold diggers?

    PAS has opened a lot of doors for this community of diggers. Let’s walk through some of them. I love this place.

  32. GoldenMonkey Says:

    Well said!

    We don’t even have kids, but we own in the catchment because we love the area. Couldn’t imagine living elsewhere in the city (or ‘burbs).

  33. Another line parent Says:

    Perhaps those of you so critical of the elite and overprivileged among us desperate enough to sit outside in January for 4 days among a very diverse (economic, cultural) group of parents would like to explain how a single parent of multiple children is going to get multiple kids to multiple schools for drop off and pick up each day without the resources to do so? Am I supposed to hire someone to help me do this? The time for voluntary transfer was closed long ago, so I can’t even get all my kids transferred to one inadequate school. So, really, how privileged and elite are we really?

  34. Another line parent Says:

    And, btw, if you think that the lottery is going to benefit our community equally, how much do you trust the school district to make sure that the people who are in the lottery actually live in this neighborhood? The lottery will simply increase the number of people in the city trying to throw their hat in the ring for a chance to get into PAS.

  35. Line Mom Says:

    Updated info on the meeting with the superintendent:

    The latest word is that it will be at 11:00 in the Penn Alexander gym, and open to everyone.

  36. Anonymouns Says:

    One of the most pernicious conspiracies of this whole situation has to be that the overcrowding issue is primarily caused by “others” faking residency to gain admission into “our” school. It enables community members to avoid considering that the school will either have to expand and someone will have to pay for that, the catchment will have to shrink and someone will be cut out or they will need to keep the lottery in place and enrollment is not guaranteed. Far easier to place the blame on outsiders and avoid difficult conversations.

  37. frustrated Says:

    The district created this mess. Not the parents who relied on the inadequate first come/first served policy that the district refused to change until after it was too late. EVERYONE, including the school and the district, knew that something like this was possible . . . but, of course, this is The West Philly Local, where every problem HAS to be blamed on the “privileged” and the “entitled” or the “elite.” Honestly, how can having to sleep on a sidewalk for 4 days in January to get kindergarteners into their local, public school — where their brothers and sisters already go — constitute a privilege or an entitlement or elitism?

    If parents were to send their kids to private school, you’d deem them “elite” for abandoning the public school system. But instead, when they do anything possible to send their kids to their local public school, they are deemed “elite” for that too. If they move out of the city to the ‘burbs, they’d be deemed “elite” for abandoning the city; if they move into the neighborhood, they are deemed “elite” for gentrifying the city. Maybe we should remove all decision making about how best to raise a family from anyone who is affluent and ask the general public to make decisions on their behalf? Then maybe we’d finally able to avoid elitism in our neighborhoods.

    Or more rationally, maybe we can open up a dialogue that involves the whole community and ignores social status, instead of resorting to vicious name calling on internet blogs. Come to think of it, isn’t affixing labels to people you don’t even know, judging their character and motivations based on stereotypes and internet rumors, and making a decision that “people like you” are better for the neighborhood then “people like them” the very quintessence of being an elitist?

  38. Editor Says:

    We have just posted an announcement about a public meeting tomorrow:
    http://www.westphillylocal.com/2013/01/21/public-meeting-tuesday-on-penn-alexander-kindergarten-registration-according-to-e-mails/

  39. cg Says:

    frustrated, the idea is that people with more resources are in a better position to camp out for days than those who do not have as many resources. No one is questioning your ability to make decisions about your family. It’s that there are other people who also are trying to make decisions about their families too, and have been less able to make those decisions because, for example, they do not have the option to take off work in the days leading up to registration. So why not make the process more equitable and give everyone an equal shot?

    That said, I wholeheartedly agree that labels are unproductive and unfortunate. This has gotten way too personal. One of the underlying issues here is that so many people consider PAS the only viable public school option in the neighborhood, but it isn’t.

    In any case, I second what someone above said. This is an awesome neighborhood. Let’s keep working together!

  40. Line Mom Says:

    cg,

    What you have to understand is that the vast majority of the people standing in that line did not really have the personal resources to camp out either. Most people did not have fancy equipment, and you really need at least three adults if you expect to provide uninterrupted child care at home and an uninterrupted presence in the line.

    We expected to be able to get through it with a mix of helping each other out and cutting each other slack. For example, it’s been asked how single parents who couldn’t get Friday off were expected to cope. There were in fact people in that situation in the line, and the answer is, a friend helped them out and came in got in line for them. Then if that friend wasn’t quite good enough of a friend to stay there until the parent got off work, the rest of us cut them some slack and didn’t say anything. Neighbors agreed to divy up the child care for the long weekend between themselves. That’s how single parents got through Friday, and I’m sure the same mixture of helping out and cutting slack would have carried them through the weekend. And the same with most of us – I’m in a two parent family where one of us was able to get Friday off, and I still wouldn’t have been able to hold my place in line if my neighbors hadn’t been willing to help me out with childcare until my husband got off work, plus my sleeping bag was borrowed.

    Putting our names on that list was a leap of faith in the community rather than a statement that we had the resources or even a plan to get through the weekend by ourselves. I’m not in any way saying that this is a good way to allocate spots in a coveted school. Frankly I wish that we had been less willing to cut each other slack and more willing to stay home until a time frame when slack wasn’t necessary. And it’s not quite right that people who are willing to ask for help should get spots while people who are more shy or less plugged in don’t get in. But those are different problems than what you are talking about. I really believe that anyone of any socioeconomic background who got their name on the list that morning would have been pulled over the finish line by the community one way or the other.

  41. Anonymous Says:

    According to the Chief of Communications for the School District of Philadelphia they would not turn away any members of the public but that they were not advertising the meeting because “the goal of the meeting was to provide parents in line with an opportunity to present their concerns.” He added that the time limit for speakers would be 3 minutes, with some allowance made if the group selected one or two speakers on their behalf.

  42. Anonymous Says:

    What a truly bizarre subculture. I just hope those local filmmakers have been getting footage of all this.

  43. Daddyline Says:

    The School District also said that this sudden change in policy would make the application system “less challenging”. Mr Hite should enjoy explaining that comment to the many families who are now scrambling to find last-minute alternatives to PAS.

    Do you truly hold us in contempt, Hr. Hite or are you and your peers THAT incompetent?

  44. cg Says:

    I’m sorry, but the idea that shyness is the only barrier to being in that line, I just don’t buy it. And mind you, we’re not just talking about being in the line, but being towards the front, being guaranteed a spot, taking the time, for example, to scout out where the line is about to form days in advance.

    I acknowledge that you saw single parents pull together the resources (social or otherwise) to stay in the line for 4 days. The question is whether, in the aggregate, there is a bias against people in those situations. I know at least one single parent who could not make it in the line on Friday because they were at work when it started. And if the line had persisted they may’ve made it that night, who knows. But let’s be honest, a number of people in line would have likely been put on a waitlist and eventually denied (people who were >62 last year were denied).

    So I can appreciate, and acknowledge, that it is not all about money, status, resources, that there are other mitigating factors. What I’m suggesting is simply that they are factors that introduce a certain amount of inequity in the system. If you’re in a 2-parent household, and have, for example, good camping equipment (or money to rent an RV) and the ability to plan for a 4-day campout, you’re probably more likely to guarantee your kid a spot, more likely to be ahead in the line.

  45. Line parent Says:

    This year, I think there was a big element of being at the right place at the right time. If I hadn’t been dropping off my son and seen the first person in line, I would have missed it. I was near several other single parents in line. We all just dropped everything and got in line and then figured the rest out later! Some of us were lucky to have had camp chairs or blankets already in our trunks until our social network could come through with reinforcements.

  46. LM Says:

    Am i the only one who saw the notice for kindergarten registration, which said it would occur STARTING 1/22/2013 THROUGH some date in, I think, April and figured — oh, they must be doing a lottery this year. I don’t ever remember seeing a range of dates before, except back in the day when registration occured over 2 days.

  47. anon Says:

    There has always been an open and end date to kindergarten registration. However, at PAS, if you didn’t register by the first day you basically didn’t get a spot.







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