Penn Alexander wait list abolished; parents asked to contact school (updated)

August 30, 2013


Penn Alexander School (archive photo).

UPDATE (8/29/13, 8:32 a.m.): District spokesman Fernando Gallard said that the wait list will expire each June 30, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian. So students on the list before July 1 will retain their spot. Letters should be going out soon, he said. Gallard’s explanation of the new policy is not consistent with what some parents who have contacted the school have been told. Further clarification will be needed and Penn Alexander’s School Advisory Council will take up the issue in the fall. Basically, our originalย  suggestion still stands: If you are enrolling a student this year, call the school.

UPDATE (8/28/13, 9:30 a.m.): We asked the chair of the School Advisory Committee Terrilyn McCormick about the new process at Penn Alexander School and whether the school is contacting parents directly to let them know about the new policy. Here are her responses:ย 

“It’s really not clear. I’m going to work with the SAC in September to make it more clear. People need to contact the school right now.”

(8/27/13, 6:00 p.m.): The School District of Philadelphia has changed the admission policy for the Penn Alexander School two weeks before school is due to start, according to the chair of the School Advisory Committee.

Effective this month the school will no longer recognize the previous year’s wait list for spots in grades 1-8, Terrilyn McCormick told West Philly Local in an e-mail. McCormick said that parents who were on the wait list should contact the school immediately (215-823-5465).

Penn Alexander’s wait list for the lower grades, many of which are at capacity, had become controversial in the past couple of years. Parents often complained that the process of getting on the list was not transparent. The District has apparently agreed.

Penn Alexander’s lower grades, particularly grades 1-3, have become difficult to enter, particularly for students who are new to its catchment area or were not admitted to school’s kindergarten. Students from the kindergarten are automatically admitted to first grade, but the school is not obligated to take students from its catchment area once its classes are at capacity, according to the District.

In January the District instituted a lottery for kindergarten admission after students lined up outside the school in frigid temperatures four days before registration was scheduled to begin.

Mike Lyons

34 Comments For This Post

  1. AT Says:

    How is this more transparent?

    Are they just going to create a new waitlist from scratch in the order that people call the office? Are they contacting everyone already on the waitlist to notify them of the changes, or just counting on everyone hearing about the changes from West Philly Local/Facebook?

  2. GW Says:

    It’s called “Penn-parency.” That’s when you make ambiguous announcements in forums viewed by a select demographic. And what does it mean exactly? As AT surmised– the prospect of a new, first-call, first seated wait list? Also reasons that if they are urging parents to call them, then they aren’t proactively reaching out themselves to notify those families.

  3. Mouse Says:

    Maybe they are switching to a lottery for all grades (for those not yet enrolled). Pure speculation since no additional info was given. Pretty beat if they don’t proactively contact those already on the list though.

  4. AT Says:

    That’s what I don’t understand – if the goal is transparency, then they shouldn’t just announce that “the policy changed” without actually explaining what the change is.

  5. Cookie Says:

    I still don’t understand how this is this evidence that the school district agrees that the processs of getting on the PAS waiting list is not transparent? Also, why are we being told to contact the school when it’s not even open yet? And where is Hite in all of this?

  6. on the wrong side of the street for PAS Says:

    @Cookie, his head is in the sand!

    btw, I don’t see how anyone can blame this on Penn! (This is in response to GW and others whom I know feel the same way.) Frankly, I am plain tired of people blaming things on Penn just because they have been guilty of nefarious things before. It isn’t ALWAYS their fault you know! just saying….

    but anyway, I do think the decision to scrap the waiting line tradition was handled poorly and this latest decision is adding insult to injury if you ask me. Or pouring salt on the wound, whichever analogy you prefer….

  7. True 46er Says:

    “McCormick said that parents who were on the wait list should contact the school immediately (215- 823-5465)” has said it all. It is the parents who are desparate, not their children themselves.

  8. Phil Says:

    maybe the school lost the wait list and needs to recreate it.

  9. Terrilyn Says:

    The decision was made by the School District of Philadelphia not Penn or Penn Alexander. SDP did not make any effort to communicate to parents the change in policy. If you’re looking for somewhere to lay your blame – try 440 Broad.

  10. mouse Says:

    Got an email from a neighbor who was on the wait list for an upper grade. They called PAS to check in and were told they had to bring all their paper work to SDP (not PAS) to be put on the wait list for 2013-14. If their child does not get offered a spot this year, they will need to register again for the next school year and so on.

    So SDP gets ride of one line only to make the one in August worse. It makes no sense but again, look who we are dealing with. Ridiculous.

  11. GW Says:

    @ Wrong Side: Yes, PSD decision made independent of Penn. But no one bothered to cc the University further instructions/ Penn didn’t ask for clarification? As far as “nefarious things before”? ๐Ÿ™‚ Penn’s town and gown relationship with the community has never changed. Penntrification isn’t only alive and well in West Philly, it’s endorsed by a bankrupt, mismanaged district happy to have any institution financing its failed brick and mortars. Having had my children in both PA and Lea, can’t advocate the value of cyber education enough…

  12. Anonymous Says:

    i’m with phil – it reeks of someone goofing up and scurrying to fix the problem.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    it also occurred to me that many of the schools have lost their secretaries so if something is amiss administratively, it would make some sense.

  14. Clare Says:

    Those who are able should consider homeschooling and cooperating with others in the neighborhood who homeschool.

  15. GW Says:

    @ Clare: Agreed. My kids are now students in the Commonwealth Connections Academy. We have several families enrolled within blocks of us in the Cedar Park/ Spruce Hill neighborhoods. If you have a functional adult at home during daylight hours, it’s a far better opportunity to enrich your children over the plight and politics of the PSD. School hasn’t even started and we already have a proactive coalition of families, parents planning play dates, trips to the Art Museum, Please Touch, Franklin Institute and Philly Fun Fishing Fest on the Schuylkill. Some of us have formed a class for the kids at the Phila. School of Circus Arts. And my children have tenfold the extracurricular activities offered by either local school.

  16. Question Says:

    Has the WPL asked the School District to comment on this story and/or to provide a copy of the new policy? The School District is a public institution, and cannot legally hide a policy change from the press or the public. Why not make the proper requests to the District to produce a copy of the new policy and to comment on how/why/by whom the change was made, instead of just creating a forum for uninformed conspiracy theorist to speculate about evil motives. Maybe if the media covering this story asked hard question and reported the results, we can actually learn information that would help families looking for answers.

  17. Clare Says:

    That is really wonderful, GW! Good job!

  18. GW Says:

    “Question”, with all due respect… I have spent months posing questions to this district and affiliated offices. Yes, you’d assume some things are “public domain”, they’d be happy to fax it right over to ya. It should be so simple, so transparent, right? And, no, they can’t “legally” hide anything, but unless you take legal action… By all means, anyone who receives a copy of this policy, please enlighten the rest of the community. I’m still waiting on answers to a dozen inquiries posed to the district, SRC, Ast. Superintendent and Inspector General’s Office. Not holding my breath. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. OED Says:

    “With all due respect” was last used sincerely in 1837.

  20. GW Says:

    Well, OED, my language may be archaic, but I assure you the sentiment sincere. I’d no intention of patronizing “Question”; merely sharing insights gleaned from my own experiences with the district. And do appreciate the historical allusion. Hopefully, a few of us were ambitious enough to Google the reference. ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. OED Says:

    In fairness, GW, I should have made clear that my bemusement at that particular phrase wasn’t really directed at you. That being the case one could, with all due respect, wonder why I posted the comment in the first place…Apologies all round!

  22. GW Says:

    OED, you owe me neither an apology nor explanation; I figured it was either good-natured heckling or just a fellow history buff who couldn’t pass on the opportunity to enlighten others. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. GW Says:

    Well, that was much to do about nothing. Per the Daily Pennsy: “School district: Penn Alexander waitlist system to change”

  24. Richard Says:

    “So students on the list before July 1 will retain their spot.”

    The word “so” here is confusing, since this statement describes an EXCEPTION to the new policy. THIS YEAR ONLY, kids wait-listed from the kindergarten lottery will be on the list ahead of anybody who signs up during August registration. If they don’t make it in, they will NOT be wait-listed for 1st grade since that registration process happens in August. Next year, if your pre-schooler isn’t lucky enough to win the lottery and you want to get them back on the wait list after it expires on June 30, I assume you’ll have to … ahem … line up overnight before August registration starts. At least there won’t be snow.

  25. Darlene Says:

    Richard echoes my own reaction: They just brought back the line.

  26. Confused Says:

    Am I the only one who is completely confused by the DP article? Does the list from June 30 carry over until July 1 or not?

  27. GW Says:

    “Confused”, this policy warrants your adopted moniker. ๐Ÿ™‚ If I digested the key details of this plan, it mandates:

    “The waitlist will expire every year on June 30… be repopulated each year during registration (in August).

    “Students who were on the waitlist before July 1 of this year will retain their place in the future ahead of students who register later.”

    So, this seems to imply that students currently on the list will be “grandfathered” into next August’s registration ahead of those who apply at that time; logically then, there can’t be a June 30, 2014 expiration of the present wait list– if these students are already assured a place ahead of those enrolling two months post the expiration date.

    But, that’s a paradox, isn’t it? If these kids retain some permanent place on that list, when exactly does the June 30th expiration take effect?

    So, it seems what these ambiguous statements are merely conveying is that the child on the list now simply retains his place ahead of any who registers between today and June 29– that all families will, as others above have alluded to, be “recycled” back into that limbo and jockeying for their place again in that infamous line.

    I think Richard nailed it. The only difference between last registration and the next… about fifty degrees. ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. Really Says:

    How much more incompetent can these folks get? How can we trust them with our children?

  29. Kathy Says:

    I heard a rumor that registration for kindergarten is changing again-it’s moving to the fall. Is this accurate?

  30. fiveblocksaway Says:

    The same old insular,interneighbohood squabble continues….meanwhile, its’ supposed counterpart, Lea Elementary, is absorbing Wilson and may STILL have room for those who couldn’t get into PAS…but that’s another issue likely unconcerning those holding on to coveted spots thinking their “more desirable location” is a golden ticket. Given the most recent news hitting Philadelphia public schools in general, if you haven’t believed it until now….two public schools five blocks from each other are in the SAME boat, no matter the condition of the building or the socioeconomic backgrounds of the students. There is NO golden ticket. Your real estate market value doesn’t buy it nor does your place on the ‘wait list’ automatically SECURE it . You haven’t been chosen. Sorry. Get over it. Take it on the chin. Consider “other” options in your neighborhood “five blocks away” as many others with less means, not “in the know” and no idea their neighbors speak online about this have their kids attend. All of this “what’s fair’ and “what’s not’ needs to STOP. What ISN’T fair is folks, many w/financial options to choose otherwise, decide to set their sites on a school that has long ago exceeded its’ space to accommodate folks’ needs adequately. Does Lea Elementary need Ty Pennington to bring back “Extreme Makeover-Home Edition” to appease some high-brow %*@#? to see the value of public education fairly in a “less desirable” location “five blocks away”? (they’re already getting a new community playground area so SOME folks in the neighborhood are thinking ahead)….or are folks ringing up the private schools as we speak, in anxious desperation? Spread the mental wealth….some investments are beyond financial. It’s in seeing those would-be PAS kids in line first day of school at Lea “five blocks away”. Continue squabbling over policy.

  31. GW Says:

    5 Blocks, it’s the mass matriculation of Wilson kids to Lea (long a magnet for students displaced by the plight of the PSD) that probably has many catchment parents feeling nostalgic about their “golden tickets.”

    Fact is, there has been a concentrated effort for some years, by this community and Penn, to make Lea a more attractive alternative to PAS. I echo your sentiment; if you want to invest in Lea, send your children there. If you had already,families who do send their kids to the school wouldn’t have to lobby so hard for a library program or security initiatives. Lea would’ve had a viable PTA too addressing the real, here and now issues confronting the welfare of its students.

    And, yes, some of them are thinking ahead, the “walk to school movement” is in full stride. Lea has its garden and murals, handsome arbor has been planted. And perhaps if it can attract a substantial number of PAS defectors, there might be some urgency then to address the starker issues on the other side of that pretty facade.

    And I couldn’t help but grin at your comment, 5 Blocks… about these chats in online forums (scare any Lea parent reads or has knowledge of). I roll my eyes too every time Penn publishes one of those press releases (in the guise of a “news story”). Why are they trying to reassure readers of the Daily Pennsy that it’s not their objective to “gentrify” Lea? lol

  32. ww8 Says:


    Philadelphia Board of Education Right to Know Request Website:

    Use it or lose it kids..

  33. GW Says:

    WW8, way to come through for the forum! Where they been hiding this gem?? Will surely check into it. Again, thanks for the heads up.

  34. GW Says:

    Hmmm… checked out this form, and it does seem to fit the bill for some inquiries still outstanding with the district. But, where physical documentation isn’t being requested, the policy is a bit more vague; i.e. if I want to simply know what date reps from Penn sat in on the panel that hired Lea’s new principal.

    And really, a fee for an answer you would think should be readily available in public record? Of course, I posed that question, and a dozen as simple,to the Ast Superintendent, President of the Phila. Home and School Council, and the SRC!

    The response: Contact PSD’s Legal department. lol

Follow us on Instagram


Follow Us: