At the end of the meeting last week between Supt. Brenda Cassellius and the large group of parents gathered at the Harvard-Kent, leaders in the Education Access for All movement said they wanted to present her with something.
“Oh no, not another T-Shirt,” she said with a laugh.
It wasn’t a T-Shirt, but rather a detailed plan they had assembled and hoped would be a roadmap to providing more stability and access to the Boston Public Schools kindergarten lottery process. It’s a process that has come under fire in the Town as young parents struggle to get information and gain a seat for their child without having to put them on a bus to another neighborhood.
Janelle Bruno, who presented the plan to the superintendent, said there have been tons of parents who have contributed to their report – with some 82 responses received from parents who have experience with the lottery.
“We have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes all year,” said Bruno. “What we put in was an executive summary of what exists and what we want to see happen. We have our petition in there so she has a copy of all the signatures and our mission statement for getting access to school seats in Charlestown for everyone is there.”
One of the biggest recommendations is to reform the kindergarten lottery.
Parents often struggle as a revolving game is played by those with higher numbers in the lottery. No one is forced to pick a school until very late in the game, and that means that one student could be holding up seats in at least three schools. That leaves people with higher numbers in the great unknown, and often they don’t find out any good information about where their child will go to school – if at all – until late August.
It makes a mockery of planning for busy families, she said.
“Everyone should pretty much know where they are going by June,” she said. “If you’re in your second-choice school, you should have a better idea of where you are with that spot earlier in the summer…Families and children would be able to play on the playground their child will be going to school at, and participate in the summer at all the welcome to school events. You can’t do that if you don’t know.”
To combat that, they are calling on BPS to require parents to choose with certainty their school by May or June. Something like that exists already for exam schools and for some high schools, such as the Boston Arts Academy. Students accepted have a deadline in the spring to choose their school. That allows seats to open up early for those on waiting lists.
“If there was a deadline, that could help everyone so much,” she said. “I don’t understand why the schools can’t check with parents about their intentions. If you have a parking ticket, they City will find you. But with the schools, that’s not happening. They don’t find you.”
She said most parents left feeling a little put out by the statements made by Supt. Cassellius about parents being held accountable.
“It felt like it was the parents fault,” she said. “Many people told me they felt that way. We know the parents don’t notify and we need everyone to do that better. However, it feels the system is going to have to change for this to work. BPS needs to fix it. We need to help fix this together.”