Priorities and Random Numbers

01 Curley AWC

02 Bates AWC

03 Hernández

The deed is done.

The Parent Coordinator was on the phone when the Parent Imperfect entered the office at the Hernández this morning. As he sat there, a sixth grader called his mother to say that he was being asked to change the jacket he had worn to school today. The jacket seemed fine to the PI, but it didn’t fit the dress code. After that call was over, the PI had a nice discussion with a kindergarten teacher about the impact of digital games and other packaged stimulation on young children. She is struck by how hard it is to get kids to count out loud these days. When she asks the parent, she hears about how many toys the child has to count for them.

“Why don’t we put away the flashing counting toys and count with the kids?”

Another third-grade parent came in clutching the same kind envelope that sat on the table before the PI. At this late date, hers was still unsigned. She was leaning toward staying put in the RHS, but this was clearly an item of debate and discussion in her home, as well. Her husband had picked a bad moment to be out of town.

The Parent Coordinator came around the corner and greeted both of them. She took the envelope from the PI and immediately opened it up to read the news. As the coordinator’s expression shifted in genuine disappointment, the PI stammered forth with an explanation that this, in fact, did not represent a decision on their part. “The way the system works, we thought that this was the only way to keep our options open. We haven’t decided that we don’t want her to be here.”

The other parent was listening intently, as she was considering doing to same thing if she had a sense that staying at the Hernández could be a fall-back option. The Parent Coordinator was very clear. “If you want to stay here, then you need to put the Hernández as your first choice and sign it. If you don’t put us first, you risk this place filling up, so you won’t be coming back here.”

This was a very different tune than the PI had heard in his first conversation with the PC. The new position made him nervous, but his paper was already filled out and signed. He reiterated that he didn’t see this as a clear decision to leave the Hernández, and the PC answered, ominously, “then you’d better have a conversation with Margarita [La Principal}.”

With that as background, the other parent quickly filled out her form and handed it in. The result pleased the PC, who turned to the PI and said, “I’m keeping these until tomorrow, in case you change your mind.” Then she smiled and went back around the corner to her cubicle.

Before filling out the form, the PI had gone to the BPS website, seeking guidance on the question of what happened if one could opt to stay where they are if they don’t like their reassignment option. He didn’t find any answer to that question, but he did find an extraordinary pair of sentences offered in response to the question: How are assignments determined if there are more applicants than available seats for a particular school?

Assignments are made by computer based on the number of seats available in each grade, in each school, and the number of students who have requested the school. If a school does not have room for every student who selects it as a first choice, the computer assigns students based on certain “priorities” and “random numbers.””

PUNTO…that is the Frequently Offered Answer. And it’s quite clear..the students get assigned by a computer, based on priorities and random numbers.

Can you imagine being someone new to the system and getting that answer when wondering what happens if you don’t win the lottery? If one reads the rest of the website, they can find out that the “Priorities” are sibling status (does the student have a brother or sister in the school?) and walk-zone status (does the student live within walking distance of the school?). They can also find out that the “random number” is the lottery number assigned to the student by a computer. Since one can’t assume that the reader of every answer to an FAQ will read the entire website, the above answer stands as a classic in bureaucratic babble.

As far as Connie’s school is concerned, the deed is done, but the decision is not made. Momentum has been created, as in the case of early moves in the decision to send Mr. Vince to the nation’s oldest public school. But momentum can be reversed, can’t it?


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