UPDATE: Penn Alexander Switches to Lottery System

UPDATE: The Philadelphia School District, to the dismay of the roughly 70 parents who were waiting in line (see below) to secure their kids’ places in the school, converted Penn Alexander registration to a lottery system at 6pm last night. Parents must now submit an application by April 1st, and the lottery will be conducted that month.

Parents remained unsatisfied and discussed possible options for action moving forward. “People are talking about going to get a temporary injunction,” Allan Balridge, a father of twins pre-kindergarten twins, said. He added that the change was “unacceptable.” Parent Steve Shade, who left work early to get in line, said he heard parents discussing legal action. “Some of the parents are attorneys,” he said.

There are 72 kindergarden spots this year, but those parents already in line have as much of a shot as the rest of the parents in the Penn Alexander catchment zone now. [Daily Pennsylvanian]


Last year, a line of freezing parents formed at the 4200 block of Locust St. 24 hours before registration began at the highly coveted Penn Alexander School. This year? As of noon, 66 parents (and at least one grandmother) are camping out a full 96 hours hours ahead of time. Why the Star Wars/iPhone level pandemonium? Because spots at Penn Alexander don’t quite come with the territory anymore. A few years ago, when parents moved into the West Philly catchment housing the school, their kid was automatically enrolled. The hip, high-acheiving public school has gotten so popular, the system has evolved to first-come, first-served. Check back this weekend for more updates. Photo from a Twitterer. [West Philly Local]

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  • vceross

    I hope the parents know that the whole process may be for naught. I had friends who did this last year and even though they fell well within the designated admission numbers were nonetheless locked out. There needs to be some oversight and transparency to this process. And surely we can come up with a better system than having parents and kids stand out in the cold for days on end: barbarous.

  • James

    The twitterer is on West Philly Local. westphillylocal.com. Not West Philly News, whatever that is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JMatthewWolfe J. Matthew Wolfe

    Let me give a somewhat different perspective from what others have been saying.

    First and foremost, conducting registration by having parents stand in a line for days in the winter is unfair, unsafe, inefficient and insane. It was in previous years and will be if it is done this year. The line is great for the parents who don’t have jobs, are not single parents, have family that can take care of the children while they are away or are wealthy enough to take off from work and pay people to do cover their responsibilities while they wait in line. For everyone else, not so much. It is certainly foreseeable that someone could develop a physical problem due to exposure to the elements and there is an increased chance of spreading disease with random people in close proximity without proper sanitation facilities. This is the sort of thing that gives bureaucrats a bad name and makes people reluctant to live in Philadelphia, work in Philadelphia, operate businesses in Philadelphia or even visit.

    I agree that the School District issuing a letter yesterday was pretty late notice of a rational change in policy. I understand that the parents who are in line do not want the policy to change because they feel that they are giving their children an advantage since they are already there. I will not criticize any parent for doing what they think is best for their children regarding something as important as education. That being said, the only thing worse than changing the policy at the last minute and going to a lottery would be to NOT change the policy and keep the line. It may not be fair to the parents who are in line to go to a lottery. It is also not fair to the parents who cannot be in the line for any number of very legitimate reasons (work, sickness, child care responsibilities, infirmity, etc.). It would be especially unfair for a parent who was given a copy of Superintendent Hite’s letter and either left the line or decided not to join it in reliance upon it. You can’t really take back the letter or let people cut in line based on their representation as to when they left or would have come if they had not seen the letter. I guess one analysis is which unfairness is least unfair (how’s that for a stupid sentence?). In my opinion, again, the only solution is to support the lottery.

    That being said, the School District’s late change is reprehensible and they should be criticized for their conduct of this entire situation.

    I read Dr. Hite’s letter. He says that there will be a lottery. In addition to the line, there is another problem with the way that this process had been conducted over the years. There has been an utter lack of transparency. Questions as to how many positions are available, how many who registered have been accepted, how many are on the waiting list and what people’s positions are on the waiting list are shrouded in mystery. Why is that? The cynical among us might suggest so that those with “connections” (the same people who get preferential treatment in Traffic Court) can be rewarded by the politicians in power. I know for a fact that some parents have screamed loudly enough that they received preferential treatment. Again, I am not going to criticize a parent for advocating for their child, but this cannot be allowed to happen. The lottery should be an open process which it is conducted in public so that everyone can see exactly how many positions are available, who is picked for them, who is on the waiting list and where they rank and that the lottery was really a fair process.

    My recommendation is that the Spruce Hill Community Association issue a letter strongly condemning the district for the process they used to decide how they were going to conduct registration and how they publicized it. We should, however, argue that the lottery is the only rational method of allocating spots at the Penn Alexander School, especially considering that Dr. Hite had issued a letter clearly outlining what the process is and certainly some parents have relied upon that letter. Finally, we should demand that the lottery be conducted publicly an with full transparency. They look stupid enough right now that they could be shamed into taking politics out of the process.

    -Matthew Wolfe