Penn Alexander Parents Have A Plan to Combat Lottery; Will Meet With Hite on Tuesday


The fight for the heart and soul of Penn Alexander’s admissions process isn’t over yet. According to de facto parent spokesman Brett Feldman, a heated group of aspiring Penn Alexander moms and dads will lobby Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite Tuesday (time, place, TBD) to revert the school’s admissions policy to first-come, first-served. The seventy-odd parents were waiting in line all day Friday, and were planning to camp out until registration on Tuesday, before being notified at 6pm of the switch to a lottery system.

So, what will the parents propose to Hite? Feldman, who’s already got a second grader enrolled at PAS, and was waiting in line to register his to-be kindergardener, says the parents met yesterday in a neighborhood church and decided to present Hite with a piece of key information they believe may change his mind. While parents were standing in line, Feldman says, they also kept up a detailed list documenting the registrants as they arrived. The school district could simply use this list to determine admission for the school, rather than force parents to stand in line all weekend. “All of us understand that there is a new superintendent who has come to the city recently,” Feldman said. “There are unique facts and circumstances here we can’t imagine that the superintendent knows.”

Feldman’s logic assumes the district is nixing the first-come-first-served system purely because it’s a health hazard for a bunch of parents to be freezing their butts off for 96 hours straight. But as a District spokesperson told the Inquirer, the decision was also made “to create the greatest amount of equity.” Which, for all Feldman’s talk of fairness (he was especially upset that the rules were changed after parents had already committed to waiting), means opening up the process to those unable to stand in line for hours or days at a time. Besides, according to the sign that currently adorns the chain-link fence in front of the school on Locust Street (see above photo) the parent list seems somewhat corruptible if parents can ask to be added to the list after-the-fact.

What do the parents have planned if Hite stonewalls their new plan? Many will likely enter the lottery anyways, while others may look toward private schools. When I asked Feldman, a lawyer, if parents were considering legal action, he didn’t rule it out. “People are hoping that over the next couple days, we can work something out with the school district where none of that is necessary.”

  • LIne Parent

    Cross-posted: I bought a house in this neighborhood 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.