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.”