Let me give you a little background before I write this letter. Astrid did not get into a public PreK program in St. Paul for this school year, which isn’t a huge deal as there aren’t enough slots for all kids and we have a great paid preschool that she attends…BUT the problem is that all of the kids that did get into PreK now move into the K slots next year making it pretty much impossible to get into a decent K program in our neighborhood. Esther was lucky and won the lottery and got into public PreK and then just slid right into that K slot the next year. Eloise was NOT lucky and we did not get into the PreK of our choice nor into a kindergarten of our choice in our neighborhood, so we paid for private school as we did not want to bus her out of our neighborhood.
And now it seems as though Astrid’s fate might be similar. When I called the school placement office to find out what my best strategy is for applying for PUBLIC kindergarten next year as we did not get a PreK slot, she said to me “Well you better take a harder look at some other schools that aren’t so popular as I’m telling you right now, there’s no way you will get into your top four choices that are IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD.” So I said “So I need to put my 5th and 6th choice as my 1st and 2nd choices to ensure I get those?” And she said “Well there’s still no guarantee, but yes, your odds would be better to do that.” So I said “So what you are really saying is that this ‘we have a choice’ thing is all a bunch of crap?” And she said “Well, you just need to consider a good strategy for next year.” And I said “You know it’s really sad that we can’t just go to the school that is CLOSEST to us.” And she said “Good luck” before she hung up the phone.
So anyway, that’s where we stood after Astrid received her rejection letter in March. However, last week we received another letter giving us more awesome choices for Astrid for the upcoming school year…and this isn’t actually what the letter said, but this is pretty much how I took it…
Dear Ms. Morrison and Mr. Duncan,
We are so sorry again that your child did not get into our public PreK program in the schools that you selected, that were you know, in your neighborhood. And I know the biggest bummer for you isn’t that your child didn’t get into PreK, no the biggest issue is now that she didn’t take a PreK slot she pretty much automatically won’t get into kindergarten because those PreK kids move up into those slots, so good luck next year! And remember to attend our ‘School Choice’ fair again next year at the Rivercentre because isn’t it fun to take time out of your busy Saturday and do what’s right for your kids by researching your amazing school choices and falling in love with your neighborhood schools, you know where you bought your house, and you know, where you pay over $6000 in property taxes, but then when it comes right down to putting your child into the St. Paul Public School system…well, you really don’t have a choice at all.
But let’s talk about PreK! Again, bummer about your child, but guess what?? We just opened up slots in four elementary schools for more PreK classes and we’d LOVE for you to reapply! Yes, you will have to reapply to give all 700 families on the waiting list a shot at these few slots. Lotteries involving four year olds are good fun! That’s our motto anyway! You must feel the same way since you live in St. Paul. Oh but wait, don’t tell anyone about this letter you received telling you there’s a chance your child might get into a PreK program – because for some reason we decided not to send this letter to all the families who didn’t get in the first time. So shhhh….
The best news though – and not that you have to reapply and not that your child probably still won’t get in because frankly her odds kind of suck – no the best news is that none of these four schools are in your neighborhood OR in your home school area. Seriously, weird right? No, we want to put your four year old on a bus for 30 minutes across town! Such awesome news. I mean, who doesn’t want to put their four year old on a bus for that long to attend a school that is not in their neighborhood and a school with test scores less than 30%. Oh gosh, but that’s just a number and really means nothing. right? I mean why would you want your child to go to the school IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD, with her PEER GROUP, with whom you do extracurricular activities with and see at the playgrounds, and where you BOUGHT YOUR HOUSE, and where you PAY YOUR TAXES, when we’ve presented this amazing offer to you?
Have I mentioned our Strong Schools Strong Community Plan for St. Paul Public Schools – “This plan will allow our schools to focus on delivering an education that will reach not only the children who are thriving today in Saint Paul but all of the students in our district. And, we believe, the changes we are making will reconnect many students to the communities where they live – truly making the schools the heart of our community.”
Oh wait – that doesn’t make sense does it. I am writing you a letter to let you know that maybe there are openings for your child OUTSIDE of your community, where you did not buy your house…so I’m pretty much telling YOU to do something completely opposite that our plan says…you know, reconnecting with your community. So just ignore our plan because we’re just going to do what we need to do to fill our lower performing schools- and never mind what’s best for your child.
I mean, we already redrew the neighborhood school boundary lines last year – so now your child cannot even go to the schools that are closest to you IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD, where YOU BOUGHT your house, and where YOUR TAXES that have over doubled since you moved in – oh no, now we want to bus your kids over a freeway to a school that is not in your neighborhood..and we truly apologize in advance for what this is doing to your house value.
So again, let me summarize what we are offering your child today to ensure her success in St. Paul Public Schools….She cannot go to PreK in one of the schools you chose(you get a choice, just not YOUR choice), she cannot go to PreK in your neighborhood, she can maybe possibly you have to apply and probably still not get in a school for PreK NOT in your neighborhood – and if she does get in we are happy to bus her across town, she probably(and really likely) will not get in the kindergarten in your area(schools closest to your house), and as we talked about on the phone – maybe put your 5th and 6th choices as your 1st and 2nd choices so she has a better chance of getting in – again you get a choice(just not your choice), and yes your taxes will go up again this year so thank you for that!
And lastly, we know you are an involved parent so your child will pretty much do just ‘fine’ no matter where she goes(remember when I told you this on the phone last March), so good luck with your ‘choices’ as your child enters school. And remember, there are still many good charter and private schools that are growing in our area that you may want to look at too!(Oh wait, was I suppose to mention that….it’s so hard to figure out why those schools are growing….).
Best of luck to you!
St. Paul Public Schools Placement Office