Dear St. Paul Public Schools

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

 

About Tracy


My name is Tracy Morrison and I live in sunny Minnesota. I'm neither British nor a nun - I'm just a Midwesterner with a headache. This is mainly a humor and lifestyle blog that documents the lighter side of parenting. I am an ex-corporate ladder climber turned freelance writer, social media manager, and fashion expert - and ruler of my own little universe(very small). Aren't we all. I would love for you to contact me at tracy@sellabitmum.com

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    • says

      I agree – but they keep re-drawing the lines because there is not room. I just wish all of the schools in our city were quality schools so this did not matter.

    • says

      What bothers me the most is that 1. Why aren’t all the schools quality schools so this is not even an issue…and 2. The district made this big stink about cutting transportation costs and keeping kids at the neighborhood schools yet now they write me a letter telling me they want to bus my kid. Makes no sense.

  1. says

    Ok. This sucks. I am happy for the choices in a way, but not if it means that the kids who live close to their schools can’t get in… That said, have you considered homeschooling for pre K and Kindergarten? As a mom who has homeschooled for over 4 years, I can say that there are other ways to educate your kids besides ones that involve hours on a bus every day.
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  2. says

    Oh, Tracy, this is awful! I never thought I’d be applauding our school system, but next to this, I am.

    Ours guarantees students a spot in their home school (or neighborhood school) – the one closest to their homes. Then, if you choose, you can enter the lottery for other schools with open places. But I can’t imagine not having that home school option.

    We don’t really have a public PreK program. There is one, but it’s small and designed for those who otherwise couldn’t afford private preschool (or at least, that’s my understanding). Why St. Paul would decide the system you have going on is a good thing is beyond me.

    I’d suggest submitting this to your local paper as an op-ed. And I’m so sorry.
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  3. says

    I do not understand this AT ALL. What’s so hard about getting to go to the school in your area? I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. Kids’ education is so stressful.
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    • says

      Our parents never stressed about our primary education – we just rode our bikes down the block to the school that everyone else went to. Not one family on my block goes to the same school. Drives me crazy!

  4. Wendy says

    I am so sorry! What a bureaucratic mess! I know many people in the Twin Cities area that purchased homes in a specific neighborhood in order to attend those schools and now the school district feels it is better to have a lottery system and redraw the lines? Ridiculous!

    Maybe private school would be an option for the first few years. We decided to do a private Pre-K and were so impressed that we kep our daughter at the school and she is now entering 3rd grade.

    Good luck!

  5. says

    Ha I am commenting after Angie and we share a home school. As you know, we took our daughter out because her time there was a disaster but yes, we do always get to go to our home school. But they do re-draw lines and both Angie and I are in neighborhoods that “could” get cut out of our good school and put into a much less desirable one.

    We also have Pre-K for the magnet Montessori schools and those spots are worth their weight in gold. I swear to you parents who don’t like that educational style at all would do anything to get their 4 year old in a program.

    I freaking hate the lottery. We have lotteried 3 times for Sophia and Miles and have never gotten into the schools we wanted.

    But for you to not be able to go to a neighborhood school is ridiculous. Something needs to change there and fast.
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    • says

      This happens so often – fleeing to the suburbs – and I just hate it. But completely understand. Many of our friends have done the same thing – or they now pay for private schools.

  6. RMY says

    Both St. Paul and Minneapolis schools are ridiculous. We live in Minneapolis and thankfully our oldest 2 got into our school of choice in Roseville as kindergartners. Definitely worth the drive. Hopefully we can move into that district before #3 is old enough for kindergarten.

  7. says

    Oh for goodness sake what a clusterF*. That really sucks.

    I also empathize. The past three years B has been in an Early Childhood Special Education PreK with the public schools. The past three years, he went to three different schools. None in our home area. Two of the years his bus ride was an hour or so because he was the first pickup.

    I’m so glad to get him back into his home school for Kindergarten.
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  8. says

    If public schools are funded by property taxes then it only makes sense (right?) that students should have the opportunity to attend in their own neighborhood. I’m sorry you, and apparently many other families, have to wade through such a mess of red-tape just to get your kids in school.

    • says

      I really don’t understand the new district plan at all- and frankly I’m not sure they do either. We were told that busing was going to almost come to a stop to save on costs but now I get this letter wanted to bus my child across town. I’m so confused.

  9. says

    That is terrible. I just don’t understand; it makes no sense whatsoever. Part of the reason parents pick neighbourhoods is because of the schools nearby – that reasonably speaking, their children would be able to attend. Sorry that you are dealing with this!
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  10. says

    This is a terrible situation. I’m so confused by the public school system… It sounds like it’s different for you then here for us in Florida. My kids’ elementary school is right across the street and they did go there until we chose to put them in private school for various reasons – we are very lucky that my FIL is paying for them to go there otherwise I’m not sure what I would do. Homeschooling definitely has crossed my mind if things don’t work out.
    I hope, that you’ll be able to figure something out that works for you and your family. Good luck!!!
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  11. says

    Please post this in the newspaper! I have never heard of such nonsense! Why should anyone have to pay additional money to educate their children. I am getting on the plane and I will speak with your Governor!!!

  12. sahnya says

    Total drag. One thought – do the schools themselves control the waiting list? If so, head on down to your top choice with Astrid. Tell that that you know there is a long waiting list and given the new openings thought perhaps some families may change their mind and opt to have their kid go to the closer school and that you are ready and willing to have Astrid hop in at a moments notice, even mid-year. If the top school is Ester’s old school maybe even bring Ester and say hi to Ms Elaine (can’t hurt). I have heard of people in my area that can is essence bump themselves up the waitlist as a school that has an opening WANTS/NEEDS to fill that spot asap and will choice a family that is a sure thing over another. Best of luck in the tangled school world!

    • says

      I’ll do you one better Sahnya. The better the oldest kid does at school, the more appealing for the school to chose the kid likeliest to help their test scores go up. If the school controls the list, it’s easily manipulated. So, if you can give them a good student in return for a spot, everybody wins.

  13. says

    I haven’t lived many places, but every place I have lived in has district lines and a kid in a district goes to the school the map says. That’s why property values and taxes are so high, because the people with money all send their kids to the same school, making the schools in the rich parts of town the best. I thought that was the way it is everywhere. In my experience, location and property value always was tied to property taxes and quality of schools.

    So the thing I don’t get is why put your #5 for #1? If you put your top 4 and don’t get any of them, you go to #5 or #6, what have you lost by playing the lottery to get a spot?

    And I do have to say that you/they are absolutely right that the parent is always the most important part of an education. But I would want my kids going to the same school if they were all in the appropriate age-range to do so.

    As a former public school student and teacher, I think you should go to the school that meets the following requirements as best as possible: quality of education, price of education, location. Maybe you can make a little chart, assign different point values to everything and see what comes up. For example:

    School A- 5 for education, 1 for price, 5 for location.
    vs
    School B- 3 for education, 5 for price, 3 for location.

    If all 3 categories are weighted equally A and B are equal choices with a score of 11.
    If you price is the most important maybe you use education + location x price, A= 10 and B= 30 making the cheaper of the two, B, the better choice.

    Sorry that’s a bit… I don’t know what it is. But that’s just how my brain works. Best of luck, Tracy!
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  14. says

    I can’t understand this at all – I had no idea that the school system could be so poorly planned and run that they could deny children IN THEIR DISTRICT. That is jacked up.
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  15. Ariane says

    This is weird! In Montreal, an older sibling in a public school assures you a place in this school, even if you move to another neighborhood. If I understood correctly, your children won’t attend the same elemantary school. You will have some fun at pick up time!

  16. says

    This is one of the most insane systems I’ve ever heard of — and I live in Florida!

    We also have school choice but ours works differently — you enter lotteries for charter schools and magnet programs but you’re still guaranteed a spot at the public (non-charter) school in your neighborhood.

    So, in our case, we live in a great neighborhood that has great schools but we still wanted to explore two specific lottery options. The first one we got a really high number on the wait list; the second one (our first choice), we got a spot. It’s a tuition-free, highly rated charter school. We figured we’d try it and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll go to our pretty great backup, the neighborhood school.

    But, the biggest difference with the Florida system is that siblings are automatically guaranteed spots if one kid gets in. So, let’s say you have three elementary age children. If you enter all three in the lottery and one gets picked, they all get to go.

    I never thought I’d see the day when Florida’s system was more considerate towards parents. What a nightmare. Good luck.

  17. Kittie says

    That is absolutely terrible that families have to go through that. I think we as parents need to really research who we are voting onto the school boards that are making such asinine decisions for our children. Better yet, if your kid is forced to go to school outside your neighborhood, the amount you pay in school taxes should be reduced to equate to THAT neighborhood then. So frustrating, sorry you have to go thru that!

  18. says

    That is just awful and I can only imagine your frustration. Our community is growing and I worry about what school we will be assigned once my son is old enough . We brought in a neighborhood that is likely to go to the 2 better / closer schools in our town but there are no guarantees. Part of me wishes his preschool went to 8 th grade cause I choose it and I love it. Good luck!
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  19. says

    Even though I live in St. Paul… I do not like the schools! I thought you automatically got into your neighborhood school. We left the district and my kids go to school in Mendota Heights. The district is diverse and has great schools!

    I am sorry you have to deal with this!

  20. says

    Seriously– I didn’t realize the St. Paul system was so messed up. I think the open enrollment system we have (do you have that too?) makes for no neighborhood camaraderie and is just WEIRD.

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this. We’re at parochial school but have a weird situation in our neighborhood. We pay Edina taxes but our side of the street and the area behind is assigned to Hopkins. There are about 200 kids who should be going to Hopkins and only 9 kids go. Everyone else ended up open enrolling to Edina or going to private school, but the Hopkins school we’re assigned to is the lowest in terms of scores and reputation.

    Your situation is much more complicated and unfair. I’m so sorry!
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  21. robyn says

    you need to put on your barbara bush pearls and kick some @ss.
    this does rank in my top 5 favorite sellabit mum blogs posts. right up there with the letter from the tooth fairy.

  22. says

    This is so absurd. I don’t get it. Are there lost too many kids in at Paul? How does this happen? Ben got in no problem to the Woodbury public school right by our house (and it was a great school). I don’t understand how they don’t have enough spots? So crazy. Sorry you have to deal with all this.
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  23. Mim says

    I thought that SPPS just changed back to drawing boundaries so neighborhood kids went to neighborhood schools. Maybe this is only in middle school and high school? It’s definitely a mixed bag. I mean, we pay taxes in St, Paul in the hopes that ALL the Saint Paul schools can be good, no?

    • says

      Exactly – why can’t they all be good? Yes, they now draw boundaries for neighborhood schools and we now have a new neighborhood school as of this year – and it’s one that is NOT in our neighborhood(and why we bought our home where we did) though, and is the lowest performing primary school in the district, so now we are stuck. Or we move. Or we consider other options. As our home values decline.

  24. says

    Where we live there is a school of choice option where you can apply to go to a school in a different district (which we do) but you get the spot only if there is one available. So, if you live in that district you get the spot first and thankfully once your in…. your in. No reapplying or anything like that.
    Of course the downside is no bussing for out of district kids but it’s a small price to pay.

    Public school can be a hot mess… especially in larger cities. I can see why you’d consider homeschooling! Hopefully things work out and you won’t have to do that though.
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  25. says

    This system makes NO SENSE. Here you go to the school in your area. If you want to go elsewhere you can do school of choice, but only if there is room. if there’s no room, too bad.

    As a public school teacher, I totally don’t understand public school stuff most of the time. It is by no means logical.
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  26. Jana says

    That is so messed up! Thank goodness our public schools function better than that. We don’t have choice though, you are pretty much stuck with the neighborhood school for good or for bad.

    I hope something good turns up for Astrid. Is there no sibling preference thing there?

  27. says

    This is TOTAL B.S.!!!! Seriously, we’ve got some screwed up stuff in the public school system there but that is ridiculous!!

    On the bright side, I adore your sarcasm.
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  28. says

    I just want all of the schools to be equal in what they offer, what they teach. Why is that so hard. This zip code doesn’t deserve more computers or better teachers or more PK spots than this zip code. These houses are zoned for this school. These houses are zoned for that school. Both schools are equal in what your child will be taught and experience. What else is there?

  29. Melissa says

    I was born and raised in mn and didn’t know they did lotteries. In the suburbs there they do not do that. They have a zone for your neighborhood. I personally prefer the suburbs there. Best of luck!

  30. says

    Huh, in Robbinsdale they are doing the opposite. They are discouraging people from open enrollment to other schools by stopping busing students out of their neighborhood over the next few years. Well, unless you go to one of the two magnet schools – but then they don’t bus you to the corresponding Jr. High or High School if you don’t live where your “program” continues after elementary school.
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  31. Misty says

    I so feel your pain. We moved and trying to get our daughter into 2nd grade in a already over crowded school district is near impossible. Or I should say trying to get her in a school close to us with out us having to drive her to the school she should of went to and then them shuttling her. We opted for homeschool, so much less headache, we can learn at our own pace and I don’t have to deal with the school districts. Plus there is a ton of support in this small community for homeschoolers.

  32. Dani says

    Just stumbled upon this post and I want to hear how things turned out! We just started on this roller coaster, with low hopes for preK, and our eyes on Kindergarten.

    One thing I would point out to many of the commenters is that in St. Paul the lower performing schools tend to be in areas that are more likely to have non-native English speakers or people living below poverty or people who are not caucasian. And higher performing schools tend to be in areas with higher incomes and white people. Thus, the integration. Is it fair? Not to me or my white, male 4-year-old. But is it for the greater good? I guess we’ll see.

    Thanks for your insight, truly appreciated!

    • says

      Good luck Dani! We are applying to magnet schools as we don’t believe our neighborhood school is an option for us. Fingers crossed that we get in somewhere.

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