We Got Schooled

My husband wanted to take charge on this one.  He spearheaded the research, sending me links and reviews of many options once he found ones he liked.  He figured out all of the correct deadlines, exams,  necessary paperwork, scores, and general steps of the process.  He even took a morning off of work so that we could go together to fill out the applications.  That would be the applications to possibly be fortunate enough to be chosen to register.

Yes, if you haven’t guessed by now, I am talking about registering Carlitos for Kindergarten…in a public school.

I’m not sure how it works everywhere else, but in New York City the whole school ‘process,’ private or public, can be pretty insane.  I wish I could say it begins now – with Kindergarten – but truly, for many families it begins at birth.  There are always plenty of stories swirling around this city of families that literally complete preschool applications while still in the hospital with their 1-day-old.  That level of behavior is usually reserved for the top-tier private schools.  However, the rest of us aren’t far behind.

It was by chance that we scored a last minute opening at Carlitos’ bi-lingual preschool when he was two.  Well, chance that the spot opened up right at the moment in late Spring when we decided to look into it, I guess.  Luck that they liked his application and interview. (Still so strange to me that two year olds partake in ‘interviews.’) And privilege that we could pull together the funds to pay for his part-time preschool.

I took us out of the game this year.  I discussed the reasons why already but in short:  We moved to Brooklyn, we long missed out on the 4 Free Universal Preschool spots, we hadn’t had applications in to any private preschools the February prior because we didn’t know we’d be moving to Brooklyn, and even if we could find a last minute spot we didn’t have the funds to pay between $14,000 and $20,000 for ONE  year of preschool for ONE of our children.

There are many situations where I would have chosen preschool for my child, but for where we live right now, it just wasn’t the right choice for us.

Instead, we dove head first into preparing for the Kindergarten scene.  We got on list serves.  We read through all of the steps on the official websites.  We waded through reviews, test scores, descriptions and ratings of every school in our district.  We looked up the best schools in all of New York City and it’s surrounding areas  and ran models to see if we could afford living in those cities or neighborhoods.  (Who am I kidding? My husband ran models. I checked to see what the downtown of each area looked like and if they had good parks and playgrounds.) We signed Carlitos up for the Gifted and Talented test, gave him any free test-prep available and fed him tons of salmon and avocado for two weeks prior. (We researched direct Omega-3 IV drips, but all appointments in the borough were already booked in the month prior to the testing.  Imagine that.)

Finally, by February we had settled upon our favorite Gifted and Talented options, should he rank in the 99th percentile (as we tend to believe our own children do, obviously) as well as five schools that we liked in our district on the off chance that he didn’t outperform 99% of his peers. (Again, let me be clear that of course his mommy and daddy have full faith that he will actually earn the top score of any child who ever took the test and will then be courted by the top Kindergartens in the entire nation.  Gooooo Carlitos!)

That brings us to today, when my husband took the morning off from work so that we could go officially apply to the five regular public schools that we liked best in our district.  Thankfully, we started with our actual zoned school, which has amazing reviews, great test scores and gave me (as a mom and a teacher) the good feelings of warm and cozy butterflies.  Our neighborhood is just outside of Park Slope and doesn’t have the same, um….scene?…so the administrator gave us a registration form right on the spot and told us we would have no problem getting our son enrolled there.

Next we went to another school in our neighborhood.  Again, I was in love.  They kindly photocopied all of the information we brought (passport, multiple items that prove your residency in the district) and allowed us to fill out the application that then places us on the wait list to register our son there. (Families in zone or with siblings already attending there have first priority).

So far so good! We were happy parents, holding hands as we entered the schools, excited about what Carlitos would encounter come September.

Look! A student garden!

Do you see those portraits in the Kindergarten rooms?!

It’s so clean and bright!

Everyone is smiling! Kids, administrators, teachers, security guard!

Are those…pony rides to the bathroom?!?! (Kidding.  But only about the pony ride part.)

Basically, we were in a good place. Excited about everything to come.  Excited about our options.

And then…

Next on our list were two of the most desirable public schools in  Brooklyn…or so we had heard.  And read.  And seen on ‘Sh*t Park Slope Parents Say.’

I am going to write this next part as delicately as possible, because even though Park Slope grates on my nerves sometimes, I have met plenty of nice people there.  Plus, no matter who you are, hearing someone trash your child’s school isn’t going to sit well. Okay…Honestly?  We belong to the Park Slope Y and I don’t want to make any enemies.

Let me just say that as we entered the first of these super sought after schools we didn’t get the best feeling.  I won’t go into detail about the facilities as it would make it clear which school I am referencing and also feels too mean to families that do go there…but it didn’t feel happy.  Add to that the grouchy administrator who kept demanding when our appointment was (Funny-we didn’t need an appointment to fill out one sheet at the other schools?) and raising her eyebrows when we said we didn’t see online where it said you also had to have all immunizations with you for this part of the process.  The final straw was the mom who *oh so kindly* inserted herself in this discussion to smirk at us and say “It does say it online.” (I have now written three different snarky descriptions of her in this space and then deleted them.  Trying..reeaaallly…hardd..to be nice.  C’mon Annie, you can do it!)

I looked over at my husband and realized he was about to be *not so nice* to both patronizing women.  I stepped in and finally got a different administrator to understand that we weren’t an ‘in zone family’ trying to register, we just wanted to apply for the district waiting list.

Ohhhh, you…aren’t in zone? Oh. (funny look) Well, here’s the form. No, I don’t need to photocopy his passport or electricity bill.  That won’t be necessary.  …you do understand that your chances of getting in here are almost zero, right?

Dear God, at this point, I am counting on it!

At the second incredibly sought after school my husband told me I should probably just go in on my own.  There is a severe lack of parking in Park Slope, but we both knew the real reason was he didn’t trust his frustration if this one were to be anything like the last.

Excellent decision on his part.

The secretary told the security guard that she would call the security desk when she was ready to see me.  To fill out a one page form with our son’s name and address and our phone number. Mind you, the office and security desk are about 5 feet apart.

After 30 minutes of not seeing a single person enter or exit the main office I asked the guard if she could double check if the secretary was ready for me.  She did.  Not quite.

Five minutes later, I am graced with the phone call that permits the security guard to let me enter the main office of the elementary school.  Shockingly, the office is empty.  I should also note that the first two schools had busy, bustling main offices and yet (gasp!) the secretary was able to hand me the form and even photocopy our documents.  They must have had super human abilities because this woman looked at me and said, “Sorry, but it’s just me today! So crazy! (The secretary next to her looked up, confused, but the main secretary simply gestured again and laughed and said, “You know what I mean!”) Can you believe?!? I thought ONE teacher was going on a field trip but it turns out MORE than one are! *buries her head in her hands* Ugh! Anyway, what I wanted to tell you is that this is a Z-O-N-E school.”

Um, yes, my understanding is that all public schools here have a zone.  But we are in this district and wanted to just apply to the waiting list for our son.

Fine.  Here is the paper, but you do understand that there is ZERO chance he will get into this school, right?

(Yes, funny, I just heard something similar.)

I filled out that damn paper out of principle (and honestly, spite).  Because we all know she made me wait 30 minutes to do so due to control issues, right?  Amazingly, she also did not need photocopies of our documents, even though you are supposed to supply them.  My guess is the last two schools put our form directly in the circular file, if you know what I mean.

We didn’t end up applying to our fifth choice.  I was afraid it might end up in fisticuffs.

Thankfully, our zone school seems pretty fantastic…and relatively ‘undiscovered.’  I’ll take it.

Perhaps we felt defeated and disillusioned by 11 am, but after a few deep breaths we looked at each other with relief.  Carlitos would be a rock star no matter where he goes next year.  Any school is lucky to have him.

Plus, this is all just a back up plan because when they see his G & T scores the city of New York will obviously suggest we move directly to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I’m just sayin’…

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8 Responses to We Got Schooled

  1. Denise Grassart says:

    Haha1 Very funny, but all too true. After reading the first paragraph, I thought you were both applying to law school or something. ;-)
    This country and it’s school system never ceases to amaze me.

  2. Monica says:

    Wow, GT tests already?? And I thought the DC area was bad :)

  3. I am all nervous and twitchy reading this!! The pressure would make me swap out my morning coffee for a Red Bull and vodka.

    If I have learned anything during the preschool process with my daughter, it’s this: follow your instincts.

    When will you know where he is accepted?

  4. Denise – That really is the core problem: ALL public schools in this country should be so equally high caliber that every family simply attends their zone school with enthusiasm. We are at least fortunate enough to have a great zone school AND other great options in our district.

    While this process is a pain and frankly, dumb, I feel much worse for the families that only have one (horribly, painfully crappy) public school near them.

    This country needs to get it together concerning education.

  5. Ahhh, Monica, I too though DC was bad in that arena. But no, NYC trumps it by a mile. It’s kind of ludicrous. Whacha gunna do? (See how poorly I was educated?!?!?!?)

    Hope my genes skipped a generation for his sake with his GT scores…. ;p

  6. Erin – His GT percentile comes back in late April…pretty much the same week you have to make final decisions about in which public elementary school you wish to enroll them. Luckily, I have now seen our zone elementary in person, love it AND know he has a spot there if we want it.

    Let me state clearly for the record that this kid is hereby never permitted to drop out of school and become some slacker stoner or some shit. Nuh uh. Not if this is the level of care and persistence put into his KINDERGARTEN options. Sorry, buddy.

  7. Your Mother says:

    Move to Cambridge!! We would love it.

  8. RealMommyChron says:

    I know you would, mum! Ha. Maybe he WILL go to a small liberal arts school
    In Cambridge….someday. :)

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