Again, who is this system, this reform, for if parents with a good set of skills and resources find the process and the system overwhelming, confusing, bewildering, overly demanding? Is it reasonable to expect every family to have a parent who has nothing at all to do but look for and at schools?
[Candis] Netter, a cheerful, practical heart-and-vascular nurse at Touro Hospital, had many things going for her in the school search: Job flexibility, a working car, a supportive husband, a contact or two to offer advice, a strong education background herself, including degrees from the University of New Orleans and LSU. But even with all these advantages, she still felt like crying — or screaming — at moments.
Like the day of Audubon’s lottery.
She had taken the day off to be there — attendance was encouraged, but not required — and grumbled to friends later that afternoon about why she had bothered. She had already missed a day to attend a mandatory information session on the Montessori curriculum.
Netter thought her goal was simple: She wanted her son to attend pre-K at a public school with good academic results, racial diversity, active parents and small classes.
But at times it felt like she was trying to get the 4-year-old into Harvard.*
It might be less complicated to apply to Harvard though the odds of getting in may seem to be the same. [The ultimate problem with this comparison—public K-12 education is not supposed to be like college. College is a different place and not for every comer or aspirant. It’s not elitist but fact that only 29% of Americans get a college degree. K-12 education is not supposed to be exclusive or only for a slim percentage of the population. Why do I feel like I’m in the chapter on Reconstruction in Crescent City Schools?]
Netter’s story is not the exception but the rule for parents who are trying to work with the systems left to us, systems we had little say in.
“Every school has different requirements,” she said. “You can use the common application except, of course, for the better schools you can’t.”
Officials unveiled the one-page “common application” two years ago, describing it as a golden ticket that any family — regardless of where they live, how well they read or how much time they can spend on the search — can use to apply to most schools.
But not all schools.
Most of the 16 traditional and charter schools under the Orleans Parish School Board — including all three of Netter’s choices — used their own process last school year.
Which means that the common application is best for getting into a RSD charter or non-charter school. Excuse me?
And Netter is exactly the kind of involved, high-standards-holding parent this system is supposed to increase the odds for.
Even though Cameron is only 4, Netter talks to him and his older brother, Armani, about college every day.
“If they are not going to college, I don’t know where they are going to live,” said Netter. “Because they won’t live here.”
People like Netter are supposed to now have a better chance to get good or even great schools for their children than before The Floods. Supposed to. But we see the same frustrating story as in the second installment, minus special education needs:
January passed. February passed. And Benjamin Franklin Elementary still wasn’t accepting applications. Worse, Netter never received a letter from Audubon after the frustrating lottery.
She called the school. Again and again and again.
At long last, Netter reached someone who said the letter had mistakenly gone to her house — where she could not receive mail — instead of her post-office box. After calling so many times that she felt like a “crazy stalker,” Netter finally learned that Cameron’s odds of making it in to Audubon were so slim she crossed it off her list.
Netter focused her energies on Benjamin Franklin, known as Baby Ben, which began accepting applications in March. Cameron would have to take another test. But the school told Netter that her son should do fine. (School officials say they have to test incoming prekindergarteners for general education classes, and actually admit students with the greatest need first if oversubscribed. The school dropped its magnet requirements after the storm, they say.)
But Netter had no idea how high — or low — Cameron would need to score to get in.
It’s a lie, an intentional falsehood/burying of head in sand or ass, to say that these struggles are not typical. This is what parents are expected to do according to Ms. Roemer Shirley, not wait until “the last minute” and put your kid “anywhere” [not her words; my paraphrase]. Is this meant to be a Darwinian school system, or systems, where the families with the most resources [or the fewest obstacles] get the best choices and get to float above the shit with clothespins on their noses?
The other point here: Cameron will do well no matter what:
Once inside, Netter opened her son’s notebook immediately. She checked to make sure he had a green dot for good behavior that day. She noticed a “Dad’s duty day” scheduled at the school for later that month — an effort to get fathers involved at Baby Ben.
As Cameron became immersed in a hand-held computer game, Netter called out to him. “Ooh, Cameron, we have some more homework to do.”
With his mom’s help, Cameron circled the two items starting with the letter ‘G’ he had missed on a worksheet.
Only two months into the school year, and Netter had already joined the parents’ organization and won the group’s first door prize for paying dues early. She eagerly volunteered at the school.
“When he’s older, he’ll remember all we did to get him into a good school,” she said. “And he’ll know it was worth it.”
But what about the others, the not-Camerons who don’t have Netter, a father, a stepbrother, constant reminders of college or, at the very least, a school that isn’t a last resort or end of the line or starved and neglected? Are we not supposed to worry about that? Can “we” write off chunks of the current generation of students? And for whom? [Not what, but whom.]
Like I said to The Girl in the car today, everyone deserves an education and when some do not get it, we all suffer. That boy up the street is not going to say, Oh, Ms. Bitch, you been so concerned and making so much noise about the schools and caring and all that, I ain’t gon’ take your TV or your car, I’ll just go next door.
I do not understand how Leslie Jacobs can run for mayor when she has had a hand, an important background hand, in this fiasco. [More on Ms. Jacobs soon.]
*I link to the online version but am reading and commenting on the print version, which may have slight present or future variations.
“Complicated admissions process filled with frustration.” Sarah Carr. (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, 11/10/2009. Web.