Superintendent for Philadelphia Public Schools William Hite met with approximately 125 concerned parents Tuesday morning at the Penn Alexander School in West Philadelphia.
The meeting ended with PAS’s new lottery registration system intact, but a promise on the part of the school district for more transparency.
When the School District announced at 6 p.m. on Friday night that registration for kindergarten at the elite public school — formed in a partnership between Penn and the Philadelphia School District — would be decided via lottery, and not by a “first come, first served” policy as in prior years, many parents were upset.
At the meeting, parents were encouraged to form an advisory committee to aid in the decision-making process. There will then be a meeting between the committee and the officials from the School District in the coming weeks.
“If I don’t get my second child into Penn Alexander, it’s too late for the voluntary-transfer deadline,” said Karen Breese, a single mother with a second grader in the school. “Most private schools’ deadlines have passed, and charter school deadlines have passed.”
She added that the lottery system may leave her and her neighbors “no options to educate our children.”
Igor Burstyn, who has a child at Penn Alexander and is one of many trying to register a second child for kindergarten, said that the tone of the meeting was calm and collected and parents were well-prepared for it.
When asked what his options would be if he was unable to get his second child into Penn Alexander, the associate professor at Drexel University mentioned private school, moving out to the suburbs and possibly selling his property or renting it out.
“None of these options are particularly appealing,” he added. “But I have a history of moving countries to create better opportunities for my children. I gave up a tenured position to come to Philadelphia and if I have to, I will move again.”
Mariana Farach, a single mother with a son in first grade at the school and a daughter about to enter kindergarten, believed siblings should have preference. Farachmoved to the neighborhood five years ago specifically for PAS.
“I’m a single parent,” she said. “I physically cannot be in two places at the same time for pick-up and drop-off.”
Many parents feel personally invested in the school. Farach added that her daughter was “comfortable and excited that she will be with her neighborhood friends.”
In April, Penn agreed to fund an additional kindergarten class at the price of $120,000 a year, which some parents believe has put pressure on registration in the upper grades.
“It made it virtually impossible to get your child into first grade,” said Farach.
Vice President for Penn’s Office of Government and Community Affairs Jeffrey Cooper said in an email that the original agreement between Penn and the School District provides that no more than 18 children shall be in any kindergarten classroom, and no more than 24 children shall be in any grade 1-8 classroom.