It is 5:30 a.m. and Peter is standing in line at the San Jose Unified enrollment center (which won’t open until 8 am) hoping that this year Kelly can go to a school without morons, sociopaths, and parents who show up with their children, like, whenever.
Although Peter is doing the work on this, I have been in a black mood about it. Academically, Kelly’s done splendidly in my home school: she can read, count, add small sums, and write short sentences by herself, which is supposedly quite impressive for a kindergartener. Even by homeschooler standards, she’s at a second grade level (except for lettering, which is as much a physical skill as a mental one.) But she frequently reminds me how much she wants to be in a classroom, particularly every time we pass by the local school, where she adored her teacher and loved her peers.
I’ve done my utmost to make up for this: I signed her up for community center classes, which she loved. She has three homeschooler park days/excursions each week, plus two storytimes, each of which have a stay-afterwards-and-play component. There are craft days, and math days, and hiking days, and playdates, and parties with friends and neighbors. But it’s still not enough for Kelly, and she’s clearly stir-crazy when I have to take some time to educate Neil, too. And I’d be just fine with her being in a classroom, as long as she got some semblance of attention, instead of it all going to children who can’t figure out what a circle is, even if they are told what it is every day for 3 months, and the acting out of America’s future serial killers.
Last year, we signed her up for the magnet school Neil had gone to, but she didn’t get in. At that point, I didn’t know how bad the situation was at my neighborhood school, but I already felt Kelly was getting the short end of the stick. For one thing, when I registered Neil several years earlier, I remember registering him in February, and knowing that he’d gotten in in April. Last year, even though busloads of parents in the coveted receiving-government-assistance category were being bussed in to tour the school in December, I was told registration wouldn’t be open until April. And when I tried to get an appointment to register, there wasn’t anything available until May, at which point Kelly would be too late to be included in the “lottery” for a space at the school. My only hope for her having even a chance to get in would be to show up sometime within the “lottery window” and wait in line.
Obviously, most of the parents in the district don’t believe the school system for a second when they say school placement outside of neighborhood schools (or even for neighborhood schools) is done by a lottery. Everyone shows up on the first (official) day of registration and hopes they were early enough. I foolishly showed up at the official opening time of the first day of registration last year, and was told that there were already so many people there that I wouldn’t be able to get Kelly’s registration in any time that day. Just as foolishly, I went back 5 days later: and Kelly ended up near the bottom of the list. Was it really bad luck, or the consequence of being late?
To add to the humiliation last year, the clerks were tired and grumpy to the Caucasian and Asian parents who just wanted to register their children in their own public schools, but visibly lit up with joy when a woman who only spoke Spanish came up to ask a question. People have reported on this sort of favoritism before: apparently if you go to district meetings, the bureaucrats are much more attentive if you ask a question in (native, not gringo) Spanish. Granted, the majority of the students in San Jose Unified schools are Hispanic (more than whites and Asians combined) but given the diverse demographics of this whole area, I have to wonder if the “white flight” that people bemoan as racism may be more related to the fact that the district openly shows preference to Latinos who only speak Spanish.
This year, I called the district enrollment office in January to find out when I could make an appointment to enroll Kelly–turns out, that even though last year, appointments started being made in late February, appointments had already been being given out for a week (not that the web site had this information anywhere). I got an appointment in late April, barely at the end of the magnet school “lottery window,” but Peter wasn’t willing to be played for a second year. And so, Peter gave up his sleep and his morning just so his daughter might have the chance to be in the classroom situation she so desires, at a place we hope will at least be acceptable. I’m not even sure that the school will be that much better, though Peter has more faith in some of the teachers there than I do. If she beats the odds and gets in, I still have to hope there are not sociopaths in her class; I have to give up my civil rights and submit my fingerprints to the FBI just to get into the classroom; she’ll repeat kindergarten; and I know, that even though she’ll have more resources at hand, her education will be slower and at a lesser level than she’d get with me.
Update: Peter returned around 9:30 am, without having been able to register. Apparently, even though she had a TB test and isn’t sick, the test was deemed inadequate because it was from December of 2007, and hers needed to have been done in 2008 or later.
Where do you get a TB test, like immediately? I called Kelly’s official doctor who was pissed off because since 2000, I’d been taking advantage of the county’s free services for shots and physicals, and she wouldn’t help Kelly without a full physical being thrown in, at some time she felt like seeing cheap slackers like us. The county had ceased its services; and there was no other place I knew of to get a quick fast test. Then, tearing through my file cabinet, I found a flyer from the powwow, where Kelly’d hit up the Indian Health Service so often for candy that they registered her. In short, the natives took care of her at a local clinic, on short notice, and for a modest fee. I have to go back to personally experience the humiliation of San Jose Unified when the results are read on Friday, but thanks to Indian Health Service, of all things, we managed to jump a bureaucratic hurdle as quickly as possible.