The magical charter school – How to WIN the lottery despite the odds

The magical charter school – How to WIN the lottery despite the odds

If you’re having public school problems, I feel bad for you son, I’ve got 99 problems, but  a charter school ain’t one! haha… that certainly was not my war cry a mere year ago, as I sat on the edge of my bed virtually in tears at the thought of my kid attending public school; not that there is anything wrong with public school. I just believe that charter schools are an excellent alternative to under or low performing public schools.

So, lets start from the beginning. We are Jamaicans, born and raised we moved to America but at our core (my hubby and I) we yardies. Having said that we relish the idea of a structured, uniformed and academically focused education for our children. That is what we know and who we are based on our culture. I decided that a charter school would do exactly that for my daughter who was about to graduate VPK and venture into kindergartendom (made a new word!). I researched like crazy (yes, yes I did…I research pretty much everything, why would this life changing event, be any different). I read all the reviews about charter vs public school, etc.

During my research I found several charter schools that were in proximity to our home or close enough to commute. I read about the lottery and the likelihood of us “winning” a place. I applied to 5 schools and crossed my fingers, toes and eyes. I prayed and hope, because once I set my mind to something, damned if it doesn’t work out. Eventually lottery results rolled around and my daughter got into approximately zero schools based on the lottery drawings. Which brings me back to paragraph one above where i’m sitting on my bed bewildered and feeling like a complete failure as a parent about something I had absolutely no control over.

Eventually, my kid did get into a charter school…off the waiting list. When I got the email it took me 0.001 seconds to accept the place. Based on all my research and the stress of placing my daughter I learnt so much about the process. Despite searching all over the internet I barely found anything that would help me, help her after we were rejected (quite literally). Because if this, i’m providing a few tips for parents to help you so that you won’t become as helpless and overwhelmed as I was during the process. They are simple tips that may work or not, and really they are more like advice than tips.

1. APPLY EARLY. If registration begins at midnight on Jan 4th, apply at 12.01 (slight exaggeration, but you get my point, right? Why should you apply early? When you attend the charter school info sessions and introductory meetings they will tell you that the lottery is random (which it is), they will tell you that if you are not selected, you will be placed on a waiting list, which they say is random as well (but based on my experience, it doesn’t seem to be). I applied early to all the schools we wanted to get into. My kid got into 3 of them based on being on the waiting list. Coincidence? I think not. We finally settled on our second choice, but I think that we were at the top of the waiting lists because we applied early and they select people off the waiting list based on the order in which they applied. Makes complete sense right? I think so.

2.  APPLY A LOT. Don’t just select your favorite school, select and apply to as many that fits your criteria. Its a lottery! you may not be as lucky to get into the school of your choice, have options open. We applied to 5, we got into 3 off the wait list.

3. PUT THE WORK IN, YOU MAY ONLY HAVE TO DO IT ONCE. Siblings automatically get selection preference, so you may only have to do this once, if you have more than one kid. That’s a relief right? I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the best luck in general, much less attempting to pull off a lottery win more than once.

4. JOIN THE BOARD OF NEW CHARTER SCHOOLS. This far fetched, but what the heck. Charter schools are run by large companies, small organisations, parents, teachers, community groups, etc. Children of board members on new charter schools automatically get a place. Bad news is, this is mostly for founding members. Good news, your community may need a charter school that you can petition to be opened. It could happen.

5. BE PREPARED TO VOLUNTEER. Volunteering a lot of your time, could get you in with the right people at your desired charter school. I didn’t go this route, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try.

Parents want the best possible environment for their children, and the best possible head start on the road to college; charter schools, in my opinion does that by creating a bridge between a traditional public school and a private school.

Good luck and fingers crossed for the lottery!