The Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend I opened a letter from the NYC public schools and found out that our application for pre-k had been rejected.
Now, I know that getting into a public pre-k program isn't guaranteed for all New Yorkers. But we happen to live near a school with PEEE-LENTY of room for all kids living within the zone, and then some.
Based on those odds, I didn't bother applying to any private preschools this year. And so when I got our rejection I peed my pants.
Not really, but almost. Surely there was some mistake! This was the first year that applications were processed by a computer in Pennsylvania instead of each individual school. I soon found out that I was not alone -- other families had been unpleasantly surprised by rejections, too.
We all got on the phone and started harassing every school bureaucrat and local politician we could reach. (Is there a DOE employee left who does not know my name? Nay, I say! Nay!) The DOE admitted there may have been a tiny minority of applications mis-handled most likely due to our own errors (indeed!). They published an e-mail address for appeals and said all disputed applications would be handled individually. And then they started allowing schools to register students.
You know what this means -- spaces at our school will get filled and by the time our applications are reviewed and it's decided they were wrongfully rejected there will be NO ROOM FOR US. I ask you! The DOE has not said how they intend to solve this problem.
Councilman Bill di Blasio and City Advocate Betsy Gotbaum held a press conference about this and invited parents to show up with our kids (you know, for emotional appeal). I hiked over to Jasper's preschool, got him an damn ice cream to buy his cooperation, took the train into the city (where he refused to eat any lunch), and showed up 10 minutes late.
But the press conference went well. It was cathartic to hear some of the parents vent. If only there'd been more of us. I didn't get to hold Jasper in my arms and look like a poor, wronged mama. Instead he sat on the ground and played. Since I arrived late I had to stand by the reporters and looky-loos.
Afterwards, while I was trying to talk with the parents and two DOE representatives, he started screaming. MOMMY READ TO ME ABOUT BIONICLES! Mind you, we did not have any reading material on Bionicles. Just the New Yorker. Hold on, Jasper, I'm talking with the grown-ups. What do you mean read to you -- we don't have anything to read-- JUST READ TO ME ABOUT BIONICLES READ TO ME ABOUT BIONICLES READ TO ME ABOUT BIONICLES!
Over the next fifteen minutes I began to die of shame. He hasn't had lunch, I said. Other parents offered gummi worms and raisins (gummies accepted, raisins thrown on the ground) so I felt like the loser who doesn't feed her kid, can't get him into pre-k, and allows him to act like a screaming spoiled brat in public.
I came home feeling tired and demoralized. The two DOE guys had nothing new to tell us. I refused to play with my devil child and slipped into a general malaise.
I hate to say it, but today I love New York City a little less -- now more than ever! As for Jasper, I still love him but I don't really like the little monster very much today.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Posted by Adriana Velez at 7:26 PM