Navigating city school's placement maze proves to be tricky, frustrating [The Buffalo News, N.Y.]
(Buffalo News (NY) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 21--If you plan to enroll your child in a new Buffalo public school next year, do it now. Head to the district's Central Registration Office on Ash Street and submit your child's application.
Seriously. Go now.
Even though we're less than two months into the current school year, and online applications for 2014-15 were just posted to the district's website Wednesday, your chances of getting your child into the most competitive district schools diminish with every week that passes.
"If you don't come in early, you're really screwed," said Jackie Lahmer, a South Buffalo mother who learned that lesson the hard way last year. "It's such a shame you have to come a year in advance or you're not going to get anything good. You get what's left over, even if it's a bad school."
The Buffalo school system is notorious for having one of the most cumbersome, least transparent and least parent-friendly student admissions processes in the region.
Last school year's effort to move the district to an online registration process was so horrendous that despite spending $64,432 for a new registration software system, district leaders this year agreed to return to paper forms.
"The computerized system was a failure," administrator Mark Frazier told the School Board earlier this month. "It was riddled with errors. It was user-unfriendly."
Parents who made mistakes couldn't go back and fix them, and many completed online applications simply vanished into cyberspace. That's what happened to Lahmer, who was trying to register her son for prekindergarten last December.
Even though Lahmer did not receive an online confirmation at the time, she still figured she was in good shape.
That was until earlier this year, when she realized she still had not heard anything from the district. By the time she went to the Central Registration Office to register in person, it was too late to get her son Landon into any of her first three school choices: Discovery, Olmsted or Lorraine Academy.
"They said there was no way I could get him in for this year. The waiting lists were so long," she said. "I was so angry."
Without those options available, Lahmer decided to put Landon in a private pre-K program this year at a cost of $1,195. That hurt her family financially, she said.
This year, administrators say they have made some much-needed improvements to the admissions process and have pledged to do more to make the process as open and straightforward as possible.
"There's no reason why we shouldn't be completely transparent in this district," said Frazier, the district's acting director of student placement. "There's no reason why anything should be a mystery."
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