The School District’s way of deciding which school your child will go to has many names; “Schools of Choice”, Controlled Choice, Seat Assignment, School Assignment, Kindergarten Lottery, etc. One of the reasons I started this blog was because there was too much “hidden” information floating around Unit 4, information that was unnecessarily hidden by obfuscation, technical details, and even more obfuscation. My latest effort to help parents as they attempt to tackle this monstrosity is reflected in the following letter sent to the Family Information Center (FIC) and its director, Doretha Simmons. I carbon copied the Unit 4 Board of Education and soon-to-be Superintendent Dr. Judy Wiegand.
Good evening,I hope each of you are enjoying a pleasant holiday break with friends and family.Let me first say that I am extremely grateful for all the efforts of the Family Information Center and the role it plays within in Unit 4. There is a lot of hard work that the FIC staff put into making the FIC what it is today. Having talked to previous directors (Mrs. Hattie Paulk, Mrs. Sandra Duckworth), I am aware that there is always an ear for parents at the FIC, and for that I applaud you. In the interests of improving perceptions, communication, and the experience of the Lottery process, I humbly ask that you consider the following suggestions, with the goal of taking action prior to January 10th, 2012.I. Simplify the websiteAs soon as possible, consolidate the information about “Controlled Choice” and “School Registration” on the FIC website. Currently, there are five (5) separate documents each attempting to explain and/or answer questions about School Assignment. Please have just one link. Additionally, Wake County used to have a very user-friendly information sheet about Controlled Choice and the involvement of Dr. Michael Alves; unfortunately, that website is no longer available, but I encourage you to contact Wake County and see how Unit 4’s own efforts can be enhanced.II. Clear InformationIn past years, terms like “overchosen schools” were used during presentations, yet most parents, especially those who are new to the system, have absolutely no idea which schools are overchosen. On top of that, the geographical layout of the schools and their relative proximities tend to be another point of confusion. I implore the FIC and Unit 4 to do the following two things to address these concerns:
- Spell out which schools are overchosen. Dr. Alves provides a nice summary after each lottery, and I can provide further summaries and graphs/charts if needed (note: I am aware of arguments about not wanting to scare or dissuade parents from choosing a “popular” school – I recommend couching this piece of information as an example, as historical information. I am happy to discuss this more)
- Prepare and present a large (ie, 2′ x 4′) posterboard that shows the entire school district and each school within it, with 1.5 mile “circles of proximity”. I have an example based on Google maps if interested.III. “Reverse Feedback” during Community ForumsMs. Doretha Simmons, I hereby request that an explicit effort be made to collect and report on community comments/concerns expressed during the January 10th Community Forum. I realize that Unit 4 and specifically, the Family Information Center, has been quite open about community comments in the past, and I appreciate that. My request is to formally extend that opportunity in the following ways:
- Announce that an individual (by name if possible) of the Unit 4 staff will be recording comments with the purpose of publishing a summary on the Unit 4 website
- Publish said summary within 3 days
- Assign or otherwise attach a response (or an estimated time to expect a response) from a Unit 4 representative, to be published on the websiteAs an example of this process in action, I point you to the White House’s experiment with We the People; it is not perfect by any means, but in my opinion is does appear to engender more engagement and involvement.Please understand, I do realize that there is a lot going on; Winter Break is in full swing and most folks are not reporting back to work until after Jan 2nd (or later); new Superintendent; new FIC office/building; lots of preparation for the 2012 Lottery process. I believe that each of the three suggestions above are quite practical and achievable prior to January 10th, yet I am anxious to hear what you think and if you (in the plural) are willing to accept these challenges. On top of that, I am quite willing to join in the efforts. 🙂 If I can do anything to help us all reach these very short-term goals, please let me know.Thank you for your time.