Parents signal support for ‘unified enrollment” plan at Uphams Corner meeting

Sholonda Antrum of Coleman Street in Dorchester spoke about her experience with enrolling her children in school at last Thursday’s meeting at the Kroc Center. Of the proposed unified enrollment plan, Antrum says: “This will work for us.” 	Maddie Kilgannon photoSholonda Antrum of Coleman Street in Dorchester spoke about her experience with enrolling her children in school at last Thursday’s meeting at the Kroc Center. Of the proposed unified enrollment plan, Antrum says: “This will work for us.” Maddie Kilgannon photoThe first of six community meetings to discuss a proposed unified enrollment plan for public and charter schools in Boston was held last Thursday, October 8 at the Kroc Center on Dudley Street. Roughly thirty parents, educators, administrators, and community members attended the event, which was moderated by Mo Barbosa from Health Resources in Action. Rahn Dorsey, the city of Boston’s Chief of Education, also spoke at the meeting, which took place just hours after Governor Charlie Baker announced a new plan to raise the charter school cap in Massachusetts.

The topic of the Kroc Center meeting was an emerging plan to simplify the process for applying to charter and public schools by streamlining the process into one application with one deadline. After ab introduction and a review of the purpose for the meeting, the large group broke up into a few smaller groups to listen to parents’ experiences with the enrollment process.

Taipei Anjorin from Dorchester has a grandson at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School. She says that he waited a year on the waitlist before he was given a seat in the 1st grade. “Every year the number of kids on the waitlist seems to get longer,” she said. “Kids should not have to wait three or four years to get into a charter school.”

Anjorin was interested to see how a unified enrollment plan would impact the waitlist and the process of applying to charter schools which she describes as, “very very difficult because of the lottery system and wait list.”

Marie Coutart, from Crawford Street, has multiple children in the system with IEPs. She was frustrated to the point of tears as she said, “I find that no one knows where to put my child.”

Under the current “Home Based” system of enrollment at district and charter schools, parents are asked to chose preferred schools divided by a tier system based on MCAS scores. Parents first select two Tier 1 schools. For step two, they can then select either four Tier 1 schools or Tier 2 schools. The third step is choosing six schools from Tier 1, 2, or 3.

The proposed new enrollment plan would streamline the process and ensure consistent information across district and charter schools networks. Rachel Weinstein from the Boston Compact carefully addressed the intention of the proposed plan, which explicitly does not address the charter school cap.

Then came the crucial part of the meeting for creating a system that really “works;” the group was then broken up into three working groups to discuss one of three topics: family communication, SPED/ELL enrollment, and system administrator (which discussed how problems with enrollment have been addressed). The smaller groups brainstormed their topics and then reported back to the larger group.

Another community meeting on this topic is scheduled for Wed., Oct. 21 at the branch library on Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan. Additionally, there will be another meeting in Dorchester at the Grove Hall Community Center on Nov. 5.