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Elena McCoyGuest blog entry by Elena McCoy, Executive Director of Communications at CSOFT

I would rather eat glass than see another “Back to School” ad. Why? Because at this very moment, I have no idea what “Back to Schoo” l will mean for my six-year-old.

While all the other parents are maniacally racing through Target fulfilling their school supplies list and fighting over the last pair of light-up Sketchers shoes for their own first grader, I sit on the sidelines with shocking envy that I am not able to partake in this dreaded annual ritual.

Why, you may ask? It seems that not all zip codes are created equal. That is, just because you live in a certain school’s area, it does not guarantee your child will attend that school.

At the start of summer, we moved to a highly sought-after neighborhood will the sole purpose of attending a coveted school. The office manager assured me there was plenty of space for my incoming first grader. Having spent a summer of getting acquainting our son with the new school, including playground drills, mock bathroom breaks and practice runs to and from the classrooms, my husband and I came to learn—one week before school starts—that our son has not been accepted into this school. Huh?

The Tortoise Doesn’t Always Beat the Hare.

It seems that somewhere in between our turning in of paperwork and its getting processed, we were beat out by another family, and we have been awarded the fantabulous prize of (drum roll please) first on the wait list for the school. I’ve never been first at anything in life, and this was a terrible time to start.

To add insult to injury, on the same day we found out that our son was wait-listed, we received an automated e-mail from the school’s foundation asking us to make our expected donation of $700. Most Bay Area parents cringe these days (read=economic downturn) when they have to raise their pen to write this annual donation check, but to me this was a glimmer of hope that perhaps we might just get into the school. My husband and I even discussed sending them the donation, even though we weren’t in ye—a strategic move to get in, you see. (I know, some of you may be asking why we have to make a donation when this is a public school, but that is the norm these days, not to mention hours of fundraisers, auctions and volunteer time which we are happy to do for our kids. But it’s kind of a kick in the teeth if your kid can’t even go to your neighborhood school).

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Taking our “Diversion” Medicine – My Mom is a Liar!

We went along with the so-called “diversion” to the other school (aka the “it’s not you, it’s me” conversation where the school assures you that you will be just as happy at the other school and that they are very sorry). Then we went on our un-merry way, getting our son registered and fired up on his new school. This is no small feat for a shy six-year-old that hates change and now thinks that his mom has been lying to him for 2 ½ months. (God forbid he finds out about Santa Claus anytime soon.)

Fast forward to two days ago, when we went to find his teacher assignment, which isn’t posted until 5pm on the Friday before school starts. (They’ve gotten wise to the fact that, if given notice any sooner, parents will moan and complain about their child’s teacher assignment, and just wreak havoc as parents can tend to do.)

In our case, we could have used a few days to wreak havoc because, guess what? Our son’s name was not on this school’s new roster. Strike two against Mom and Dad in our son’s mind because now we’ve lied to him twice. T minus 48 hours, and our son has no place to go on Monday. And props to the parents that home school, but that is not an option for us—I can barely manage doing crafts with them on Saturday morning let alone juggle an entire year’s curriculum.

Since when does a six-year-old have to crash classes?

Tomorrow is the first official day of school in our area, and our son has no school to attend. We plan to show up tomorrow, like college protesters stating our case. At this point, I can’t even deal with taking my son to his first day of school because the outcome is too uncertain. Instead, I’m handing it off to my uber-excellent negotiating partner—my husband. He went to San Diego State, where crashing classes was the norm. In fact, it was a method of survival if you had any chance at finishing your degree within five years. At my college, we signed up for classes and that was it, so I’m seriously uncharted territory here.

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I’m told by the old school that there is still a chance we may get in, but we aren’t holding our breaths. When did public schools get so private?

Elena McCoy lives in the Bay Area with her three lovely children, her somewhat lovely husband, and  a dog that isn’t allowed to sleep on the bed but sometimes does. In between managing all MarCom initiatives at CSOFT, Elena likes to read, occasionally have a Mai Tai with friends, and plot the untimely demise of anyone who keeps her children out of public school.

  1. I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
    A for your writing, F for the public schools.
    Knowing how hard you try (and always succeed), this must be a nightmare.
    How is it working out?

  2. OMG! Well what happened? It’s Tuesday! Where did he go? Incredible story. I think you should send it in to Oprah! and then to the New Yorker. Excellent read. I feel so bad for your boy. (named omitted on purpose!) Because my mom had to switch me out of kindergarten 1/2 through the year. I was freaked out! But I ended up liking the new teacher. Weird how I can still remember fuzzy details from that day. But always thought my mom ruled…so i’m sure he does too.

  3. Wow – what a story. Hope it all went well! Keep blogging too!

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