I could have bought a house in the suburbs--if I had more money, or if I was willing to buy a fixer-upper that required at least 100K in repairs and basic updates STAT. I could have moved to the suburbs, I suppose, if I had really wanted to. But I didn't. I wanted to stay in New Haven. So I bought a house in "the Cove" neighborhood, which is a little bit like New Haven Light as far as crime rates go. But make no mistake: It's still New Haven.
And right now, I hate New Haven. Check that. I don't hate New Haven. I DESPISE its nepotism, which apparently is the only way to get anything accomplished in the City--starting in Kindergarten. It's "who you know", and that's that.
Ten days ago my neighbor and good friend Mary and I attempted to register our children--my Nolan and her Sean (not be confused with "my Sean", a/k/a Seany), for Kindergarten at Nathan Hale School, five doors away from our houses. It's the children's rightful "neighborhood" school. It's not a magnet school. It's not some special, private institution. It's the public school down the street from our house for neighborhood kids in grades K through 8.
And we were turned away.
Impossibly long story not made much shorter: The PreK students currently enrolled throughout the city have registration "preference" and are therefore allowed to register for their school of choice. Our children were not in the neighborhood public school PreK program for the simple fact that two years ago we were told it was a Head Start program and our children would not "qualify" for it. (The program at Nathan Hale was changed last year to a "regular" PreK, but no news was made of it and the NHPS website continued to list it as Head Start.)
The issue of this PreK registration preference was apparently a secret to the parents without children enrolled in the city's PreK program.
So Monday, May 4, Mary and I arrived at the NHPS registration office bright and early, and joined the other clueless parents there to register their children for their neighborhood Kindergartens. We didn't get very far. Nathan Hale registration was closed after just two parents enrolled their children. With 52 seats made available to Kindergarten students in that school, this immediate closure meant that there had been only two seats available on registration day. We were then informed that our children would be bussed across town to a Kindergarten holding pen, which has been set up with five classes to deal with the "overflow issue" at the Kindergarten level.
Well, Mary and I got our Irish up over this one. I don't pay taxes for a .09 acre property on that side of town. I pay more than $7k a year for my much larger property here on this side of town, just five doors away from school (on the same side of the street--literally in the school's backyard). I don't care where the "other" Kindergarten is, or how good or "bad" it is. I don't want my son going there when he could walk up the street to school with his friends from his own neighborhood.
So Mary and I began making noise. We made phones calls, sent emails, involved the local paper and were subsequently contacted by many other parents who are experiencing the same thing--or who had experienced the same issue in past years. Our aldermen were angry; this issue is not new and something they've been pressing to change for a while now, to no avail. What's more, the city paid millions to renovate the school not that long ago. Millions were spent and yet neighborhood kids are being turned away! What gives?
Mary and I even met with the Mayor on Tuesday the 5th and asked him as much. He had nothing to offer except diplomatic BS and a promise that someone from the BOE would work with us. Translation? Please, shut up and take what you can get.
Maybe if my father or mother were a judge or police chief or an assistant to some official then maybe things would go a little more smoothly in this department. Maybe we'd be able to fineagle some "registration preference". But the fact is, this is Kindergarten registration we're talking about! Not college! Not even high school. Kindergarten. These children are four and five years old. When I was in Kindergarten (cue nostalgic old timer music here), I was registered at the neighborhood school, where I walked (uphill both ways in bare feet) each day with a gang of kids from the neighborhood. Why on earth is it not this simple to get my children signed up at the school on the FREAKING CORNER?
Planning. That's why. Poor, poor planning. This mayor has spent billions on school construction in thie city, but the beautiful buildings are worth nothing if we can't accomodate all the children in their rightful seats.
Magnet schools are an option--for those interested. I am not one of those parents who is interested in a magnet school at this level. For high school, yes. But not for Kindergarten. If our neighborhood school wasn't particularly "good", then I might consider a magnet. But Nathan Hale is a "good" school. Unfortunately, the City seems to regard our dissatisfaction with the option of magnets as a case of us being picky. Are you kidding me? I don't understand what is so wrong with Mary and I--and all the other angry parents in the neighborhood right now--simply wanting our children to go to the school at the end of our street.
So, I'm angry. I'm really angry. And I'm not alone. I'm angry that we're regarded as unreasonable, bitchy mothers because we've made a stink about this. (Recent communique from the city has not been encouraging.) I'm angry that I spend a ton in taxes for nothing more than garbage collection--because I don't know (nor do I care to know) the "right" people. If I did, it's likely none of this would be an issue. Hell, I'd probably even be employed by the City. Alas, I earn my way through this life. Nothing is handed to me.
I'm just a regular taxpaying citizen. That's apparently not good enough to just get my kid in the door. So I will fight, and fight, and fight, and when they try again to turn me away, I will fight some more. This isn't, as my friend Heide pointed out, a private school on the Upper West Side on whose waiting list my children have been since birth. This is a decent, maybe even just mediocre public school in the City of New Haven. Screw the City for acting like its doing me favor by putting my kids on a bus.
If a society can be judged by how it treats its animals, to paraphrase Gandhi, then the animals seem to have it better than Kindergarteners in this town.
Ugh. Sorry for the negative spewage. I'm just one pissed off mama bear right now. Everything I do is for my kids, especially in the wake of my divorce from their father. I am doing everything I can now to ensure they are educated in a decent school while living in a sub-par "college town". Do I wish I had moved to the 'burbs? No. Do I wish the basic act of signing up my child for Kindergarten hadn't turned into the kind of thing that has me thinking of Silkwood? Yes.
If I had just stayed in a rotten marriage in my old house in my old leafy, liberal and self-congratulatory neighborhood, maybe I could have at least registered my kids at their local school with less hassle. Maybe. If I hadn't cracked and slipped off the face of the earth first.
I guess that's what amounts to options in this town.
Fuck you, DeStefano. You do not have my vote next election. You might run uncontested except by a Green Party candidate, but you still don't have my vote.
x f'ing o