The Secret for Getting your Kid into a Great School

Old Davie Schoolhouse - photo by Adam Baron

Old Davie Schoolhouse – photo by Adam Baron

By: Sharon Aron Baron

My children attend some of the top ranked public schools in the county and we don’t even live any where near the schools.

You’re probably wondering if I know important people over at Broward County Public Schools, don’t you?

The truth is, I do know important people, but that didn’t help me one bit.

I got them in the old-fashioned way, or better yet, the legal way, which was through the Demographics & Student Assignments department at Broward County Public Schools. You see, I know a lot about reassignments because our community had to find all this information out for themselves. A few years ago, many of us wanted to get our boundaries changed. The middle and high school that we were assigned to were not meeting Annual Yearly Progress (or AYP) and parents were enrolling their children in charter, magnet, private or religious schools. Many just gave up on the public schools.

We believed that having the boundaries changed would give us better performing schools.

Unfortunately, we found out that changing our boundaries wasn’t something that would ever be approved by the district due to fact that it would under-enroll many of our assigned schools.

When representatives with Broward Schools visited our community and spoke to us about the boundary issues, they brought up the idea of reassignments – or school choice. They said that as long as the Broward County schools we applied for had space, and as long as we provided our own transportation, our reassignment request could be granted.

This was certainly an eye-opener for many of us.

I met with the Demographics & Student Assignments Department at their downtown location and found out exactly how reassignments work. Each year, the reassignment application window opens for two months in the winter which allows parents to apply. This is not done on a first come-first serve basis. In fact, it doesn’t matter if your application is sent on December 1, or midnight on the last day. If there are more applicants than spaces, then the applicants are chosen by lottery.

During this time our son was making a transition from private to public school. Our assigned school was rated a D. Initially, we applied for a top A-rated magnet high school, however, over 900 students also applied for the very same school which had only 300 slots during open enrollment. Unfortunately, he was not one of those students, so we researched other top performing high schools and narrowed our choices down.

During our meeting with a high school, one of the assistant principals informed us that their school would be seeing a decline in enrollment the following year based on projections from the two feeder middle schools. Hearing this gave us confidence that we might have a shot if we chose it on the reassignment application.

We crossed our fingers and waited.

A few months later we received the good news that our son’s reassignment was successful. A few years later I was also able to reassign my daughter to a nearby school that was under-enrolled at the time so they could carpool together.

So remember, anyone can reassign, and you aren’t getting special treatment by changing from your assigned school to a higher performing school. We are all paying the same public school taxes and yes, every City in Broward County pays the same tax millage rate for them, no matter where they live. Parents must be proactive and research school rankings, test scores, and overall atmosphere to make sure the school is a good fit with their child.

To find out more about the school, I suggest you take a tour or visit the school like we did. If the school you are interested in does not want to give you a tour, don’t give up. The first time we visited my son’s high school, a receptionist found out that we didn’t live within the boundaries and told both my husband and I that they did not give tours. We were treated like we were an inconvenience and went home. Fortunately, I was able to get the name of the assistant principal, so that later I was able to get an appointment. If I hadn’t have met with the assistant principal, I wouldn’t have learned more about the school, its curriculum, and with it, information on the potential decline in enrollment.

Interested in reassigning to another Broward school and willing to drive your child to and from that school? Then you’re all set.  If you’re interested in enrolling your child in a Magnet or Nova program then, good news, transportation is provided.

Here is how it works:

Starting December 1, 2015 through February 10, 2016 the window will be open where parents can submit an application online for general reassignments, magnet, and Nova Schools. A list of available schools will will be listed, however, According to Patrick Sipple, Director of Demographics & Student Assignments, parents can choose schools that are not on the list as well.  Sipple says that if you don’t see the school you are interested in, you can apply anyway and send along a reason.  He suggests parents read School Choice Policy 5004.1 for these hardship reasons as they are updated each year.

“We encourage people to supply a reason that they need to go to that school, so that if it is a hardship, we could see if it falls under policy 5000.4.1.”

But applying for a school that’s not on the list may be an even longer wait for parents, even as long as the tenth day of the school year said Sipple. “We never know. Later in the summer a seat may become available, but they won’t be notified in March, they will just be in a wait pool status.” He said that for a number of reasons the capacity could change at the beginning of the school year and seats could free up.  This way, they would already have someone in the wait pool if that were the scenario. 

Parents can apply online or on paper, but applying online is the most efficient.  “It goes right into our system and it’s smoother for us to process, as well as user friendly for parents,” said Sipple. Once the application is processed it can be tracked by a number online, however, reassignment acceptances won’t be available until mid-March. 

For those that are reassigning using Part A only, those can be processed online, however, if you are using Part B, you must fill out the application and mail it along with supporting documentation.

Last year, the Demographics & Student Assignments department processed over 15,100 applications for general reassignment,m 12,600 for magnet schools and 8,400 Nova applications.  

Not sure which one to apply to?  Sipple says that Broward County is a 100 percent school choice district and parents can apply for all three. 

To apply go to Reassignments Magnet or Nova Schools.  Website does not open until December 1, 2015. Another window opens up in the summer for seats that are still left after mid-March.  However, it’s best to make the decision now while there is more inventory.

 

 

About Sharon Aron Baron

Sharon Aron Baron Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and writer for Coral Springs Talk. CST was created in 2012 to provide News, Views and Entertainment for the residents of Coral Springs, Parkland and the rest of South Florida.

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