The mother below wishes to remain anonymous:
My son was denied entrance by our local zoned public school. Here is my story.
In November 2017, I visited my zoned school, The Manhattan Beach School (PS 195). We had been displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Our home was a ticking time bomb and we had to move out while it was being repaired.
I spoke to the PS 195 secretary, Jane Marziliano. I asked if I should apply to PS 195 or to the school of my temporary address (same district/different zone). I came with numerous proofs of residence, a deed for the home, bills, keys ready to show the house… you name it! She assured me it would not be an issue and to apply to P.S. 195.
In March of 2018, my child was matched to P.S 195 through Kindergarten Connect. Two days after we registered, I was called by Mrs. Marziliano, who said, “I remember you! If you’re not moved back into the house before August 1st you can’t come to this school.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Wasn’t this the exact reason I came to speak to her in November?
A week later, after registration closed, I called the Department of Education (DOE) to make sure my seat was accounted for. It came to light that Mrs. Marziliano never actually submitted our documents! The DOE had no record of my son’s registration! When I came to the school, infuriated, she told me she did do it. Then she said flipped the script and said she doesn’t have to enter anything until August.
I reached out to Linda Dalton, Family Support Coordinator for District 22, to explain my situation. She seemed initially very friendly and to side with me, until she called the school on my behalf. She spoke to Mrs. Marziliano, who responded, “If in August they are not back in their home, they are not welcome to attend the school.”
It didn’t matter to anyone that my son was accepted to the school, that we are home owners, yet temporarily displaced, or that she misguided me in November. She was very condescending, using language like, “not my problem, you’re not back living there…”
I called the parent coordinator, Lori Casale, and the Assistant Principal. They both told me to speak to Jane Marziliano. I pleaded to speak to Ms. Toomey, the principal, but she was never willing to speak to me. She just had her circus of faculty direct everything back to their ring leader, Marziliano.
In our efforts to stay in the same zone, my husband and I initiated a new lease on a rental. I called the school to let them know I will be changing my primary address, but that the new address was also in the zone. Mrs. Marziliano laughed (literally), and told me that if I change my address (even in the same zone) they will change my son’s status of acceptance and he will be moved to the end of the waitlist that already has over 25 children on it!
This sounded really odd to me. A child that was already accepted having his acceptance retracted due to an address change that still puts him in the same zone? According to Chancellor’s Regulation A-101, if the new address does not match the address of application they cannot deny me as long as the address falls within the same priority zone.
A few days later, the DOE Escalation Department got involved. I was connected with a women by the name of Alise. She said she would follow up with the school. The only option Mrs. Marziliano gave her was transferring my son onto a waitlist if I changed my address. They were retracting his acceptance unless my demolished house is completed by August 1st, period, case closed.
I decided to apply to the charter Success Academy as insurance. Going to their open house was a breath of fresh air. I felt like my child was actually wanted there. They were going to teach him and fill him up with knowledge, unlike the zoned school whose mission was to keep us out by any means possible.
I couldn’t understand why all the bad press for charters? If the miserable staff and teachers at the local zoned public schools took an example from the way these charter school teachers teach, preach, and motivate families and kids alike, maybe then they would be in better shape. They set a great example in my mind of the direction public school systems should work towards.
Meanwhile, my son scored a 99 on his Gifted and Talented entrance exam. I put down a citywide option as my first choice, and PS 195 as my second, district choice.
When G&T placement was announced, my son did not place anywhere.
So it was mid-June and I had no zoned school, we were waitlisted at Success Academy, and no G&T placement anywhere.
Someone who hasn’t applied to Kindergarten in NYC may not understand my panic and possibly think I’m crazy for feeling the way I feel, but the struggle to find a good school in NYC is harder than it seems.
I called Alise in Escalation again. I wrote to the chancellor, the borough president, our councilman. I never heard from back from Alise.
Two weeks later, the phone rang and it was a miracle: “I’m calling to extend an invitation to The Anderson School (our first choice G&T)!”
When speaking to friends and family about commuting to Anderson on the Upper West Side of Manhattan from South Brooklyn, they look at me as if I’m crazy. The truth of the matter is if, today, I had both options on the table, I would still rather commute for an hour each way than send my son to our local zoned school. I’d be scared that, somewhere down the line, they would take it out on us in one way or another.