By JOHN T. WARD
For the first time in its 17-year history, the Red Bank Charter School conducted a lottery engineered to give socioeconomically disadvantaged children a better shot at winning seats Thursday night.
But for parents hoping to enroll their children, the so-called weighted lottery, meant to address a lack of diversity that critics contend make Red Bank the “most segregated school district in the state of New Jersey,” now gives way to another kind of wait.
That’s because, in effect, there are no openings.
Charter school Superintendent Meredith Pennotti greeted district Superintendent Jared Rumage before the lottery began. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
At Thursday night’s low-key event, which drew about 30 parents and children, the pre-K-through-eighth grade school had just 10 open seats — all of them in pre-K. So the lottery turned out to be a way of prioritizing a waiting list, with siblings of current students getting preference over those without siblings in the school.
Of the 31 applications received for the pre-K class that begins in September, 10 were for children with older siblings in the school. So the upshot was that others can enroll only if those ahead of them transfer out, an infrequent occurrence.
Superintendent and Principal Meredith Pennotti, who championed both the lottery and a school expansion plan that proved highly controversial — and was rejected by the New Jersey Department of Education — told redbankgreen afterward that it was “disheartening that there are no seats” to offer more children enrollment.
The school received 125 applications across all grades. Children whose parents could demonstrate socioeconomic need, as demonstrated by qualification for one of four public assistance programs, were given three bingo balls in the lottery, compared to two for children not considered disadvantaged.
Pennotti said she did not know the number of applications received for disadvantaged children, and would put the data out in a press release after all parents have been notified, by mail, next week, of their standing now that the lottery is complete.
Sixteen applications were for siblings of enrolled students, according to a tally of numbers announced before each class drawing.
So, was the lottery a success?
“I think it’s going to take time,” Pennotti told redbankgreen. “We assume it will take at least three years for us to see some progress. It’s statistical movement.”
Among those in attendance was local district Superintendent Jared Rumage, who chatted amiably with Pennotti before the drawing.