Lotteries and Waitlists

A parent of an incoming kindergarten student wrote to me about issue she was having with Enrollment.

Based on reading the Enrollment policy and speaking with different Enrollment staff, she believed that the only tiebreaker for the lottery into neighborhood schools is siblings.

(It seems she wanted to put her child into a non-attendance area school.  

The lottery was held and she was told that she was #4, and then, #3 on the waitlist.  Now, weeks later, she finds that her child moved down the list and another child moved up the list.  She is baffled how that happened.

I have a query into the District but...

Did this happen to anyone else?

Any thoughts on why this might have happened?

FYI, here the waitlist by school.  There are some interesting numbers.

While many elementaries have a small waitlist (five or fewer) for kindergarten, Arbor Heights has 15.  Beacon Hill has 26.  Dearborn Park has 32.  Dunlap has 19.  JSIS has 48 for K.  McDonald has 32.  Tiny Montlake has 19.  Queen Anne has 59.  Fairmount Park has 45 Ks.  
Thornton Creek has 63.

Hazel Wolf K-8 has 35 for K and 21 for 1st.  K-8 STEM at Boren has 40 for K but just 3 for 6th.  Pathfinder K-8 has 56 for K, 20 for 6th.  Salmon Bay has 39 for K and 29 for 6th.  TOPS has 31 Ks and 33 for 6th.

Denny has 19 for 6th grade.  Eckstein has 16.  Hamilton has 30 Gen Ed and 34 Spectrum for 6th grade.  Jane Addams has 23.  Madison has 33.  Mercer has 43.  Washington has 25.  McClure has 3.

Ballard High has 62 for 9th grade.  Cleveland has 53.  Franklin has 59.  Garfield has 86. Ingraham has 42.  Hale has 41.  Roosevelt has 72.

Also, could someone please tell me when K-5 STEM at Boren became K-8? I guess I missed that formal announcement.  Their school website says this about the Boren building:

We will also be working with SPS to determine short-term and long-term building modifications necessary to support our K-8 program after Arbor Heights moves to their new facility.
This may means some of BTA IV funds for this purpose.

The district will run out of capital money long before it runs out of need.


Lynn said…
Here's the list of tiebreakers.

A twist in West Seattle is that specific elementary attendance areas have assignment priority for the two Spectrum elementary programs in the Madison service area. Alki, Lafayette, Sanislo and Schmitz Park have priority at Lafayette and Gatewood and Fairmount Park have priority at Fairmount Park.
mirmac1 said…
Ain't that amazing after hardworked staff embargoed...oops I mean completed their hard work we suddenly have a wealth of data in semi-usable format. Today, after much pissing I received:

2015-2016 Projections

2015-2016 District-Wide Grade Projections

I have reiterated to them in no uncertain terms that they provide what I asked for.
Lynn said…
Thanks mirmac1! I'd considering requesting this too - but knew they'd put me off and didn't have the energy to deal with it.
Yes, I'm having troubling getting required forms noted in the Africatown MOU. They keep telling me that AECI is just a "renter" but if they have an MOU, that's a lot more than a rental agreement. They won't show me the background checks.
Lynn said…
Wow. In the budget document mirmac1 posted earlier today, I see that Garfield is anticipating 500 freshman next year.
Anonymous said…
The wait list scenario that about the K student can happen a few different ways. 1) The District makes mistakes (shocker!) and does correct them when they are pointed out. For example, for the last two years at our elementary school I know of two situations where the incoming K sibling wasn't given sibling tie-breaker and was on the wiliest below the non-siblinged entering Ks. The District rectified the situation, the sib moved up, and others moved down. 2) Someone moves their wait list assignment from one school to another. There are probably more examples.
mirmac1 said…
I've been just aching to file for a show-cause hearing, whether its the UW or SPS. I count the daily fines in my head...
mirmac1 said…
As far as I'm concerned the Boren building is the future site of Denny Middle School; EC Hughes will serve an option elementary just fine so begin planning the move.

To have the district cave to ardent STEMers and make a K-8 the "solution" to WS's capacity crisis is just plain ludicrous. Marty bought into the STEM miracle back in 2012 because the obfuscater at the helm of Cap, Facilities and Operations made it sound just yummy.
Mirmac 1, it's at the K-5 STEM website that they are expanding to K-8 starting with 6th next year. My question is, when was this announced? How does it fit into capacity management?
mirmac1 said…
I remember it coming up about +1 years ago. I began complaining then.
Anonymous said…
Fairmont Park had mistakes in the wait list with geography and sibling not ranked properly, so there were changes. Julie put a note about it out to parents this week.
Park Parent
kellie said…
Here is the chart for tie-breakers.

The last round of boundary planning brought back a few things that got less day-light relative to the all the new school boundaries and the geo-splits. Among that list was the return of the distance tie-breaker for elementary and middle schools.

It is most likely that the changes in the wait list you mentioned happened when enrollment made corrections. Sometimes an application is lost, sometimes the sibling tie breaker was not applied and sometimes the distance tie breaker was not calculated correctly or ... you get the idea.
kellie said…
The change to Boren Stem from a K5 to a K8 also happened quietly during the last round of boundary changes.

Many folks on FACMAC tried to day-light that change to Boren and point out the extreme pain that was happening in NE Seattle and not to have history repeat itself in West Seattle. Since West Seattle seems to repeat what happens in NE Seattle about 2-3 years later. Boren K-5 opened two years after Sandpoint opened.

So to be repetitious ... There was growth in NE Seattle. Parents asked for new Elementary and new Middle School space. The solution was one K8. A K8 was less expensive and would be "flexible" and could expand and contract at different grade levels as the need required. At least that was the official statement at the time of the plan.

Never-mind that K8s have specific programming needs and are predicated on providing continuity and don't take kindly to the notion that they can just add or subtracts grades to fix capacity.

At the same time Boren was being converted to a K8 with the same logic that the K8 would provide the flexibility to meet growth in West Seattle, there was a huge battle in the NE over moving the Jane Addams K8 (now Hazel Wolf) out of a traditional middle school building, so that a traditional comprehensive middle school could be opened.

So now West Seattle has a K8 in the traditional middle school building. The Madison building (which is identical to the Hamilton building) is inflexible and can only grow so much and Denny is co-located with Sealth. Neither of the middle schools has a lot of flexibility and elementary enrollment has been growing for a few years ....

Huh ... I wonder what is going to happen next ????
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lynn said…
I predict K-5 STEM at Hughes and a 6-12 STEM program at Boren. This is based on the assumption that we need more middle school seats in the region - but not 600 of them.

n said…
Waitlist won't open for me. Anybody else having trouble? Perhaps my computer . . . Thanks.
Ag said…
How do you know if there are waitlist errors when all you see is your student's number on the waitlist? Unless the district or school tells you there's an error how would you know that someone trumped you based on sibling or geozone?
Anonymous said…
The kindergarten waitlist is a big source of discussion at our school. (Quite a few siblings did not get in.) If someone was ahead of you who should not be, it's not unlikely that you'd realize it.

SW Parent
(Quite a few siblings did not get in.)

Really? That seems very odd. Let your Board director in your region know.
Anonymous said…
This post just prompted me to check our waitlist standings. My oldest son was originally 15th on the TOPS waitlist and now he is16th. It's not looking good.

-Frowny Face
Anonymous said…
I can barely stomach this District crap anymore.

I gave a 10 second glance at their all grade total "projections"**, and for the District to suggest a cohort survival between existing 5th grade to this September's 6th grade of 93% is ludicrous. That matriculation does not decay. It holds steady at 100% in certain builds, certainly does not go below 95% in the system.

What does this error mean? A 'whoops' at Hamilton. An 'ah-oh' at Denny. Those campuses are in the danger zones of being unfixable. McClure, watch out. Queen Anne and Magnolia are burgeoning with kids. McClure is small and boxed in.

Giving the Boren building away and accidentally backing into birthing another k8 is a huge and costly mistake. It makes a bad situation (systemic capacity shortage in West Seattle) way, way, WAY worse.

Look at the grade totals. Going from 3,400 to about 5,000. High school brackets 4 grades. That 4 x 1,600 = 6,400 MORE high school kids. Anyone else happen to notice all those kids in West Seattle? You know, the ones causing Fairmont Park to open with 500 children in it, the ones causing Schmitz Park to have 17 portables? The one causing a brand new school, K5 STEM, to be implemented with loads of kids, the ones causing Arbor Heights to be rebuilt to a 660 capacity? Genesee Hill completely rebuilt to a capacity of 660??? Is it me, or does anyone else think, gosh, these kids are going to get older, and they'll need a 'middle school', and then a 'high school'. Anyone else notice that Denny and Sealth constrain each other? Genius move, a shared campus! Not.

So, the high school capacity shortage collapses in West Seattle like this: Sealth takes over Denny, Denny moves to Boren, and K5 SSTEM gets the left overs (option school in Schmitz Park would make sense, Hughes would suffice too). But, giving away the Boren building now is beyond stupid. They need it for significant comprehensive middle school capacity. Madison can't take all the growth coming out of Alki. Denny is beyond full. Landing portables at Sealth won't work. Only a significant add of a comprehensive mifddle school at Boren, and a major expansion of high school seats at Sealth (with that attractive IB program) will get every child cooking up in those great elementary schools a seat at the secondary ones. It is soooooo short sighted to not see this coming.

West Seattle has been screwed over by the District's capital department for YEARS. South Shore's pretty atrium was West Seattle ugly portables. They never should have closed any of those schools - they are all being reopened now. They never should have made a joint campus. They shouldn't give Schmitz Park away to preschool. If they accidentally let the Boren Building 'drift along' into being a K8, they've really hammered the last nail into West Seattle's coffin. You'd think the West Seattlites who have had to live with the awful fallout from the District's "planning" would rise up and say NO WAY! Hands off Boren! Don't back us up off the cliff. And yet, somehow, with the District being so good at hiding the obvious, West Seattlites truly might not see the MAGNITUDE of the shortage of critical secondar capacity.

**"projects", when the District has numbers of enrolled students by grade by school right now, and, the enrollments of continuing students and open enrolled students for September, 3 months from now, do they really want to give themselves so much credit for being so good at projecting when all they are really doing is actually just counting? Projecting is something they suck at, even though they like to tell the Board they are fo darn good at it. If they are, why does Schmitz Park have 17 portables?

Facilities ?Planning?
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Reposting for anonymous at 7:32- you need a short name ;o)

The waitlist changes are not the result of errors. They are the result of a policy change. The original tiebreaker policy only included one tiebreaker for neighborhood schools - siblings. Distance was added mid-way through the enrollment process, after families had already received their waitlist placement. It's unfair for the district to change the rules of the game or to allow some families to enroll under a different set of rules.

and completely agree but when has anything in this district ever been fair and/or sensible?

Anonymous said…
You are kidding. I can't believe that after all the years of negotiating the NSAP we are back to a distance tie-breaker. What was the point.

-HS Parent
kellie said…
The distance tie-breaker ... what a journey. Removed from the choice plan. Added back in some but not all places.

The distance tie-breaker was returned to us in its current format, primarily by Sharon Peaslee, as a part of the whole split siblings at elementary. Parents with siblings who were most likely going to be split AND lived close to a schools, successfully argued that it was silly and expensive to put their one student on a bus, when their other sibling was walking to a nearby school.

The NSAP started in 2010 and this tiebreaker back was re-inserted, in 2012, as part of the annual transition plan on an annual basis with the notion that it would NOT be part of the long term plan.

Then along comes the growth boundaries and in the mix of all the many, many items and then the many amendments. So many that the board and staff weren't really certain what was passed until after it was all done ... included the return of the distance tiebreaker for elementary and middle schools.

I would not be surprised that folks would feel like it made a sudden return in the middle of open enrollment this year, as many folks thought that the tiebreaker was scheduled to sunset. However, this tiebreaker was applied to assignments for the 14-15 school and has now continued for the 15-16 school year.

ProSleep Mom said…
If anyone was planning on going to Betty's meeting this morning to talk about this, it now shows as cancelled on the District site.
Enough said…
Hate to interrupt the angry speculation with facts but here you go:

Look at the minutes from the November 20, 2013 Legislative Session:

and it is documented that the Board explicitly approved STEM remaining at Boren and expanding to K-8 beginning the 2015-16 school year. The action wasn't under Growth Boundaries, but under the next item "Intermediate Capacity Management Plan to Support Implementation of Growth Boundaries and BEX IV

The relevant motions were:

(2) Authorize the Intermediate Term Capacity Management Plan outlined in Section VII of this report

(3) Amend the Facilities Master Plan to change the classification of the Boren site and of the E.C. Hughes site, as outlined in Attachment 2 to this report.

Section VII. BACKGROUND INFORMATION of that document specifies:

"The status of both the Boren and the E.C. Hughes sites must be re-classified in the Facilities Master Plan to support capacity management recommendations. Boren is needed as a long-term home for K-5 STEM, and its expansion to K-8 beginning in 2015-2016. E.C. Hughes is needed as a new interim/emergency site for West Seattle beginning in 2015-16."

The attachment referenced in the motion is the Interim Site Utilization by Year and School/Program

This was all discussed on this very blog when the items were first introduced at a Growth Boundary meeting in August 2013:

Here is a quote from Charlie at the time:

Charlie Mas said...
Boren isn't needed as an interim site.

Denny won't need it; Denny has a brand new building. Why in the world would Denny need Boren?

There are four secondary schools in West Seattle and all four of them were recently redone - West Seattle High School and Madison were totally renovated as BEX projects, Chief Sealth has been renovated in a series of projects, and Denny is new construction. The District won't need to move any of those schools into an interim site for over thirty years.

If Boren were a K-8 there is no reason to expect that the middle school capacity in West Seattle wouldn't be sufficient to meet the foreseeable demand.

There may be some need for additional high school capacity in West Seattle, but not enough for a whole school. If you want to get ahead of that need, then let's work to develop a boutique high school that would serve West Seattle. That's the smart way to do it, not to leave the Boren building empty and unused for ten years so we can find space for 300 students in 2022.
8/18/13, 6:29 AM

Nothing covert. This was all finalized in November 2013 in a public meeting. There is no controversy here. END OF STORY.
Enough said…
Sorry for the double post, my links didn't show up in the first.
Anonymous said…
@ enough said

You wrote (re: ESTEM @ Boren going K-8):

"Nothing covert. This was all finalized in November 2013 in a public meeting. There is no controversy here. END OF STORY."

The end of a very short-sighted story, perhaps.

I agree with Kellie and previous posters on this one. It is very painful to watch history repeat itself.

-North-end Mom
kellie said…
Thanks Enough said ...

I knew it all happened during the Growth Boundaries process but I couldn't remember where in that giant pile of details, it had actually happened. Thanks for finding the references.

Charlie's comment highlights exactly why all the conversations about capacity are so complex and fraught. Per the "official data" at the time, there was no reason to justify additional secondary capacity in West Seattle in 2013. The official projections showed that there was more than enough room. Now the fact that this was the exact same scenario that said there was no reason for additional capacity in the NE just 2-3 years earlier was not in the conversation.

On thing that Charlie can be relied on for is that he frequently says, I don't know the truth, I just know what the district publishes. He based his comments on what the district published. However, I base my comments not on the official projections but a combination of common sense, professional capacity management skills and thinking like a parent with students in these schools.

I look at the trend lines, the gaps in the data, and how the cohorts are behaving. None of those things are drivers in the official metrics. The official metrics are based on a five-year average. It takes FIVE years of new behavior before the numbers are more accurate.

So for West Seattle, the five years of elementary school growth, do not really hit the secondary school growth line until that cohort is already in the middle schools.

Enough, I don't think anyone's angry, I'm not. I'm just confused because as someone who follows along (and gets regular press releases), I know this was not announced in any real formal way. I have to wonder why that is.

I have to wonder about your curtness "end of story." You think others on this thread are being overreactive - what about you?

Also, I would say that Charlie is wrong about Boren. I was just talking with a City Council candidate, talking about facilities. She asked a good question - are all the closed buildings in use by SPS? I said except for leased buildings, there were only two.

This district used to have a couple of larger interims for two reasons. One, to house schools whose buildings are being rebuilt (which is not the normal thing most district do but it's how SPS does it). Two, for emergencies. Coe burned to the ground while it was being rebuilt. Those students had to go somewhere.

This district will soon have no buildings that can handle those two issues.
Lynn said…
Just by rolling up next year's expected enrollment numbers in the Madison service area, Madison will be overenrolled by 350 in the 2018-19 school year and by almost 500 in 2020-21. It seems like a bad idea to add a highly capable cohort at Madison.

Interestingly, Denny will be in better shape. It will only be overenrolled by 100 students in 2020-21. Still, West Seattle will need another middle school the size of McClure in five years.
mirmac1 said…
File is in Excel for easy analysis.
Tee said…
My child, had been #4 on an attendance area kindergarten wait list since the waitlist positions were posted and then 2 weeks ago placed at the very bottom of the list. I was told yesterday (when was listed as #4) by someone on the enrollment office that on the list for kindergarten, the #1 spot was a sibling and everyone else was in place d/t lottery.

During open enrollment the tiebreakers (for attendance area school) were listed as 1) sibling 2) lottery. At the end of April the school district put up a different list of tiebreakers on their website, listing them as 1) sibling 2) distance 3) lottery. The original tiebreakers (that were on the school districts website during open enrollment) influenced our decision as to what school to waitlist for. The attendance area elementary school that is closest in distance to us, is actually not our assigned school. We chose to apply for an attendance area school that was farther away from our house, but a good fit for our child. If we had known that an alternative set of tiebreakers that included distance was to be used, we would have likely applied for the school that is the shortest distance from us. We would have also done the things that would have made attending this school feasible for us on the chance that a spot was available, like applying for the before and afterschool program and putting a deposit down. The district appears to have re-ran the waitlist ~2 weeks ago with a revised set of tiebreakers that is different from what was posted on the school district's website during open enrollment. This revised set of tiebreakers moved my kid from #4 to last on the waitlist. This kind of mid-game change is unacceptable and unfair. I am very interested in seeing this very unfair situation addressed.
Anonymous said…
this strikes me as amazingly unfair -- for just the reason you mention. Parents consider likelihoods of waitlists and waitlist length in ranking their school choices. If I were you, I would write to every board member, show up at the next meeting to make a scathing 2-minute denouncement of this problem, and request a meeting with Mr. Nyland and the head of enrollment. And at that meeting, I would demand that my child's old waitlist position be restored, unless the change was required to be in compliance with state or federal law (and make them show you which one). It is pretty clearly NOT in compliance with District Policy. And if they don't respons, if I had the ability to follow it up with legal action -- I would.

This is just nuts. It is one thing if something happens (laws change, schools burn down, court cases get decided) and the District MUST employ different criteria than what they told parents during enrollment. Outside of those specific factors, they should NOT make those changes until the following year.

They do this because they are either too clueless to understand why the timing of this change is wrong -- or they do it because they just don't care and think they can do whatever they want (pretty much true if the Superintendent won't ask the right questions and stop them), given that the Board can only direct the Supe.

Tee said…
I finally heard back from an assistant to the director of enrollment, who said that she was writing up my "enquiry" and that the director of enrollment was going to review it and get back to me in 7 days. My request is that my child's place on the waitlist be reinstated back to the original position that was calculated with the tiebreakers that were posted during the open enrollment period(1-sibling 2-distance.) I do think that everyone who applied to a choice school prior to 4/27/15, which appears to be the date that the waitlist was updated on the website (the attachment that was switched out has that date in the bottom corner,)should be calculated with the original tiebreakers that were posted during open enrollment. That would be fair. Prior to and during the open enrollment period, the enrollment office was also advising people by phone that the tiebreakers for an attendance area elementary school was 1) sibling and 2) distance. I asked the enrollment assistant who called me today how many complaints about this issue were received. She told me that she was responsible for handling 10 and that there were 8 other assistants doing the same thing. I am guessing maybe 80-100 complaints about this. There also must be families who are not aware that this has happened, although it impacts them. And those who do not know to advocate for themselves. The whole situation is pretty absurd.
mirmac1 said…
Has anyone ever googled Brent Koon? I could find nothing that qualifies him as a demographer or as someone with any particular qualifications beyond database manager. Yet I think he's "it" when it comes to leading enrollment.
Lynn said…

How do we know that the original assignments were made appropriately? Is it possible that some non-sibling non-attendance area students were assigned to the school that live farther away than you do? This problem might be larger than wait lists.
mirmac1 said…
Sorry, that is Brent Kroon.
Tee said…
It was confirmed to me before the waitlist was recalculated that there was one child on the waitlist with sibling priority in the #1 spot and all others on the waitlist were in place d/t lottery. I confirmed again today when speaking with an assistant to the enrollment manager that there was still one child on the waitlist and all others were re-ordered when the distance tiebreaker was added on 4-27-15. The enrollment office is referring to this as a system error.
Tee said…
I meant still one child on the waitlist with sibling priority still.
Anonymous said…
This just posted by SPS
Anonymous said…

Reposting for anonymous, in case it gets deleted:

Anonymous said...

This just posted by SPS

6/2/15, 1:27 AM

My thoughts -- what were parents told during enrollment (either in writing or orally by staff at the enrollment centers and over the phone. If they were TOLD that distance was a tie breaker, than the list is indeed just wrong. If they were told (and made their selections) based on different criteria -- a posted apology at the website does NOT FIX THIS PROBLEM! They should have gone back and allowed people to re-select schools, based on the criteria they were really going to use.

It is not sufficient to say that waitlists are never a guarantee of a placement. How ridiculous and condescending. Of COURSE they are not. But choosing where to waitlist a child depends on where you think you have reasonable chances -- and adding a distance tiebreaker when you live fairly far from a school is HUGE! (Ask all the parents who played this particular form of poker back in the pre-NSAP days).

What really happened here?

Anonymous said…
I received a letter from the enrollment office yesterday by email. It basically says the same thing in the link above. I've tried to post the text of the letter multiple times today, but it does not seem to go through? Not sure if it's too long, but others seem to have some really long posts. The gist of the letter I received seemed to be that SPS is sorry for the "inconvenience" but not offering to do anything that would resolve the situation. There was an offer to put us at the bottom of the waiting list of another school but that is very impractical for us at this point in the game (we need before and afterschool care.) My family made some big decisions that were influenced by what we knew the tiebreakers to be, this is much more than an inconvenience for us. I am still trying to figure out how to get this resolved in a way that seems acceptable and fair. I am not quite sure what in the Student Assignment Procedure 3130 SP that the letter refers to justifies this type of action. I didn't see anything in that defining the tiebreakers?

Anonymous said…
Has anyone heard any updates about this? I submitted an inquiry whether distance had been factored into our placement for K, but have yet to hear back. Do they really contact parents back within 7 days or should I be contacting them for a resolution?

K mom

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